The drug-abuse epidemic is sweeping the nation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, drug abuse is the leading cause of accident death in the United States. This epidemic has ravaged rural and urban areas alike, and it has destroyed countless families and futures.
One of the key topics of this podcast is community involvement/public life (we work to equip churches and Christians to take an active role in public life), and we often ask churches to identify the worst physical problem in their community. We are looking for the problem that government officials, government agencies and even the nonprofit sector identify as a crisis in your community. For many communities, that analysis is very simple. That worst problem is the drug problem.
This is certainly the case in southeast Indiana. Now, southeast Indiana is a great place to live. Cost-of-living is low, the people are hard workers, and the small-town America lifestyle is alive and well. However, in the July 2015 issue of Time magazine, the magazine cover displayed a fish hook with a pain pill and the following headline, “They’re the most powerful painkillers ever Invented, and they’re creating the worst addiction crisis America has ever seen.” This magazine article focused on Scott County, Indiana. The drug problem is also terrible in Jefferson County (one county over). Recent statistics show that approximately 50% of babies born in the county are either addicted to drugs or born to a mother that tests positive for an illegal substance.
In this episode of the podcast, I interviewed Lt. Vinal Lee from the Salvation Army in Madison, Indiana (in Jefferson County) about the drug epidemic. Lt. Vinal Lee spends much of his time ministering to drug addicts, their families and other affected by the drug epidemic. He explains three steps your church can take to help combat this crisis.
Contact information for Vinal : @vinallee
Contact information for Salvation Army Madison
Step #1 Communicate that this problem is YOUR problem
Lt. Lee notes that the drug epidemic has touched or will touch the life of someone in your church. This problem is so widespread that it will eventually affect every church no matter its geography, demographics or size. Therefore, Church leaders must communicate that this is their problem. He recommends either taking members to an organization like the Salvation Army to witness the destruction of the drug epidemic firsthand or bringing in a speaker that can tell compelling stories about this problem.
Step #2 Cultivate relationships with ministry partners.
Most communities will have at least a few organizations that are already fighting the drug epidemic. Unless your church feels called to develop an independent ministry, there is no need to recreate a drug addiction treatment program. You should, of course, keep your focus on Gospel impact in people’s lives; but, there are many like-minded organizations that can help you maximize your Church’s impact in this area. Go visit a Salvation Army or a similar organization and begin building relationships with them.
Step #3 Create opportunities to serve.
In our experience, many people want to assist with problems like the drug epidemic. They just don’t know what to do. As a leader, you should seek out ready-made opportunities/tasks that people can easily volunteer for. For example, Lt. Lee asks volunteers to drive applicants to rehab centers in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne (he describes some excellent ministry opportunities while doing this). There is also a new effort in Jefferson County to match new moms that tested positive for an illegal substance with another woman in the community that can help/mentor her. Lt. Lee also mentions that churches in Jefferson County could help out at one of three transitional homes. Seek out such opportunities and plug your people into the effort to fight the drug epidemic.
If Churches will help their communities with problems like the drug epidemic, they will develop credibility, contacts and influence in their community.
How is your church helping the fight against the drug epidemic? Please let us know!