Monday, January 30, 2012


What is Foundations?

Foundations is a new approach to initiating positive change in individuals seeking spiritual guidance.  It combines proven counseling techniques within a spiritual framework.  A formal training program educates and trains spiritual oriented volunteers under the direction of professional counselors and experienced ministers to become facilitators for change.  Foundations is administered under the direction of New Life Church. Sam Brown  volunteered his services to assist the outreach department of NLAC during the fall of 2011. By the end of 2012, a team of facilitators had been through training, case studies, and role playing.

The goal of initiating a positive change in behavior in a limited number of sessions may seem daunting. Realistically, we see this as a beginning; the cornerstone of what we think is an opportunity for a new life.  While not all the targeted population has a substance problem, this is most often a serious obstacle for clients in attempting to turn their life around.  For this reason, a focus on substance dependency is a major component of Foundations. The techniques of Motivational Interviewing were chosen as research, such the NIAAA's MATCH project, demonstrates that it can initiate change after one to two sessions.

Substance Treatment conventionally includes participation in a Twelve-Step Program. Foundations focuses on the stage of the client prior to recognizing the need for long term commitment to a treatment program, such as 12-steps.    The strengths of the Foundation Facilitator are compassion and spirituality.  Foundations applies the strengths of the facilitator towards a non-conformational dialogue. We view a clients committing to a twelve step program as evidence of a success.

Foundations instructs in Christianity and invites a pragmatic discussion on the issues surrounding the client's circumstances.  The style of dialogue is Motivational Interviewing, MI for short. MI is a proven counseling style with a 20 year track record. For example, MI is the primary method used by the Veterans Administration in its substance treatment program. There are four components to MI. The first, empathy, is seeing the world as the client sees it.  Empathy starts with an accurate positive regard for the client, encourages the flow on information from the client, and increases the motivation of the client to participate.

The second component is to provide non-judgmental reflections on the clients conflict between the reality of the his/her circumstances versus the psychological mechanism of denial. The client is encouraged to recognize the gap between their core values and their behavior. Only as the client begins to appreciate that their behavior is in conflict with their core values can the client then consciously make choices.

The third component, affirmation is the positive reinforcement of change. The fourth component occurs as the client internalizes the need for change.  Self-efficacy is the clients belief that change is possible, that the client has the power to achieve a particular outcome through their own behavior.

The capacity to share ones own human defects, shortcomings and struggles is necessary to form an alliance with the client. In a sense, this is proof that the client can offer information without risking judgment. To be effective the facilitator must be willing to open up emotionally, to share pain, to be "Transparent". This is in contrast to a style that is confrontations, and judgmental where an invisible wall separates the facilitator from the client. The reason is simple; research has proven this style has a higher efficacy while a confrontational style increases resistance and motivation to change. A criterion of a facilitator is to possess the spiritual strength to open up themselves and   see through the world through the eyes of the client.

The famous psychologist Maslow modeled human needs as a hierarchy moving from more basic needs, water, food, shelter, through social needs, and finally up towards self actualization. The psychologist Victor Frankl a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps added self-transcendence, the need for spiritual experience. Maslow's thinking was that pre-occupation with lower needs interfered with seeking solutions to higher needs.  Addressing one's lower needs does not negate one's higher needs. In terms of addiction, the use of a substance results in a mal- adaptive substitution in meeting needs. It is often said that the addictive substance is a substitute for human relationships, the drug or alcohol becomes has become the addicted person's best friend.   meeting needs in healthy manner.  Foundations illuminates the clients  understanding of the inherent conflicts arising from substituting a substance for an authentic religious experience.   As the client understands the conflict between an authentic spiritual experience, for us, as a personal relationship with Jesus, and substance use, the client can begin the self-talk that will lead to a willingness to change.

It is true that individuals believe what they say more than what they are told.  The component of Affirmation is to mirror back to the client positive self-talk. Another view is that alliance between the facilitator and the client amplifies the resources of the clients own mind. By amplifying the resources of the client's mind, such as seeing an objective image of reality, the client's can now muster internal mental resources to heal.

We use a model where the individual's self, their latent memories, and their consciousness are coordinated towards change. To achieve a level of self-efficacy, self-talk becomes latent memory. As latent memory, the self-talk guides consciousness. Ultimately, the real needs of the self can be recognized, giving rise to pragmatic plans to effect change. The goal is for the client to belief they can change their behavior to fit their own positive core values.
 Churches represent a large group of motivated volunteers, talent, and resources. The population of incarcerated people are suffering. As Christians, we know our best actions are those aimed towards relieving human suffering. Christians refer to this as Matthew 25, based on the scriptures making clear that this is the Lord's expectation.

