A home-coming story
For me, my first experience of a Serenity Service can best be described by the word "home-coming". It happened 11 years ago in Stockholm, Sweden. I do believe that my own, personal story and background strongly influenced the situation. As I sat there I felt, here I am allowed to be myself, in all my brokenness. The words are Yngvar Ruud's, pastor in the United Methodist church, Norway. Meet a man with a heart for people's personal restoration.
Let's state it from the very beginning: This is not a fast track to church growth. No brokenhearted person, perhaps struggling with substance abuse or other dependencies, wants to be seen as merely a number in church-statistics. He or she will quickly smell wrong motives in the heart of an eager church-planter. But if there is a longing in your heart to create a place for people to befriend their own pain and begin to deal with it, the Serenity service might be an option.
- If your motive and desire is that you truly want to walk with and support people with inner pains, the Serenity service might be something for you, Yngvar says. - Recently, as we were doing a 3-days seminar for pastors and deacons about the 12-step program, I think it became clear to the participants that this is all about spirituality and God. I believe they felt "this is about our lives". The crucial thing is not that you have (had) a problem with f.ex. alcohol. Your problem might be your strong need of always being in control. Everyone is in need of a personal, inner house-cleaning, Yngvar says. It begins with the realization "I admit I have a problem". That's why I say: This is not a self-help-program, but on the contrary a "Help, I can't help myself-program".
- Having personal experiences of dependencies or substance abuse is no prerequisite to working with Serenity Services. But you do need to be honest about yourself, Yngvar shares. We are speaking from heart to heart. People from the 12-step program attending your Serenity Services will feel your honesty, or the lack of it. We give people the right to be on the way, not "ready yet". In the dialogue with them we have something to offer, but we are not pushing our message on anybody just like that. My experience is that the 12-step-people have as much to give the church people as we can give them, Yngvar says. Their testimonies are fresh, "This is what God has done for me this past week". We often share things that happened tens of years ago.
- It is important to do a thorough preparation before you start something like this, Yngvar says. Prepare your people, prepare the church. The church needs to own the project fully and be with you in the work. From the very start, when we arranged the first Serenity Service in my own church, more than 50% of the people attending came from what I call the 12-step-people. This can lead to funny situations: The 12-step-people usually come in good time and take their seat at the coffee table (before service). When the church-members drop in much later, they might find that their "own" chairs are occupied. And in a Serenity Service the 12-step-people take the best seats in the front, while the regular church-members usually prefer to be somewhere in the back of the church.
For more information about Serenity Services, Recovery and the 12-step program within the United Methodist church, visit