We post this lengthy memo from Recovery Pastor Dale Marsh, the Serenity Group, and Oroville CA Church of the Nazarene. Dale is a member of the Speaker’s Bureau of International Christian Recovery Coalition, a zealous servant of God and His Son, and one who advocates carrying the message of recovery by the power of God to every area of need in the community
A memo to pastors...
As pastors who minister and lead in a culture where
addictions of all kinds exist, we are constantly deluged with the
direct and indirect consequences of those addictions. Our
options, it seems to me, are two; bury our head in the sand and
hope that it all works out somehow or take an active role in our
community and bring the kingdom of God to bear on these
Here in Oroville we’re committed to the latter. We have
brought the recovery ministry into the life of our church. We
are working towards a fully integrated recovery ministry that
embraces the Mission, Vision and Values of our local church. The
challenge has been to maintain a balanced focus in terms of our
core ministries and not get too focused in any one area of
ministry (recovery or otherwise).
One of the challenges that recovery ministries have in
many churches is that they wind up being an adjunct to the focus
of the church instead of a reflection of the love and care for our
communities at large. When recovery ministry is not seen as a
core ministry of the church it can create a disconnect which can
result in an ungodly attitude of “those people over there”...or an
“us versus them” mentality. It becomes something we do as
opposed to who we are.
What makes our Serenity ministry different from other
church recovery programs is our approach to the issue of 12
Step. We fully embrace the 12 Step recovery ministries in our
community. We see ourselves as the place where people who are
connected to other AA and NA groups in our city can come to and
feel safe whether they know Jesus as their ‘Higher Power’ or not.
We call this our Front Porch environment. It allows us a deeper
penetration into the overall recovery programs into the city. As a
result of this approach our leaders are welcome into, and often
speak at, those programs.
When people come to our Serenity program on our church
campus they are invited into a large group environment that is
similar to any other recovery program in the city. Birthdays are
celebrated, chips are given, and testimonies are heard. They are
then gently introduced to smaller group environments where they
can explore who Jesus is and the healing and freedom He
provides. We do this through groups like:
· Men and women groups
· Anger classes
· Couples groups
· Serenity 12Step and Third Step studies
· Pure Desire Sexual Purity Classes
· Clarence Snyder 12 Step Study
· Early History of AA Class
We call these groups our Living Room environments. It is a
place where God is freely discussed and people can come into a
more personal knowledge of Christ.
In the following pages you will see a model of recovery
ministry called “Serenity”. Our church has been pursuing this
ministry for nearly 20 years. We’ve still got a lot to learn! We
have two men (and their wives) who have spearheaded the
ministry from its inception. Kenn Mariano and Dale Marsh are our
champion leaders in the area of recovery ministries. Dale is
currently on the Elder track through SDIM and serves as our
Recovery Pastor and Kenn has served as a board leader in our
church for a couple of decades as well as a host of other ministry
‘jobs’. Both of these men are godly, stable and key leaders in our
Through the hard work of a handful of committed and
dedicated men and women God has built a vibrant and growing
recovery ministry where people in our community can come and
receive hope and healing. God is allowing us to truly see our
community change...”one life at a time.”
I encourage you to stop by the resource tent and speak with
Dale or Kenn or one of our pastors. I would be more than happy to
speak with you about issues that pertain to the nuts and bolts of
how a recovery ministry can fit into the overall Mission of your
Bless you as you advance the kingdom in your city!
A Brief History of Serenity Group
We started Serenity Group recovery ministry at the Oroville Church
of the Nazarene in the summer of 1992. Had I realized what God was going
to do with it I might have written down the date. However, at the time I was
just concerned with staying sober and doing so in the context of my faith.
I had been attending a small group using the Serenity format that was
not affiliated with a church. The group fell apart after some leadership
failings. I had really enjoyed the format and was learning much about Jesus
in group. I was saved while reading my Serenity Bible. When the group was
disbanded, some other folks in the group came to me and asked me to restart
the group. I felt I could not do this due to the fact that I had only been
Christian for a few months. After they continued asking me to try to restart
the group, I went to Pastor Ed Redfern to see if we could start a Christian
recovery group at the Oroville Church. I did not want to begin a group that
was not under the authority of the church.
