The Sun News

Celebrate Recovery helps with hurts, habits and hang-ups

WARNER ROBINS -- Simply put, Celebrate Recovery is a Bible-based, Christ-centered recovery program.

But ask Celebrate Recovery ministry leader Pat Chastain what it is and the definition expands.

“There are a bunch of answers to that question,” he said. “But I think the most important is that Celebrate Recovery is a safe place for people who struggle with hurts, habits and hang-ups to come and learn to manage a life that’s become unmanageable. It’s a place where we serve one another in our trials and issues. We’re called to do that as disciples following Jesus -- serve others in love.”

Chastain is ministry leader along with Sandy Henson at the Celebration Recovery program at Southside Baptist Church, where 350 gather each Thursday in a large group for worship and testimonies, and smaller groups for teaching and personal interaction.

Chastain said the Southside program began in 2004 under the direction of Jerry Walls, Southside’s pastor. He said 45 people initially attended.

Celebrate Recovery began nationally 20 years ago at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in southern California.

Henson said there are half a dozen church-based Celebrate Recovery programs in Middle Georgia and probably 30 in the state. Internationally, there are more than 20,000.

Henson said Celebrate Recovery at Southside serves people ranging from first to fifth grades, middle and high school students and adults. He said small groups focus on varieties of issues, including drug and alcohol addictions, pornography and sexual addictions, abuse recovery, depression, eating disorders, parents of addicted children, co-dependency, grief and more.

Celebrate Recovery is billed as a group ministry and doesn’t claim to offer professional, clinical advice. It does offer a 12-step approach but one that differs from traditional 12-step programs.

“Our 12 steps are based on the Bible,” Chastain said. “They’re based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We encourage everyone to go through the 12 steps, and there’s a specific 12-step meeting Mondays in addition to the large and small group Celebrate Recovery meeting on Thursday.”

Chastain said small groups provide safe and productive settings based on five guidelines. First, he said individuals who choose to share personally do so for three to five minutes and focus on their own thoughts, feelings and Celebrate Recovery workbook questions. Second, there is no cross talk allowed, no interrupting others while they’re speaking.

Third, he said conversation during small groups is supportive and not an attempt to “fix” one another.

Fourth, he said confidentiality is paramount, and participants can’t share what they hear in the group outside the group. Those who do risk being barred.

Finally, Chastain said though discussions cover difficult, personal and deep topics, offensive language has no place in a Christ-centered recovery group.

“Of course, anyone coming for the first time is not required to share,” Henson said. “In fact, there’s a Celebrate Recovery 101 group we encourage new people to go through that outlines the program and gives a feel for what we do. Our goal is to help, not put anyone on the spot. We let God do his work in each of our hearts.”

Henson said there is no fee to participate in the program other than incidental charges for Celebrate Recovery materials.

However, Chastain said there is a greater cost.

“Really, it costs you everything,” he said. “Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him, to die to ourselves. He asks for everything and that’s what it takes to walk in real freedom. It takes commitment and it’s something you take into all your life for the rest of your life, not just 7 to 9 on Thursdays. We’re going to ask you to have an accountability partner, to work the steps. It’s life recovery by letting Jesus heal and put the pieces together. Does it work? If you stay with it, it absolutely works.”

Chastain said Celebrate Recovery is for those desperate for change.

Henson said she believes the program is beneficial for everyone, even those who don’t have definable life issues or come just to support others who need it.

“If you’re hurt, if you have nagging, harmful habits, if you have hang-ups -- and who doesn’t? -- I absolutely believe you can get help in Christ through Celebrate Recovery,” she said. “You should be here. Lives are changed and families are put back together all the time.”

After small groups each Thursday, Henson said participants have the opportunity for further fellowship in the church’s Solid Rock Cafe. She said a nursery is available for Thursday services.

Celebrate Recovery also has cookouts the first and third Thursdays of the month at 6 p.m. Meals are $4 for adults and $2 for children under 12. For more information, call Henson at Southside or email

To contact Michael W. Pannell, email mwpannell