We take Jesus at his word when we visit the least of human beings in jail, we are visiting Him. So for us this is a source of joy. But we wish to go further, to apply the knowledge of modern science to effect positive change to relieve the long term suffering in the individuals we meet. We have a dual purpose, to educate on Scripture and to effect positive change to the best of our ability.

Some of us have experience the crumbling of a life build on sand, when the waves of life's storms washed over our personnel foundations. We are here because we survived those storms, but learned to build our new foundation on rock. For us Christians, our faith in Jesus is that rock. We think that faith is latent on all people; regardless of how far down the ladder they may have fallen. That without a spiritual experience we are defenseless against life's storms.

Empathy can not be taught nor learned in a classroom. Even the most well learned psychologist requires empathy to be an effective therapy. On the other hand, with only basic instruction, individuals with great feeling of empathy can be highly effective.   Our Facilitators are not professional counselors. However, scientific research has shown that Motivational Interviewing is effective, provided that the knowledge of the technique is used with nonjudgmental and non- confrontational mindset. Also, MI is used throughout the medical field, often with people with little or no other training in psychology. A key aspect of a facilitator is foregoing the judging of others. This is critical to attaining rapport with individuals who view their lives judged negatively by family, friends, and society. As members of the New Life Church, we are taught and believe that to judge others is wrong.
Facilitators are defined as church members, approved by the authorities, who have completed classes in Motivational Interviewing. In addition the Facilitators attend classes in the basics of substance dependency.  The training includes classroom lectures, participation in role playing, readings, and written assignments, and attending open 12 step meetings.   In addition, Facilitators receive education in the Bible scriptures that are an integral part of Foundations.  The training and follow up is done under the direction of experience professional counselors.

We know that statically there is a high probability that underlying the legal issues of many clients is substance abuse. Denial or rationalization occurs to block the negative feelings from behavior that was in conflict with core values. In the model of psychology termed "stages of change", the client moves from a stage of pre-contemplation to contemplation. In other words, "I don't have a problem" to. "I think I may have a problem" Participation in a religious setting is an opportunity to highlight positive core values. This may be thought of a "flanking movement" around the barriers of denial. Highlighting the core values, the client is motivated to move to the stage of contemplation.

There is a high correlation between a variety of mental disorders and substance abuse. Only highly trained professional are qualified to diagnose mental disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V is the standard reference of the medical profession that defines the criterion for substance dependency and all other mental disorders. Pragmatically, an exact assessment and diagnosis seldom is performed in the area of substance dependency. There is simply not enough money or trained personnel.

The reality is that incarceration itself, related to substance abuse is strong evidence that the client suffers from a diagnostic valid substance problem.  General practice is that until the client substance dependency is successfully treated, valid diagnosis of a co-morbid mental disorder, i.e. depression is be postponed, as the substance disorder mask or mimic the symptoms of a potential co-morbid disorder.

All psychoactive drugs fall into one of four categories based on their action on the central nervous system.  Why some individuals become dependent is a matter of on- going research.  There is as yet no clear answer.  Federal agencies such as the NIAAA are investigating potential genetic factors related to alcoholism.  Regardless of the cause, remission ultimately depends on the client self-efficacy. Substance dependency is considered a chronic condition, there is no cure. The treatment is abstinence to bring on remission of the behavior that leads to relapse.

Foundations seeks a solution.  Integrating modern counseling techniques integrated within a Christian framework, we can give clients an opportunity to begin constructing a new life, build on a solid foundation. In an age with minimal funding, a shortage of trained professionals and a large need, this is, can be, and should be, a job that churches can do.

We are reminded that all us need help at some point in our life.  As the great psychologist Carl Jung stated as quoted in the Big Book of AA, as 12-step programs have proven, and as many of us have personally experienced, spiritual awaking is life altering. If the clients could have done so on their own, they would have. The challenge is to take the best from mankind's knowledge base of science, and use this knowledge for positive change.

Monday, November 28, 2011



Avery Whitfield, 5, shows off her new playhouse. New Life Apostolic Church members are building playhouses for children battling illnesses every month this year.
Avery Whitfield, 5, shows off her new playhouse. New Life Apostolic Church members are building playhouses for children battling illnesses every month this year.

