DILLSBORO, Ind. – Created in 2001 by the South Indiana Conference as a District pilot program, Gambling Recovery Ministries (GRM) – from its beginnings – has intended and has proven to be, a life-saving outreach in Christ’s love, to people directly and indirectly affected by compulsive gambling.
In January 2001, the Columbus District Superintendent and the associate council director of the former South Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church met with the Rev. Janet Jacobs to discuss possibilities of new outreach in southeastern Indiana.
The idea of a ministry to problem gamblers and their families was the farthest thing on Jacobs’ mind.
“Conceivably, an outreach to problem gamblers and their loved ones, in casino and lottery-laden southern Indiana, was not a stretch,” Jacobs said, “however, to hatch the mission and become knowledgeable enough on the topic of gambling addiction to educate other professionals was non-existent on my radar screen as a parish pastor.”
Nevertheless, the vision of such a ministry turned into reality during the former South Indiana Conference later that year.
Not surprisingly, the earliest work was educational in nature. Jacobs connected with Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon members to learn more about the problems and nature of compulsive gambling and the heartache which it causes. Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon are Twelve-Step Programs for gamblers and their families. In addition, Jacobs completed the 60-hour training on Problem Gambling Counseling and Treatment Issues sponsored by the State of Indiana. Each year she continues to rack up professional continuing education credits on the topic of compulsive gambling.
She says recognition and treatment of gambling addiction are still in their infancy and GRM has been widely acclaimed in the field for its positive contributions as evidenced by the many invitations to participate in symposia and conferences on problem gambling, as well as in college classrooms. Because of GRM’s leadership role in this pioneering area of ministry, this ministry has educated and served people locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. Presentations on recovery issues extend to churches, health professionals, counselors, social workers and the public at large.
Within our United Methodist arena, Jacobs has traveled not only to many churches across Indiana, but also has taken the message of help and hope for compulsive gamblers to the Western New York Conference, the Kentucky Conference, a group of Iowa pastors, a United Methodist Women’s meeting in the Red Bird Missionary Conference and to UM-related missionaries serving a health ministry in North Carolina.
This year upon request, GRM sent numerous resources on compulsive gambling recovery issues to the Oklahoma Conference Addictions Ministry for its booth during its Annual Conference session.
“We are very glad and blessed to share specialized materials and information on gambling addiction; it’s our mission to bring help to the hopeless,” Jacobs said.
Very few ministries have the wide field of mission as is served by GRM. Again, GRM is unique in its ability to reach both the people who are suffering from gambling addiction and those who seek to help them. Described as an emerging ministry on the cutting edge of outreach, GRM carries a spiritual presence into a number of conversations many churches have not entered.
The outreach of GRM ranges from supportive and referral consultations with individuals and families to community information events, pulpit presentations and professional continuing education for clergy, mental and public health professionals and social workers.
Materials from the well-stocked GRM Resource Center located at Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Dillsboro, have been sent across the nation to people calling for help with problem gambling.
“When folks come to the Resource Center for consultation, they are amazed at the variety and amount of literature on problem gambling,” Jacobs observes.
Significantly, GRM is a ministry of prayer: God’s messages of love, forgiveness, peace and strength have become steady points, along with requested prayer. Clearly, GRM’s emphasis addresses both the emotional and the spiritual aspects of recovery.
Jacobs shares, “Some time ago, I spoke with a group of clergy in a training session about problem gambling. Later, a phone call came. The person seeking help had been referred by one of those pastors. Not only could I offer hope and help, but also, I knew for certain that the one asking for help would be upheld and supported by a pastor with an understanding to affirm and assist this person to take those early, crucial steps of recovery.”
GRM’s website has been updated as a tool and a help-resource for problem gamblers and their loved ones. At www.grmumc.org, among the many topics found are Women & Problem Gambling, Teen Gambling, Senior Gamblers and Counseling Information.
During the past nine years, GRM has witnessed lives changed and marriages healed that had been damaged by gambling addiction.
“When individuals come to us seeking help, it is not only a privilege, but also a blessing to be able to share information about problem gambling, treatment resources, and recovery groups as GA and Gam-Anon. Then to see these people help others step onto the path of recovery – that is truly heart-warming,” exclaimed Jacobs.
Because of Gambling Recovery Ministries’ outreach, lives have been changed, hope restored and faith found.
For more information contact: Gambling Recovery Ministries, Indiana Conference Advance Special, P.O. Box 218, Dillsboro, IN 47018. Phone 812-926-0761 or visit www.grmumc.org. This ministry is supported in part through your Indiana Conference tithe.
“It is not only a privilege, but also a blessing to be able to share information about problem gambling, treatment resources and recovery groups…”
– Janet Jacobs