Old Church Buildings, Empty Parsonages, New Opportunities

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What do you do when church attendance shrinks, consolidation follows, and the meeting house and parsonage is left empty?

A small Arkansas church moved their location from a remote part of their farming community to a main highway and used the empty parsonage and the old church building to house women seeking freedom from addictions. The ministry began with three women; however, since 2012, 175 ladies have graduated from the year-long discipleship program. Currently, over 40 women are in residence supervised by 13 staff members. Entry is by application only, although several women, given the choice of incarceration or a rehab, have been admitted with satisfactory results.

Here is a brief history and overview of the discipleship program known as John 3:17 Ministry. Initially called Anchor Pointe Recovery Center, the work began in 2011 in Remmel, a small farming community in Jackson County, AR, with the approval of the elders of the church located in the community. The name was changed a year later to John 3:17 Ministry for Women with Addictions to better reflect the kinship to John 3:16 Ministry for men located in Charlotte, AR. Both are faith-based, believing firmly that through God addicts can be cured, not merely treated. Over the 12-month period required by the John 3:17 ministry, the women participate in Bible classes every afternoon, Monday-Friday and participate in Celebrate Recovery meetings three nights a week. In addition, a licensed counselor meets weekly with the ladies; in-house classes in grief recovery, anger management, and overcoming childhood sexual abuse are also offered.

Drug abuse kills 300 people a day, many of whom are our teen-age children. We must provide help for this epidemic afflicting our nation! That assistance, however, needs to be more effective than a two-or-three-month enforced hiatus from drug use. Although statistics show that short-term rehab programs fail more than 90% of the time, the good news is that the retention rate for long-term rehabilitation is well over 50%. A tremendous need exists for long-term recovery/discipleship ministries!

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives”( Proverbs 11:30). The “tree of life” produces fruit that will give “eternal life!” (Genesis 3:21; Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14,19).

Almost all the men and women who have completed the ministries of John 3:16 and John 3:17 have committed themselves to the Lord. Lives have become whole that were dreadfully fractured and mired in sin. They are no longer addicts, but, praise the Lord, they now live in complete newness of life in every aspect of their beings.

What is needed to get started?

The most important requirement is a heart for discipleship. Secondly, an adequate space to safely house women is essential. The third need is a “house-mom,” (or moms) able to supervise and disciple the women. Two supervisors are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9), but you can start with one. The importance of the house-mom cannot be emphasized enough. She must be a godly example with a delicate balance of kindness and firmness.

Following are steps you can follow in launching a recovery ministry:

1. Procure a 501-c-3 under a ministry name you choose. (i.e., John 3:17 Ministry for Women with Addictions; New Hope; Daughters of the Other Side; Life Savers). Your ministry’s name will be registered with the IRS along with your 501-c-3 declaration.

2. Establish by-laws (these may need to be revised when a board is in place). Also needed are a chair, vice-chair, and secretary for the organization.

3. Explore ideas with a group of people interested in seeing this ministry established. (Some in this group will probably be future board members.) Map out the ministry’s VISION, PURPOSE and MISSION. From this discussion group formulate a “Mission Statement.” The Mission Statement for John 3:17 is “To provide a place of safety, hope, and restoration for women with addictions.”

This statement contains the purpose of John 3:17 – to fully restore addicted women spiritually, physically, and emotionally. The vision: to expand the capacity of the ministry.

4. If people are ready to launch a healing/recovery ministry, then locate a facility that will house up to six women, and secure a house mom.

5. Create awareness of the prospective ministry with those connected to the inaugural group (their family, friends, acquaintances, etc.).

6. Began a prospect/mailing list. Construct a “coming soon” web-site. Use social media as much as possible to promote the ministry.

7. Have an “awareness” meeting to inform the public of the opportunity you are pursuing.

8. Create “A Case for Support” brochure.

9. Establish a set of guidelines/rules for the ministry; share these as well as the rationale for them with the group.

On a personal note, I am willing to share my experience of ten years with John 3:17 Ministry for Women to help any recovery ministry getting started or give guidance in fund-raising for those that are already up and running. You can reach me by phone or text at 501-658-1644 or email at 1jimwoodell@gmail.com.


Jim Woodell, CNE,CDE,CNC

Searcy, AR 72143

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