WATKINSVILLE — The New Life Apostolic Church congregation still misses Madison Young, the 15-year-old Monroe girl who died in a four-wheeler accident two months ago. The wound still is fresh, but the Watkinsville church has found a way to heal while honoring a fallen member.
In October, New Life started the M.Y. Playhouse Project, which is named after Young. For the next year, the church will present one custom-built playhouse to a child battling a serious health condition.
Earlier this month, 5-year-old Avery Whitfield held on to her father’s neck as the family stood in between a crowd of about 100 and a large blue tarp. Her shyness turned to a wide smile as the tarp came off she saw her dream playhouse. Before long, she and other children were playing inside, spinning pinwheels and peeking out the windows.
“I won’t be able to get her out of this,” said Laurie Whitfield, Avery’s mother. “Today is a dream come true for her.”
Scott and Misty Clack, who own Clack Construction Co., started the project as a new church outreach initiative. The Clacks and their employees build the playhouses with materials donated from different business and hardware stores.
The finished building then gets a trip to a donated warehouse off Georgia Highway 316 where New Life student ministry members paint and decorate it however the receiving child wants it. A few days before, the child actually colors in a picture of the playhouse, and the decorating team works off of it.
“We put it on a truck and deliver it,” Scott Clack said. “We were going to do 12, but we’re already talking about doing three for December. As long as people keep donating the materials, we’re going to keep building them.”
The first playhouse went to Timothy McCannon of Greensboro, who is battling B-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Avery just had a liver transplant, and she is recovering well, her mother said.
Dr. David Sprayberry in Watkinsville is Avery’s pediatrician, and a few of his employees go to church at New Life. They have Avery’s name to the selection committee and nominated her for a playhouse.
The final step was for the volunteers to see just what Avery wanted.
She used almost every crayon in the box when she colored her playhouse picture. Out front, there was what looked like a pot of gold.
As it turned out, it was filled with giraffe feed.
“We’ve kept track of Avery and we’re praying for her,” said the Rev. Tim Hammond, the pastor at New Life. “She wanted a rainbow and a giraffe. We’re waiting for that giraffe.”
Avery didn’t have to wait for long. Her playhouse came with a pot of giraffe food and a wooden giraffe.
With a pink flower in her brown hair, she patted the giraffe and then looked up along the side of her new play home.
She pointed and read the letters that ran downward.
“A-V-E-R-Y!” she shouted, still smiling.
Everyone around her was smiling, too. The M.Y. Playhouse Project may continue for a long time.
“We all miss Madison terribly around here,” Hammond said. “This will keep Madison’s memory alive.”
To nominate a child for the project, call 706-769-6824 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            706-769-6824      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Watkinsville teen wins gospel contest

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011
Lauren Strawn has a shy, rather humble demeanor about her, at least until she gets a microphone in her hand.
The 18-year-old freshman at Athens Tech started trying to sing and play the piano in her grandma's lap when she was 3. Soon, she was soloing in the youth choir and then singing in the adult choir when she still was in grade school.
She helps lead the youth worship at New Life Apostolic Church in Watkinsville and, while she is studying business administration, she wants to sing to a larger audience. Earlier this month, she took a giant leap toward that goal.
Strawn won a 104.7 The Fish FM contest to serve as the opening act at the annual Celebrate Freedom concert in Atlanta. Strawn opened for the Newsboys in front of a crowd of about 50,000.
"There were so many people packed in, I didn't know how I was going to sing in front of all of them," she said. "I remembered it was all about worship and just had my eyes closed. It was a God thing."
Strawn was surprised to be in the position. When the radio station announced the contest, a dozen friends emailed her the details and implored her to enter. She filmed herself playing the piano and singing "Blessings" by Laura Story. The video has thousands of views on YouTube.
Strawn played the song for one of the first times for the video, but she picks up music quickly. Strawn's music IQ has helped her write and understand music using just her ears, said her mother, Pam.
"Lauren knows how to listen to a song and make chord sheets based off of what she hears," Pam Strawn said. "I think it runs on her dad's side of the family."
Weeks after submitting the video, the station called her to tell her she was one of five finalists. The five sang their songs on stage in front of a panel of judges.
"I was so nervous, and they were all so sweet and good," Strawn said. "My voice cracked once, and I figured that was it."
Instead, the judges selected her as the winner. She sang at the Celebrate Freedom concert and already has a second gig at Faith Fest in Winder on Oct. 1.
In addition to the concert, she also earned $10,000 for herself and her church. She plans to use the money to pay off her car and invest, not just in stocks, but also in her own music career.
Strawn will get a head start later this fall with a recording session, which also was included in the grand prize. She plans on making an EP out of it.
She has written several songs that could show up on the EP and, later, a full-length album.
Her 35 or so compositions range from worship music to choir pieces to deeply-written rock songs.
"There is a lot of variety and not really a set style," she said. "They're all influenced by my love of God, but I think that a lot of people can relate."
Her songs all have uniqueness about them as well, a little stamp of Strawn's own authenticity. She doesn't just want people to listen to her music.
She wants them to be touched.
"I'm trying to relay a simple message," she said. "And that message is Christ."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Culturally Relevant: To Be or Not to Be?

by Kenny Chessor    July 2,  2011

The mere mention of the phrase is sure to get a rise out of most people involved in ministry. More than likely, you’ve formed an opinion on the subject after seeing it done right, or perhaps seeing it done completely wrong. Whichever side you’re on in this debate, the question is being asked and will continue to be with each generation to come.