Looking back I kind of felt sorry for Ed because he must have been
thinking “Are you even saved?” Rather then discouraging me, he suggested I
talk to Kenn Mariano. Kenn had been sober for almost ten years at the time
and had been a Christian since the time he got sober. I went to Kenn as
suggested and asked him if he would be interested in starting a Christian
recovery group using our Serenity Bible as the format. Kenn’s response was
that he was way to busy since he was so involved in children’s ministries. At
this point I handed him one of our Serenity Bibles and asked him if he
would just read it before he gave me an answer. I wasn’t very optimistic
about our chances but I hoped he would like the book.
The next Sunday at church I looked up and Kenn was coming at me
with the Serenity Bible in his hand saying “This is awesome, we have to do
this!” With that we set up a meeting with the others who had wanted to start
the new group. We met on a Saturday and made arrangements to begin the
next Saturday. To my surprise the only ones to show up were Kenn, his wife
Abby and I. Undaunted, we proceeded with the meeting. This went on for
some time. Each week the sign in sheet read, Kenn, Abby, Dale. Kenn
always reminded me to keep the faith. To help me remember, he had me set
up forty chairs each week because he said we had to have faith that God
would fill them.
God’s plan does not always fit with our plans but He did have a plan.
This first year was the time that I received the mentoring I would need to see
Serenity become what it is today. Kenn has been my sponsor since those
Finally with everything in place the way God planned it, Serenity
began to grow. The vision he gave us from those early days has been the key
to our success. That vision was this: Serenity Group was to be the bridge
from the recovery community to Jesus. With the original AA program
coming directly from the bible this made a good fit. It made it easy to make
the connection to our AA roots and show those new to recovery the saving
grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Of the many things we do, the
roots remain the same, one alcoholic or addict helping another through the
healing power of Jesus Christ.
This value has led us to fully, respect, and support AA, NA and any of
the state licensed recovery facilities. Most of our folks attend AA or NA and
we reach out to the recovery houses with services including rides, start up
housing supplies, and bible studies at the recovery facilities. God has been
so good to us healing us from this terrible affliction that we just want to tell
others what He has done and show them how He can and will do it for them
too. We just want to give away what was so freely given us, to anyone,
anywhere, any time.
Oroville Church of the Nazarene
Starting a Christ Centered Recovery Ministry
First things first
This AA slogan is important to remember when starting a recovery
ministry. The saying came from Matthew 6:33, and has been used
throughout AA from its beginnings. Once you seek God and you know you
are led to create a recovery ministry, you are ready to get started.
We started with two leaders who were committed to Jesus Christ as
their Higher Power and had a desire to participate for the long haul. With
this and a dozen Serenity Bibles, you can begin. Consistency and
commitment are critical. We almost never cancel our recovery meetings
unless the entire church building will be in use for a special event. This
means we are there on all holidays including Christmas, Thanksgiving or
any other holidays. These times of the year can be very hard on people in
recovery so we need to be there for them in the difficult times.
The Serenity Bible makes for an excellent Bible study and relates to
our folks in recovery well as it has the 12 Steps with corresponding bible
verses. We do our Serenity Bible study as a step study. Beginning at step
one we work our way through the 12 Steps and the bible at the same time.
The guide in the front of the book, Serenity: A 12 Step Companion will get
you started. The 12 Step writings get people talking recovery. Reading the
bible verses gets them talking about the Biblical application. It is such a joy
watching folks in recovery beginning to understand the Bible for the first
time. As they relate the steps to the corresponding verses, the Bible comes
alive for them.
In the early days we offered only this group as we were small in
numbers. It is important to not get discouraged when the group grows
slowly. Once we got going, we were able to start offering special groups
such as our men’s, women’s, anger management and other groups. As God
fills the seats, you can diversify and expand into offering even more small
groups. Besides our New Comers Group, we like the small groups to be up
to about fifteen people, if possible. Our New Comers can run up to forty
people, which works well with our method as it gives the New Comer a
chance to get acquainted with us. It is easier for the New Comer to just
watch, learn and get comfortable before they feel they have to share at a
meeting. In the larger setting they can do this.
