Stephen Ministers Offer Emotional and Spiritual Support in Times of Trouble
by Beth Francis, Naples Daily News
Mary’s life was a mess. Her marriage had just ended in divorce, she underwent two major surgeries, and then her grown son was murdered. “As a friend of mine put it, the manure truck just kept backing up and dumping on me” Mary said. Then she heard about Stephen Ministry at her church. The ministry matches specially trained members of a congregation with people going through a tough time. Nationwide, more than 10,000 churches representing more than 150 different Christian denominations offer Stephen Ministry.
“It enriches the church to have this consistent outreach available to anyone in the community who needs help.”
Mary was matched with a Stephen Minister, and the two met once a week for more than a year.“She would hold my hand and let me spill out my heart,” Mary said. “I call her my earth angel. She really helped me through a hard time in my life. She didn’t give me specific advice as much as she just listened to me and validated my pain.” “I will always be grateful to her for all of her prayers and all that she did to help me.”
Stephen Ministry began in St. Louis in 1975 when the Rev. Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, found he was unable to meet the needs of all the people in his congregation. He trained nine laypeople in his church to assist him in providing Christian care to people who needed encouragement. It went so well that Haugk began training Stephen Ministers in other congregations. That, in turn, led to the establishment of the Stephen Series Leader’s Training Course, which trains pastors and lay leaders to go back to their congregations and train others to become Stephen Ministers.“We train the trainers,” said Joel Bretscher, Director of Communications at the Stephen Ministries headquarters in St. Louis. “We train the Stephen Leaders who then go home to train the Stephen Ministers in the congregation.” Stephen Ministers then provide one-to-one emotional and spiritual care to people in need.
The name Stephen comes from St. Stephen, who was the first layperson commissioned by the Apostles to provide caring ministry to those in need, Bretscher said. “Ordained pastors often find there are more needs for care than they can provide, so Stephen Ministers are there to supplement, but not replace, pastoral care,” Bretscher said.
In Stephen Ministry, women are matched with women and men are matched with men. Stephen Ministers are available to care for anyone in the community who is hurting, not just church members. Anyone experiencing a life crisis, whether it’s death, divorce, illness, relocation, financial difficulty or whatever the need, may benefit from a Stephen Ministry relationship. It enriches the church to have this consistent outreach available to anyone in the community who needs help.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see God working in people’s lives.”
The Stephen Minister is there to walk with you throughout your crisis and to help you see that, with God’s love, you will be okay. Stephen Ministers go through 50 hours of training and commit to serving for two or more years. It’s a wonderful thing to see God working in people’s lives. It is a blessing to know that God has put you in a certain place at a certain time to help a certain person. Stephen Ministers grow a lot as a result.
To request the confidential care of a Stephen Minister, contact Lynn Mull or Kim Kligerman, firstname.lastname@example.org.