Can the church hold onto its values, while still being relevant to a world that is constantly moving away from them?

In no way do I claim to be an expert on this subject, but my years in youth ministry (or student ministry depending on how relevant you’re trying to be) have afforded me some insight. I only ask that I may humbly submit my opinion for your consideration.

Now to answer the question…don’t you hate it when someone asks a question, only to run from it the entire article? In short, I feel the answer is yes. The church can hold to its values, while still being relevant to a world that is constantly moving away from them. I’ll attempt to approach the subject from both ends of the spectrum.

TOO RELEVANT: We’ve all seen it done. They try so hard to connect with this generation; they’ll seemingly stop at nothing to appear “cool” and “hip”. For the record, using the words cool and hip immediately disqualifies you from being either. You know that guy who keeps trying to work Lady Gaga and Lil’ Wayne lyrics into their sermons to gain street cred. They’ll usually start their youth services off with a popular YouTube video that all their students have seen a year ago when it was actually new.

Last year I was at a youth event put on by an organization who for years has preached against television and cinema. To my surprise, the service started with a video presentation of how special effects have changed through the years in film. Which, I must say, was extremely cool, but what significance did it have to the service?

The danger in trying too hard to be relevant is more than likely the message you’re sending to your kids is this: The world is cool….really really cool. Let me ask you this: if your youth service was one of your students, how would you try to help them? We’ve all had to counsel with a teen who was was trying to mimic the world in every aspect of their life. They seem to want to be as close to the world as they can be, while still maintaining a spiritual walk with God. How does your youth service differ from this? Are you trying to pattern your music, media, and subject matter after what is cool by this world’s standard, but still hope to have something spiritual happen in the end? Maybe if we can look through this with this lens, we can see our folly to be “cool” for the sake of being cool. It’s been said a million times: “The message doesn’t change, but the method needs to.” And while I agree with this, I must warn that we be careful not to let the method become the message. I fear we can get so carried away with the latest method, that the message of Christ gets watered down or completely drowned out. Then, our students leave thinking saying , “WOW! That was really cool!” but when asked, struggle to give an idea about what the point was.

NOT RELEVANT AT ALL: Possibly without meaning to, this group projects that the world is so evil, that a good Christian must completely disengage from it to be holy. If you find yourself in this group, I’d like to start off by saying, I believe your intentions are well meaning. I believe as much as anyone that we should come out from among them and be ye separate. This is not the debate.

It’s been well said that the problem isn’t the ship being in the sea, but the sea being in the ship. This is definitely true, but I feel most people use this as an argument to dismiss any cultural ventures to reach the lost. Let’s keep with this ship in the sea analogy. Obviously, the church is the ship and the world is the sea. So what is the ship’s purpose, I ask? If it is to sail on safely to the other side, with no other objective, then by all means, sail on. However, we find that the ship has a very special purpose for being in the sea altogether. You see, there’s fish in the sea. Jesus declared to his first disciples, that he would make them fishers of men. How effective can a fisher be if he has no knowledge of the fish or the water it lives in? The best anglers not only pinpoint the lure that is most attractive to the fish, but also learn how to present it. Should I use a top water jig? Maybe I should drag a worm across the bottom. The fact is, we’re all trying to catch fish…but some of us are using different bait and presenting it in a way that ensures a catch.

The fact is, most churches are already engaged in culturally relevant evangelism. However, hopefully it’s relevant to the culture that the church is in. Understanding this, we know we’ll only win certain types of men if we only evangelize with one method. So maybe we should rethink what is relevant the next time we knock another churches style. If I’m expected to win lost teens, then I must be a student of youth culture. The same is given to the man trying to reach the farmers and oil riggers of our world.

We understand that God’s Word is timeless. It never changes. Nevertheless, culture is fluid. It’s always changing. Not only that, there is not one culture that is widely accepted in this generation. We live in a fractured culture. It will also change by geography. What works for downtown church in the major city will not work for the country church in the rural location.