One of my most important jobs as recovery pastor is staying in touch
with our group leaders on a personal level. We do this for several reasons.
Often a small group leader may have a question about how to handle a
situation. They may have a personal problem they need to talk to the pastor
about. It is also important for the pastor to spend time with them so we can
see any difficulties our leader may have regarding their own sobriety. Since
all of our small group leaders are in recovery too, we need to be sensitive to
things that might lead up to a personal failure of some kind. We must walk
side by side in our recovery with our small group leaders. Over the years
when we did not do this as well as we should have, we had some huge
Our small group leaders are really more like facilitators so their job is
to keep the meeting moving and calling on people when things bog down a
bit. They need the support of the pastor to advise them on theological and
spiritual questions. They also just need and deserve a pat on the back for the
important work they do.
Child Care / Kids Like Me
If you want your recovery ministry to get off to a good start, childcare
will give you an advantage over many other recovery programs available in
your area. Most AA and NA meetings I know of do not offer childcare. It
can be very difficult for a mom in recovery to pay attention at the meeting
with a fussing child. Here again, you must stick to it because in the
beginning there may not be any children. Word will get out in the recovery
community of your town and the mom’s will begin to show up. If you give
up and don’t have the childcare one week, that will be the time a mom or
dad with a child shows up. You don’t want to miss your chance to come
along side a mom or dad in recovery. At Serenity we are all about healing
families. There are some very good children’s programs that specifically
reach out to families in recovery. We use Kids Like Me and have had good
success. Even if you don’t have a specific program, childcare will help you
Freedom to find the programs that fit best with your Church
With our open affiliation you can choose the best program for your
ministry. There are many excellent options available for small groups. With
our recovery ministry I am free to search out the programs that best fit in our
community and with our church model. If you need help finding options for
your ministry we are glad to help in any way we can. We have done much
research in this area and can offer suggestions at any time. For the programs
we use, see our small group outlines in this booklet. One of our most
successful small groups was created by Pastor Ed Redfern on the biblical
response to anger. I am sure Ed would be glad to provide the information he
put together in creating this class. The point is you can create your own
groups or use materials that help assimilate folks into the life of your church
One of our strong values is our relationship with the recovery
community of Oroville. We encourage our folks to participate in AA and
NA. We have been successful in establishing our ministry as not in
competition with other recovery options. We specifically make an effort to
set our meeting times in consideration of schedules of other groups as much
as possible. Our goal is to love recovery folks into the kingdom of God. A
big win for Serenity is when someone comes up to me at an AA or NA
meeting and asks me to tell them about my Higher Power. Our reputation in
the Oroville recovery community (AA and NA groups) is one of “the
Christian meetings that respect us.”
Love and Service
Dr Bob Smith, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, often said, “The
whole program simmers down to this, Love and Service.” With this as your
guide, you can now reach out to the recovery community in your area and
give those in need of recovery a chance to serve in and become part of the
family of God. We at Serenity Group and the Oroville Church of the
Nazarene would be glad to help you get started in any way we can. Please
feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about our approach
to Christ centered recovery.
Serenity Group Statement on Holiness
(We) were entirely ready to have God remove
all these defects of character
13. Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your
hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
14. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when
you lived in ignorance.
15. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16. for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." NIV
In the first five steps of recovery, we engage in much looking back
and digging, many times painfully, into our pasts. Step 6 is the turning point.
Now it is time to prepare for action, to “gird up the loins of (our minds)”.
The word picture here is of a man in Bible times tucking his long, flowing
robes into his wide belt to move them out of the way so he can better
accomplish his work. Peter used this metaphor to show us that we must
prepare to invite God’s serious work in our minds. “Be sober” means “be
self controlled.” These two phrases, along with “rest your hope fully upon…
Jesus Christ,” help us to know the mind-set necessary to live the holy life
commanded in verses 14-16.
Sometimes we think of holiness as a very pious, abnormal way of
living. But being holy simply means having a fully integrated personality.
