A church dropout may be a signal of addiction. In my first pastorate, one of my laymen stopped attending worship. Because we’d had conflict, I passed it off as unhappiness with me. As a result of my assumption, I failed to follow up. My passivity not only cost the congregation a member with his immediate family, it also rewarded me with some guilt. By the time I learned he had been using alcohol, he had dropped out for good. Any effort to reach out at that point would have, I believed, only alienated him and his family more. I had already demonstrated my lack of concern.
Reasons to Follow Up on Dropouts
One reason I should not have assumed, but followed up, is my responsibility as a pastor. Because searching for lost sheep is part of the responsibility of a good shepherd, I needed to check out my assumptions. Out of concern for my parishioner’s welfare, therefore, as soon as I detected a potential dropout pattern, I should have investigated. But at the time, someone who drops out can signal addiction. Not only pastors and religious leaders, but friends and family also need to suspect a signal of addiction. When a friends or family member drops from social gatherings, it may be time to mobilize to help our loved one or friend. A change in pattern can signal that someone we care about has begun to lose their way in life.
What’s The First Signal of Addiction?
When someone decides to use alcohol or other drugs, often one of the first things to go is church attendance. When, like Jonah, we’re running from God’s voice, who wants to hear about God? If we’re keeping secrets from others and ourselves, who wants to be reminded of the power of sin? When we’re deeply unhappy, who wants to face seemingly cheerful people? “How’re you doing?” we’re asked. “Fine!” we lie.
Much like a sheep can be lost due to a broken leg, someone on drugs has a physical problem. Remember that an addicted person is physiologically “hooked.” His or her body now craves the substance.
Caring Enough to Confront
The addicted person still needs to take responsibility for their behavior. It’s important, however, to remember they have altered their body chemistry. As a result, in some ways, they can’t help themselves. They may need a specialist in interventions to mobilize family and friends. The coach supports and helps the caring family confront the addicted. The interventionist will also have an out available, a space at a treatment facility and a plane ticket waiting for an immediate, “Yes, I’ll go!”
Do you have a friend or loved one with an addiction? What have you done to help them? What will you do? Do you have and addiction? What will you do to help yourself?
[ For Reasons to enter Recovery, see https://www.psycom.net/addiction-recovery-reasons-to-recover-in-2018/. For another story of Recovery read my blogs: https://www.gordongrose.com/sarah-hepolas-alcohol-recovery-story-i-blackout/; https://www.gordongrose.com/sarah-hepolas-alcohol-recovery-story-ii-recovery/; https://www.gordongrose.com/sarah-hepolas-alcohol-recovery-iii-lessons/ Image: Public Domain]