Heart of Mesa: Reaching people through Celebrate Recovery
Story and photos by Noah Jaeger | May 19, 2023
For years, 12-step programs have served people stuck in destructive habits. Celebrate Recovery, a ministry offered by Heart of Mesa Church, rescued a family from hopelessness and repurposed their lives for serving their community with the Gospel.
Ken Schroth, recovery pastor at Heart of Mesa Church, once abused drugs and alcohol. His life crumbled away, until he received a DUI, marking his turning point. In 1988 at Heart of Mesa Church, Schroth surrendered his life to Christ.
“God delivered me,” Schroth said.
A number of years later, Schroth launched the Celebrate Recovery ministry at the church. His son and daughter-in-law, Bryan and Jessie, served in the ministry’s kitchen but refused to attend the meetings, despite their struggle with alcoholism.
Shame and guilt from substance abuse weighed on Jessie until she felt compelled to change. She and Bryan attended a Celebrate Recovery lesson, and, for the first time, she experienced God’s love.
“I was really close to suicide and had high anxiety,” Jessie said. “I knew I wasn’t supposed to be an alcoholic who wakes up every day with the shakes. God was saying, ‘It’s time for you to change this.’”
During the following year, Jessie and Bryan experienced freedom from their alcoholism and became leaders in Heart of Mesa’s Celebrate Recovery ministry.
Since 2006, Celebrate Recovery at Heart of Mesa has ministered to more than 9,000 individuals, Ken Schroth estimated. The team has witnessed 250 people receive Christ and more than 100 be baptized. In 17 years of consistent ministry, only one meeting has been canceled, and that was due to COVID-19.
Celebrate Recovery initially started at Heart of Mesa as an in-reach for the church body. As church members encountered healing, the ministry quickly became an outreach to the community.
Aside from their weekly gatherings, the church serves their community in a variety of ways. Van drivers pick up participants from halfway houses. Bryan participates in a Celebrate Recovery biker fellowship, Broken Chains, which exists to tell people about Jesus. Church members knit blankets for participants, which often leads grown men to tears. Celebrate Recovery has become a well-known ministry within the church’s community.
While many 12-step programs feature biblical principles, Celebrate Recovery bases their eight principles on the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5-7 and explains the reasoning behind the steps.
Sharing the Gospel exists as the primary motivation for Celebrate Recovery, and the program is designed for anyone with any addictive behavior.
“CR is not just for people with drug and alcohol abuse,” Schroth said. “Those with sex addiction, possession addiction and codependency need healing too. CR helps find the weeds in your life and pulls them out by the roots.”
Gatherings consist of a shared meal to kickstart the night. Many volunteers consider the meal an integral part of the evening. For some attendees, this is the only meal they eat for the week. At Heart of Mesa, volunteers cook homemade meals and desserts. Attendees eat and socialize in the fellowship hall before the evening’s message.
After dinner, participants migrate to the sanctuary for worship and a lesson.
Sponsors are a key part of Celebrate Recovery. They act as a discipleship mentor for those walking through the program. Any volunteer, including sponsors, must journey through all 12 steps before serving, to ensure they understand their own need for healing before ministering to others. Every volunteer at Heart of Mesa Church finds great reward in serving in Celebrate Recovery.
“There are deep traps and slavery in people’s lives,” said Celebrate Recovery sponsor Herman Cornils. “They can’t take themselves out of it. But Christ in their life can. It’s a supernatural experience. It’s exciting to see someone’s life change, and I want to be a part of that.”
Thousands of people within Heart of Mesa’s community seek help through the Celebrate Recovery ministry. Testimonies of those who volunteer and participate reveal the powerful effect Celebrate
Recovery can have on a church and community.
If your church is interested in starting a Celebrate Recovery ministry, here are a few ways to begin .
- Talk to your pastor about starting a Celebrate Recovery ministry.
- Visit CR’s official website, celebraterecovery.com, to locate and visit a ministry near you.
- Order a Celebrate Recovery Program Kit from celebraterecoverystore.com. This guide provides all the information needed to begin a Celebrate Recovery ministry.
- If you have questions about launching a Celebrate Recovery ministry, reach out to Ken Schroth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noah Jaeger, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church and is the launch catalyst with Christian Challenge AZ.