History of Celebrate Recovery

History of Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. At that time, the church was meeting at a high school gymnasium. John Baker wrote Pastor Rick the “now famous concise 13-page single-spaced” letter outlining the vision God had given him for Celebrate Recovery.


After reading John’s letter, Pastor Rick said, “Great, John — go do it!” The first night 43 people attended, and Celebrate Recovery was born. Beginning with only four Open Share Groups — Men’s and Women’s Chemical Dependency and Men’s and Women’s Codependency — the ministry has grown to over 14 groups today. Over 27,000 people have gone through the program at Saddleback Church. Many of them are now serving in Celebrate Recovery and the Church. Celebrate Recovery is the number one outreach ministry at Saddleback Church, with over 70 percent of its members now coming from outside the church.

The first 10 years were the birth stage of Celebrate Recovery, and now God is calling us to take it to the world. There are now 35,000 churches with Celebrate Recovery around the world, and that number continues to grow. We are part of a movement that is bringing the healing power of Jesus Christ to the hurting and broken through working Celebrate Recovery’s Step Studies. To date, over 5 million individuals have completed a Step Study.


In addition, Celebrate Recovery is not just growing in churches, but in recovery houses, rescue missions, and prisons around the world. New Mexico was the first state to adopt Celebrate Recovery into their state prison system. Now, New Mexico has Celebrate Recovery pods in all their state prisons. In August of 2004, Celebrate Recovery was announced as California’s state approved substance abuse program for prisons. This is an exciting and growing outreach opportunity for every Celebrate Recovery.