God wants us to enjoy and delight as whole persons in the life He has given
us. Serenity: a companion for 12 step recovery pp333
Our beginning point to teach those in recovery about a walk with God
is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, teaching fellow brothers and
sisters about the enabling and cleansing power of the Spirit in regards to our
old nature. Once a person in recovery understands that Jesus is their Higher
Power they are now in a spiritual posture to embrace the healing power of
the Holy Spirit and therefore are able to walk more successfully as a
follower of Jesus.
Serenity Group, Values and Traditions
Mission Statement: Reaching the City of Oroville one addict at a time
Serenity Group is a Christ centered recovery group.
We believe in Jesus Christ as our higher power.
Serenity is here for the believer that struggles with addiction of any kind.
It is our desire to extend the same grace and love to the unbeliever in
addiction that Jesus Christ extended to us.
We believe AA, NA and all other recovery programs are under one God be it
sponsored by a church or community outreach, we are on the journey to
knowing our loving God even if we are not sure where we are headed.
We know that each person’s journey may look different but that Jesus is
calling us all to the same goal.
We understand that many who are new to recovery may have hard feelings
toward the church, and religion generally.
We love the addict or alcoholic during the growth process, believing that
God’s love shown through us can overcome the addict’s animosity toward
the church and Christianity in general.
We trust God to lead individuals to the truth even when it appears that this
may never happen.
Serenity is open to the gospel being preached everywhere in demonstration
as well as with words or when words have no effect.
The members of Serenity actively participate in the “recovery community”
Serenity provides a safe place for 12 Step work with sponsors and in small
We all agree that individual anonymity is the glue that holds us together and
makes it safe for the honesty and openness required for complete healing
from our addictive diseases.
Serenity Group Dinner / Birthday / Speaker Night
The last Wednesday of each month is a celebration of our recovery
successes. The evening includes dinner served to, usually around, 250
people in the sanctuary. This is a great front porch event each month as
many people who do not regularly attend come to have a meal and pick up a
birthday chip. This gives our regulars a chance to fellowship and show the
love of Jesus with folks who do not know Him as their Higher Power yet.
It also helps the Oroville recovery community understand that the church
loves them and wants them to know that they can fit into Gods kingdom.
Once dinner is served and folks are done eating we have a time of
praise and worship. All of our small group leaders are part of the praise and
worship team. This is not because we can sing. We do this to demonstrate to
all in attendance the joy of praising God. Since many in attendance are not
Christians, or very new Christians, and do not understand the reverence of
praise and worship, we make this effort to demonstrate a posture of praise.
Many of our folks do not attend church on Sundays but if you asked the
name of their church they would say “The Naz.”
With praise and worship completed, we move on to the birthday
chips. Birthday chips are coins that have the sobriety time inscribed on them.
The chips say anything from thirty days up to thirty years or more. As each
person comes up to get his or her chip, a roar comes up from the crowd,
followed by hand shakes, pats on the back, and hugs. This is a real time of
celebration for us and everyone looks forward to it each month.
With the birthdays done, we move on to our guest speaker. We
normally select a guest speaker with at least ten years of sobriety. Often we
get someone who has had a substantial impact on the recovery community of
Oroville. We are also able to get guest speakers from out of town with some
kind of special contribution to the Christian recovery movement. At least
once a year we have one of our pastors as the guest speaker. This again helps
folks to understand that the Oroville Church of the Nazarene wants them to
be a part of us.
We have several special events for our dinner night each year. We
started off with our annual Barbeque at the park because of space issues
during Vacation Bible School at our church. This has grown to be our
biggest special event of the year with 500 in attendance last June. There is
also a large Thanksgiving dinner which everyone looks forward to each
season. We try to have at least one concert every year with such performers
as Doug Hallock, Kenny Munds, and others.
Monthly dinner night is all about making those new to recovery feel
like they can be “part of” what God is doing in Oroville. We show them the
love of Jesus, the love He showed us when we did not understand what it
meant to be a Christian.
General Meeting Procedures
The following pages describe the normal flow of our opening and
move to the small groups we have at the present time. The small groups are
where people can connect with each other and Jesus on a more personal
level. We meet Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm. On Dinner nights (last
Wednesday of the month) we start at 6:00pm. We now use the entire facility
on Wednesdays, so our intent is to add an additional evening as we expand
into new groups such as Pure Desire. We do the Clarence Snyder step study
and other special groups on Monday evening at this time.