Paul said, “I am made all things to all [men] that I might by all means save some.” Paul was a man of study. He had a seemingly endless knowledge of the scriptures. But everywhere he went, he found ways to present the message to different cultures. Even to a group of polytheistic pagans. I think we should follow this biblical example. First, by becoming students of the Word of God. Then, by becoming students of our surrounding culture. By doing this, I believe, we’ll insure our student ministry will always be relevant.

Rev. Kenny Chessor serves as Louisiana District Youth President and is also the Student Pastor at Voice of Pentecost in Baton Rouge, LA

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


NLAC was delighted to invite the outreach team under the direction of Rev. Nathan Johnson to come to our May 28th service at Parkwood Homes in Snellville.  We are so excited to be able to turn this monthly ministry over to them starting in June of 2011. We have been privileged to work with Parkwood over the last three years with a monthly service as we have seen people filled with the Holy Ghost as well as healings take place.
The new outreach team, consisting of six individuals, comes from Word Aflame Tabernacle pastored by Rev.  Alan James. They are located in the Snellville, Georgia area. The website to their church is:

Word Aflame is a revival church and outreach minded. I was impressed by Bro. Nathan and his team as we transitioned our ministry over to them this past Saturday. The music that was brought forth in this service was modern and contemporary coupled with hymns from the past. The youth team was full of boldness as they went forth to greet the patients…..There was great interaction as we introduced the new team and backed out of the way allowing their church to take the reins and continue on with a great move of God! 

Bro. Nathan also gave his testimony as he spoke to the onlookers of staff and patients (32 in attendance) about the love of God and the many times God had healed him….Great faith was shown to those who listened intently and some raised their hands for prayer at the end of the service….

We are so excited to have Word Aflame take over the Parkwood ministry with enthusiasm, excitement, and boldness.  As Susan Bruce and I backed into the shadows to allow Word Aflame’s outreach team take the floor, I remarked that it was great that those who follow the Acts church in doctrine and deed can work together even if hailing from different churches. We concluded the meeting by introducing the new team to Bro. Wallace so they could meet his needs on a regular basis going forward. This was overall, a very successful day.

God Bless,

Scott Strawn, Outreach Director

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

HIGH SCHOOL HAPPINESS by Kristen Clack (from her blog)

I awake every morning and get myself ready. It is not a struggle like it used to be. My hair is getting longer and hard to manage at times. I wear it spiked up most days. Sometimes I place a small ribbon in my hair to match what I am wearing that day.
My teachers at my high school are really helpful and are accommodating my needs each day. I am currently in British Literature and Physics. Oh yes… Physics. I will need to pass these 2 classes to graduate with my class this May. Before my accident, I didn’t have to study to make A’s and B’s. If I just listened in class, I could maintain my grades. Now I have to study every night and I struggle with vocabulary. Memory at times come very difficult for me. I get frustrated when I know the answer and I can’t find the words to explain it. My teachers are exceptional. They have gone above and beyond.
I’ve just taken my ACT a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t gotten my results back yet, but very anxious to see them. I had prepared and prepared myself to take this  and actually was scheduled to take it this past August and the SAT in September, but with the accident, I didn’t get to take them.  I am going to take the SAT next month. Most of the colleges that I was looking into prior to the accident has deadlines for submission of these results last month.  I am working hard to take these and do the best I can to make a high score to be accepted into college this year or next.
I have been working on scholarships to help with the financial end of college. I have to do a lot of writing and critical thinking, it’s hard! I am determined to be the best I can be and to be back on top of my academics and my athletic ability.
My friends and my fellow students at my high school has been so supportive. Every one has been great. Every “Hello” and for every positive smile I get, makes me feel like I am back where I was before. The students at Apalachee, will never know how much each of them mean to me. I thank them so much for praying for me and being there smiling and laughing with me. I love my high school and respect what it means to me. The ones that fill it up makes my school what it is today. Go Wildcats!
I can’t leave out the Bulldogs….. AWESOME. When it comes to community, there is no other town than Winder. The students at the high school across town will also never know how much they mean to me. Every single one! The students, parents, athletic programs, staff and administration…. I am so thankful.
God is restoring me every day. He has touched my life in so many ways……. He has given me my life. I haven’t missed a Church service since I have been back home from my accident.  New Life in Watkinsville is not far away. It’s just a town away. I learn a lot and I learn the Truth. Pastor Tim always preaches the Absolute Truth. God is real and I am living abundantly just like God said. I am going to a Women’s conference on March 5 at the Apostolic Church in Winder, behind Akins Ford at 10:30 – 3pm. I will be talking briefly, but a great speaker will be there to give her testimony and what God is doing in her life. I am so blessed and I know that God will continue to work in my life and will use me to his benefit.


Posted by: Scott Strawn, NLAC Outreach Director