By Sharon Mager, BaptistLIFE Correspondent
HUGHESVILLE, Md.—Hughesville Baptist Church offers Christian based support groups, called “Common Ground,” dealing with a variety of topics. Sessions are each Monday from 7 to 8 pm and run for six weeks. They’re open and visitors can stop in at any time. Topics for fall sessions included depression, grief, and anxiety. Topics for the winter sessions will be weight loss, living with cancer and anger management. The fall sessions were a trial run to see if the new ministry would be successful. Now that the ground work has been laid, the winter sessions will include outreach into the community for those seeking support. Joy Yelton, wife of senior pastor J. Derek Yelton, and a behavioral therapist, leads the sessions.
Joy said the new initiative has been successful. “They’re learning from one another. They’re discovering that what they’re experiencing is normal and they’re discussing coping skills. They are also discovering that God’s word is applicable to today’s challenges. Each session is opened and closed in prayer. God’s word is applied as the opportunity arises in the session.” Joy said.
Hughesville has a Celebrate Recovery (CR) program, designed for those with addictions as well as everyday problems, but while strong in addiction outreach, many shy away from attending to deal with day-to-day life issues. Joy thought “Common Ground” might be a good way to help grow CR. CR is for anyone who has hurts, habits and hang-ups.
Though Joy does use tools from her therapy position to help, she emphasizes that any church could offer similar support groups for simple subjects such as depression and anxiety. There are many topics to choose, like holiday stress and January weight loss, she suggested. She said some people in the church are dealing with cancer so she will begin a cancer support group next year. ”It’s nice to have someone understand—someone to perhaps say, ‘I remember how chemo was,’ and relate to one another,” she said.
“Common Ground also gives people a chance to meet and talk outside of worship or Sunday school while sharing similar challenges in life,” Joy said.
God is working through the group. People are bonding, and they’re learning coping skills while striving to not only depend on Jesus, but to also continue to praise Him.
“For example, many people have anxiety due to their work situations”, Joy said. She turns the situation around and helps them focus on how God is using them to be His light to others around them. “I encourage them to thank God for the people in their lives…true heart praise. I encourage them to pray without making any request, but only to praise and thank God for the bad as well as the good. An attitude of gratitude can reduce anxiety and depression. It’s making a big difference in their lives,” she said.
Joy said, “Common Ground is a way to reach out, bring people together, share, and offer support and encouragement to one another. I have received a blessing just by being a part of this ministry and look forward to seeing what God has planned for us in the future, but for today, I will live in the moment and enjoy his presence.”