The opening session of Serenity brings the entire group together for
about thirty minutes prior to breaking into small groups. This time is started
with the Serenity Prayer, followed by the reading of the list of addictive
agents, the 12 Steps of AA and the AA promises. As a front porch session
we make this feel similar to other recovery groups that people are used to
attending. Our distinction is as a Christian recovery group, so we do not
sacrifice that value. After the readings we take announcements from the
recovery community of Oroville. We make a point of giving announcements
from AA, NA and other Christian recovery groups in the area.
Announcements are always followed by a chip check. This is where we call
for everyone in the room to hold up of their latest recovery birthday coin.
We stress that folks carry the coin with them at all times. This gives them
many opportunities to share Jesus and Serenity Group in other settings.
Once the opening rituals are completed we have a devotional time.
This devotional is at the discretion of Dale Marsh or Ken Mariano
depending who is leading at the time. The devotional duties are traded every
six months. The devotionals are always recovery related often using the AA
Big Book with a Biblical comparison. We also rely on historical information
to demonstrate the biblical origins of the 12 Steps and the AA program.
Our desire is to connect the dots between 12 Step recovery and Jesus. Our
vision was from the beginning, and still is, to be a bridge between recovery
in the community of Oroville and Jesus Christ.
Once the devotional time is completed we take ten to fifteen minutes
to share praise testimonies from the floor. The praise time has evolved to
become and extremely important part of what we do. Often times at the
small group level very distressing and difficult circumstances are shared.
This praise time gives our folks the chance to see that many good things
await them in their recovery. We often allow the praise time to run a bit
longer if the spirit leads. We try to follow God’s lead to work in unique
ways if this is what He wants to do on a given evening. After praises we
break for small groups.
New Comers Group (also known as Big Group)
New Comers Group is an entry-level group that is designed for
someone who is new to recovery, and anyone who needs to start on the
basics of 12 Step recovery.
Our study is in a small group setting (ten to forty people) so that
participants feel they may share at a more intimate level. The 12 Step Study
of Alcoholics Anonymous is our format, but we use the Serenity Bible as the
material for the study. Each session starts out with a short introduction and
the Serenity Prayer. We read the introduction to the study of the step that we
are working that week. As we go, we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in
sensitivity to the needs at the time.
Time is allowed for much discussion so we will be on any given step
for several weeks at a time. More time is spent on the first four steps so as to
help the new comer to become acquainted with the road to recovery.
Although we are a Christ centered recovery group, a new comer is not
required to be a Christian in order to participate in the group. The 12 Steps
work for anyone who desires to get and maintain sobriety. The spiritual side
of the program may take some time to develop. We are patient and loving to
each new person to recovery. Our desire is that each person will come to
know the freedom of sobriety from addictive substances also, to come to a
personal relationship with our Savior.
Group Facilitator: Pete Garcia
Co-Facilitators: Dale Marsh & Kenn Mariano
Anger & Attitudes Group
This class is designed to help anyone recognize and identify the
emotional reactions of anger in themselves and in others. The study deals
with subjects like, “What is anger? What causes it? The different levels of
anger, and the effect anger has on our health and relationships. We also deal
with four questions that God asks in his desire to bring us to health:
· Where are you (Genesis 3:9)?
· Why are you angry (Genesis 4:6)?
· Do you have a right to be angry (Jonah 4:4)?
· Do you want to get well (John 5:6)?
This class is designed to examine the way we think and the positive or
negative effects of our attitudes. The model of the study is Jesus and there
are six attitudes that are examined:
The fruit of developing these attitudes will be enjoying the journey
through life rather than reacting to the stressful obstacles everyone faces.
Group Facilitator: Pastor Ed Redfern
The Men’s Group is a gender specific group dealing with topics of a
more intimate nature than should be discussed in a mixed group. These
topics are of
· sexual purity
· sexual addiction
· the responsibility of a husband to his wife
· letting go and letting God
· loving God and others
This group uses the 12 Step format of Alcoholics Anonymous but
with material from the Serenity Bible and New Believers Bible. For the
more intimate discussions we use, What’s on your Mind by Merlin R.
