Gambling Recovery Ministries, the only wide-scale outreach to compulsive gamblers and their loved ones in the country within The United Methodist Church, serves a unique role in the field of mental health. In describing this ministry's work, GRM's Director, the Rev. Janet Jacobs, explains, "We are not a treatment center, but rather, a sort of moving sidewalk, providing a pathway for persons to enter treatment and support groups."

Using this imagery, she continues, "It's an encouraging path - one paved with current knowledge of research on gambling addiction, personal acquaintance with nationally certified counselors, and specific information about GA and Gam-Anon Meetings." When folks come to the GRM Resource Center to talk about their gambling problems, not only do they find supportive and referral information, but also, a large variety of free booklets, brochures and fact sheets often unavailable elsewhere.

GRM's vision statement - that of life-saving outreach to persons directly affected by compulsive gambling - is based on the United Methodist Social Principle stating: "As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice..." From a faith-based position, GRM uniquely fills the gaps between treatment programs, the church, and independent support groups.

First, the arena for GRM's ministries includes people outside of the church and within the life of the parish. "We're both outreach and in-reach; we serve all persons," explains the Rev. Ted Hamrick, GRM board chair. Then too, UMC connections extend networking arrangements world-wide. Jacobs has shared information on gambling recovery issues with United Methodists as distant as Liberia and Singapore. As well, literature on problem gambling and information on GA and Gam-Anon locations have been sent throughout the country.

Between treatment and support

GRM fills the void between treatment and support groups. Often, people view talking one-on-one with a pastor as safer - similar to an anonymous Helpline Call, but face-to-face. Coming to GRM provides a safe testing-of-the-waters-for-help setting. To these individuals, Jacobs introduces the concept of a continuum of care, including treatment, support groups, plus spiritual support and encouragement. Always available are prayer, spiritually oriented therapeutic literature and pastoral counseling. Sincere expressions of gratitude and of experiencing extraordinary peace have been spoken following prayers that were offered.

In addition, GRM serves as an unofficial advocate for Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon, and treatment providers. "When both the counselor and I recommend GA, it is more likely that a person will seek support group meetings," Jacobs observes.

GRM's avenues of outreach also include community information events, classroom teaching, pulpit presentations and providing continuing education (CEU) events for mental and public health professionals, social workers and clergy. Most recently, the Rev. Carol Wiley, GRM board member, presented "Compulsive Gambling and Recovery Issues" as continuing education for Stephen Ministry. Both Jacobs and Wiley also have completed the 60-hour state training on compulsive gambling treatment. Taught by an international expert, this training is free and open to clergy wanting to increase their counseling skills with problem gamblers.

Contain issues of addiction

Uniquely, GRM's CEU training conferences can contain issues of addiction in the parish - and how clergy can become more effective in handling them. The topics of shame, blame, forgiveness and guilt are of special concern with gambling addiction issues. Blame can be used to deal with one's anger about gambling losses and the gambler may blame God for the losses. Therefore, prayer may be viewed only in the context of the thought, "why pray to the One who brought the bad luck?"

GRM contact information:

E-mail or phone 812-926-1052

Web site

Gambling Recovery Ministries Resource Center is located at Mt. Tabor UMC, US Highway 50 in Aurora, Ind.

State of Indiana Training for Gambling Counselor Certification: please contact Jennifer Kelly at 812-855-7831 about classes starting January 2009.

Due to the catastrophic results commonly brought on by gambling addiction, shame often renders prayer ineffective and of no use. The gambler in the hopeless phase likely believes that he or she is not worthy of being a pray-or and/or the object of others' prayers. Family members can feel great shame, too, and have similar spiritual issues with unworthiness and prayer.

Additionally, trust and hope are discussed often within the context of Gambling Recovery Ministries. Including the spiritual side of these issues provides a fresh, often before untouched, aid to recovery. With combined openness to spiritual discussion, clinical treatment, and support groups, GRM bridges the gap that is created when the issue of sin and the simplistic solution to just "Stop it!" are traditionally offered.