We need to remember that they are just [people] like us, separated from God, but brought back through the love of Christ.”
It’s 7:00 on a Friday night, and Dr. Dean Kurtz stands at the front of the room, welcoming people in with a warm smile and handshake. So begins another night of Newfocus at Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown.
Newfocus is a ministry which equips the addicted with biblical principles to fight their addictions.
Kurtz, the Music and Outreach pastor at Calvary and an adjunct professor in Bible and Music at Maranatha Baptist University, started the Newfocus ministry about nine years ago as a Bible study for a new Christian couple who were struggling with addictions.
“It was just of the Lord that it started,” he said.
Finding a New Focus
The young couple were cocaine addicts who decided they needed God in their lives. So they picked up the Yellow Pages and found that Calvary had a 5:00 p.m. service on Sundays. They called a cab and arrived at the service the night that Steve Curington, founder of Reformers Unanimous Recovery Ministries, was speaking about how he overcame his alcohol and cocaine addictions through Christ.
The young man accepted the Lord as his Savior that night, and Kurtz started a Bible study with him. The man wanted to have the Bible study on Friday nights, “because that’s the toughest night” for someone trying to overcome addictions.
The young man brought three friends that first night. The next week, he brought three more. Kurtz decided that he needed help and asked some Christians from the church.
Gerry and DeAn McKee answered the call. Gerry had retired from Maranatha’s Facilities Management department in 2008, and DeAn still works as Maranatha’s main switchboard receptionist.
The “Bible study” was quickly becoming a “program,” so the group decided they needed a name. The original young man said that in order to overcome addictions, people needed “something new to focus on.”
So the name became Newfocus, the theme verses, John 8:31-32 – “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Kurtz will be the first to admit that counseling people with addictions was not his area of expertise. However, he said God made it obvious to him that this was his ministry, so Kurtz spent the next years trying to learn more about the topic.
“After all,” he said, “this is one of the ways in which unsaved people are contacting us.”
Since its beginning, the program has grown to about 30 people who meet on Friday nights, some of them church members like the McKees.
“We all need help,” DeAn said. “[All people have] something they turn to instead of God.”
Or as Kurtz puts it, “Anything can become an obsession.”
The normal format on Friday nights begins with refreshments and socializing. Then everyone gathers for a general session, during which attendees can share testimonies of victories God has given them during the week. This is followed by a time of remembering God’s character and who we are in Christ.
Then Kurtz has a teaching time to help people with the needs in their lives, such as dealing with “triggers,” renewing the mind, and more specific “root” truths. He said people with addictions are usually dealing with three issues: their addiction, day-to-day living, and figuring out what is normal.
The evening ends with small group sessions, where attendees break into groups led by church members to share prayer requests and build relationships for accountability. The rule is, “What’s said in small group, stays in small group.”
McKee said, “People mostly need a listening ear, somebody to talk to. We just try to be an encouragement.”
Kurtz also has a short break-out session with any first-time visitors to set up a one-on-one counseling time during the following week. He said he gets to know them individually, connects them with the Bible study that would be best for them, and then puts together a team of people who will contact the newcomers every day.
Reaching the Children
Often those attending Newfocus need to bring their children with them on Friday nights. A young married couple, Mitchum (’16) and Libby (’17) Senior, take the children out and work with them separately during the small group time.
Mitchum began attending Newfocus regularly, and then when the two were engaged, Libby began attending with him. Since both had previously worked with children in outreach ministries, working with the children in Newfocus was just a natural fit for them.
They take the children either outside or to the gym and then to the church’s nursery area for snacks, a Bible lesson, and crafts. The children usually range in age from four years old to about 13, so they keep the Bible lessons topical and short.
Experienced in working with larger groups such as the children’s outreach program at Calvary, Libby values the one-on-one opportunities with the smaller group of children attending Newfocus every Friday night. Mitchum added that sometimes the children will open up about things happening at home.
Kurtz said the parents need that time, however short, away from their children, and the children of parents with an addiction are at risk themselves and need that extra help.
Connecting to the Church Family
But the Newfocus ministry is not limited to Fridays. Church members volunteer to actively pray for the individuals struggling with addictions and try to interact with them at least once a week.
“It can be Facebook, texts, phone calls, or whatever,” DeAn said, “because they can slip back so easily.”
Even though they genuinely want to be free from their addictions, they often lose their new focus, become discouraged, and drift back to their destructive ways, occasionally earning jail time. Investing in the lives of the addicted can be heartbreaking at times, DeAn admits, but doing so has deepened her love, patience, and compassion for people going through struggles.
“The discipling process is going to be messy,” Kurtz explained, “but that’s okay.”
Mitchum said that he would like to see churches be more welcoming to people with addictions.
“We get arrogant,” he said, “and start looking down on other people. But we need to remember that they are just [people] like us, separated from God, but brought back through the love of Christ.”