Carothers, and also Seductions by Gary L. Greenwald. It is the purpose of
this group to bring men to a place where they can make decisions for Christ.
Group Facilitator: Bill Kevil
Co-Facilitator: Randy Ross
The Women’s Group is a gender specific group. The topics of
discussion are of an intimate nature. It is a safe place to lay out your most
intimate thoughts and feelings without the fear of repercussion. Topics dealt
· self worth
· how to be loved
· how to deal with life God’s way
· dealing with past hurts that interfere with present day life
· dealing with relationships
· finding work and going to meetings
· the tearing down of strongholds
· the building up of the spirit
· declaring spiritual warfare on the enemy of the soul
Materials used for discussion are Battlefield of the Mind By Joyce
Meyer, The Serenity Bible, The Bondage Breaker By Neil T. Anderson and
Scripture Reference By John G. Kruis.
Group Facilitator: Lisa Sorrell
Co-Facilitator: Abbie Mariano
Seren-Anon is a small group designed and designated for the Co-
Dependant (family members of alcoholics or addicts). Our study is taken
from Paths to Recovery (Al-Anon’s Steps, Traditions, and concepts); and
Codependent No More (How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for
Yourself); And the Serenity Bible for scriptures that relate to our step work.
We run the group in the same manner as AA or NA, utilizing the 12
steps just as Al-Anon has done for many years. What makes Seren-Anon
different than an average Al-Anon group is we infuse our studies with
scriptures and accept Christ as our higher power.
Each session starts with a topic or step. As the session progresses we
have an open discussion on the topic or step and how it relates in our lives.
Each step and topic takes more than one session to complete, as the step
work for the Co-Dependent can seem confusing at first and they also,
understandably, need time to come to grips with some of the issues.
The goal of the group is to help the family members of alcoholics and
or addicts recognize the pattern of destructive loving that they have learned
while they are in their individual situations. Also to help them realize they
are not alone. God is faithful and will help them realize how their self-will is
destructive. He will reveal His will to us and as we learn to rely on Him to
show us how to love unconditionally.
Our desire is for families (not just the alcoholic or addict) to heal and
have serenity from sin and mind altering drugs.
Group Facilitator: Valori Marsh
Couples in recovery, is a group meeting designed to help couples restore or
recapture their relationship from the hurts caused by addiction. An
important but frightening part of recovery is the work of healing our most
intimate relationships. Often the relationship most bruised and damaged by
the addictive process is the one we most cherish. Standing firmly to face the
hurts, tears, fears, and anger created within this most important relationship
takes willingness and courage. The process may be difficult, but we must
persevere in order to heal.
The Couples Group, though designed for couples recovering from addiction,
may also be helpful to other couples working to deepen, renew, or repair
their intimate relationship. Part of any relationship is a regular reexamining
and recommitting to the relationship. Couples without addiction issues but
with other concerns have used the process and information to better
understand and deepen their commitment and love for each other.
Reclaim your Family from Addiction Workbook, Craig Nakken
The Power of Prayer for Couples, Stormie Omartian
Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling, third edition, John G. Craig
Group Facilitators: Albert & Patricia Lanegan
Kids Like Me
Kids Like Me is a Christian support group for children whose parents suffer
from addiction and other recovery issues. It is held Wednesday evenings
from 6:30-8:00pm for all children up to 6th grade. Nursery care is available
for infants and toddlers. It is located in the Children’s Sunday school rooms
Why a support group for children?
Because times have changed. The emotional needs of children growing up in
America today are greater than ever before. Growing up with divorce,
stepparents, and stepsiblings, drugs and alcohol, gangs, community violence,
absent parents and more is taking its toll.
· To teach the skills necessary to understand, talk about, and cope with
their life circumstances in healthy and positive ways.
· Encourage children to talk about their experiences in a loving, safe
· Build self-esteem and a sense of trust through relationships with
· Influence homes by teaching parents the same skills being taught to
· Guide children and parents into a relationship with God and teach
them to value prayer and Scripture as resources.
Pastor Shane Heldman