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What to Expect

Acceptance and a Fresh Start - Two Friends

Attending the church at Set Free Elma is an intensive one-year discipleship commitment designed to help men who are struggling with substance abuse and/or life-controlling problems. The
goal of the discipleship is to restore wholeness to the men and help them transition back into society as capable and motivated men walking in a new life, eager to participate and serve in their relationships and their communities. There are three phases:pr

Phase 1 - Blackout
The first phase is a 30-day “blackout” period. It is a time for no outside stress as the men separate themselves from their former lifestyles. Destructive behaviors and unhealthy relationships have boundaries put in place, and safe zones are established. Letter writing is fine, but visitors, phone calls, unsupervised off-site visits, and electronic devices are NOT allowed. When seeds of truth are planted, it is essential to protect those seeds so they may grow healthy roots and bear fruit (Matthew 13:1-9).

Phase 2 - The Word of God
Breaking sin patterns and destructive, addictive habits is an inside-out process that starts with the mind – specifically our thoughts. Throughout our lives we have developed thoughts, responses, and decisions to various circumstances and situations. Some were intentional, some happened without our awareness. But conscious or not, these responses and decisions form the backdrop of our thoughts which create the patterns for our emotions, attitudes, words, decisions, and actions. Attempting to break destructive behavior and addictive habits without addressing these patterns is like pulling weeds without bothering to get the roots – it brings short-term success and then more weeds. True transformation – long-term change – comes from truth – truth which renews the mind and enables it to think truth and act on truth.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

Jesus Christ made that statement to guide us to freedom, and He says that freedom comes from knowing the truth. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to expose the roots and renew a mind to know truth, but God does not force it on anyone; we must cooperate and join Him in the process. If we resist the process, we’re resisting truth and ultimately resisting freedom.

So truth is what the first 90 days are all about – a time of discovering and studying the inspired word of God and the source of truth, which is found in the Bible.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

Again, Jesus makes a statement to encourage us to get to know Him and begin a close relationship with Him, as He is the truth and He is life. As a man begins to learn who God is, recognize Him as the ultimate authority, spend time in relationship with Him, and seek His redemption and will for his life, the process of renewal to truth and freedom begins.

At the same time, the man begins to nurture and renew his physical body though consistent nutrition, exercise in the on-site gym, productive work, healthy fun, and refreshing relaxation. Letter writing is fine, but phone calls, unsupervised off-site visits, and electronic devices are not allowed for the first 90 days or until a job has been acquired.

Phase 3 - Breaking the Con
Those who come to Set Free Elma eventually start to see that we’ve been takers our whole lives. We’ve been getting by on consuming from others. Life is really all about “me” and everyone is here to serve “me.” No matter what I do, I always want to know “What’s in it for me?”

The belief that life is self-centered is known as the con – you are conning yourself. For the first 90 days, the men receive and take as they immerse themselves in truth. Now, application of the truth begins as they are shown how to become givers.

“Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” Ephesians 4:28

We learn to give to our family, our marriages, and to the body of Christ. After 90 days (and depending upon progress), we expect the men to work for the remainder of the time they are at Set Free Elma. We assist them in learning to work, learning how to get jobs, and learning to manage their finances and responsibilities. They learn work skills as well as life skills.


Discipleship through Set Free Elma is highly structured and has 100% accountability. The daily routine includes Bible studies, self-studies, church services, community blessings (which break the con by doing something without expecting something in return), mentoring relationships, recovery group meetings, and one-on-one coaching/mentoring. All basic needs (food, bedding, and toiletries) are provided for the participants.

Set Free Elma has positive relationships with many Washington county courts. The men are encouraged to be in compliance with all legal issues and probation requirements, and they have the opportunity to fulfill community service hours through their participation in Set Free Elma.