Safe Space

The Landing at Celebrate Recovery offers middle and high school-aged children a secure, Christ-centered environment in which to express themselves, free of the judgment and pressures that often await them in other settings.

by Kari Apted

While teenagers commonly complain about having nowhere to go and nothing to do, Social Circle High School sophomore Macie Corley has set plans every Thursday night. In fact, she has had this appointment on her calendar every week since she was in the fourth grade. What has drawn the 16-year-old to Eastridge Church at 7 p.m. every Thursday for so long? The Landing: a warm, inviting gathering with other young people seeking support for a variety of issues.

The Landing is the student ministry of Eastridge’s Celebrate Recovery® group for adults. Despite its rehab-sounding name, Celebrate Recovery—or “CR,” as its members call it—is not a traditional treatment program, and despite its location, it is not a typical church service either. Although Corley is a member of Eastridge Church and loves her involvement there, she is quick to tell others that going to a Celebrate Recovery meeting is a completely different experience.

“CR is not like going to Sunday church—it’s not the same thing at all—and it’s not a rehabilitation program,” she said. “I don’t want people to think that, either.”

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12-step program that has helped people since 1991 to overcome dependency on alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other addictive substances. The group also assists family members of those with addiction or mental health issues, or as CR calls them: hurts, hang-ups and habits. For example, adult groups are dedicated to those dealing with co-dependent relationships, abuse, depression, anxiety and anger, just to mention a few. Celebrate Recovery is designed to minister to the whole family. While The Landing provides support for middle and high schoolers, Celebration Place serves kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. Corley’s stepmother, Jamie, is the director of Celebration Place at Eastridge and her father, Jason, helps lead the kids’ program.

“Everybody is welcome. We listen to everyone and treat everyone with respect.”

Macie Corley

All groups utilize the same Bible-focused curriculum used by thousands of CR groups around the world. Lessons often refer to the Beatitudes, the blessings about which Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount. The Serenity Prayer is recited each week. Even so, Corley emphasizes that you do not have to be a Christian to attend CR meetings.

“It’s Christ-centered, and there are certain guidelines the leaders go over, like not using the Lord’s name in vain, but everybody is welcome,” Macie said. “There are plenty of people who come who aren’t Christians. We listen to everyone and treat everyone with respect.” 

First-time visitors can expect a CR meeting to begin with worship music, followed by a brief talk or a testimony. There is also a group for newcomers where they learn how CR works and get answers to their questions. Then the adults and students separate into small groups. The adults can choose from topic-themed groups for substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety and more. The Landing students are divided by gender into middle school and high school groups. 

“I like that the youth group is separated by gender,” Macie said. “I feel safer that way. I wouldn’t want to talk about certain issues I have in a mixed group. It’s not that I’m embarrassed, but I feel like females can relate to me better.” 

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According to Macie, after they divide into smaller groups, the leaders share a lesson related to the topic of the day. Each participant has five uninterrupted minutes to share his or current concerns with peers. It is a time to be heard without judgment or receiving unsolicited advice—an opportunity that can be difficult to find in other settings.

“You take five minutes to get whatever’s bothering you off your chest. The other people don’t chime in and tell you what to do,” Macie said. “Nobody is trying to tell you what to do unless you specifically ask for help.”

The Landing considers anonymity and confidentiality basic requirements for participation. What is shared in the group remains in the group. The only exception is when someone threatens to harm themselves or other people. In that scenario, the small group leader is obligated to report it to the CR ministry leader. After each student has the opportunity to talk, the group prays together. Then all the small groups reconnect for a time of fellowship. “We have free time,” Macie said, “where we go out into the sanctuary and play games or just talk.” 

An outspoken proponent of the Celebrate Recovery program, Jamie is grateful for the influence it has had on Macie’s life. 

“I’m so thankful for the life skills Macie has learned through her time at Celebrate Recovery,” she said. “I love that The Landing is fun and provides her a safe place to share and identify her feelings. Macie is a great kid. She is respectful, kind, hardworking, fun and an overall outstanding young lady. Her dad and I attribute a great deal of her maturity to the things she has learned through this powerful ministry.” 

While Macie’s parents applaud The Landing for instilling strong values in their daughter, she approaches her own commitment to the program with resolve.

“I’ve never regretted going,” she said. “Even if I kind of didn’t want to go, every time it’s over, I never regret that I went.” Macie’s friends tend to echo her experience: “People will say, ‘I didn’t want to come,’ but afterwards, they’re like, ‘I’m so glad I did.’” 

For information on Celebrate Recovery, visit Eastridge.Church/Celebrate-Recovery.

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted.

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