Stephen Ministry

ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A MEANINGFUL WAY TO LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH?  CONSIDER STEPHEN MINISTRY.

Stephen Ministry…what exactly is it?  Lots of folks aren’t all that sure.  So, let’s de-mystify it.  Quite simply, a Stephen Minister is… 

• A child of God who walks beside a person who is hurting, 

• A caring Christian friend who takes time to really listen, 

• A lay person who has received 50 plus hours of training in how to provide Christian care, and 

• A dedicated Christian commissioned by Good Shepherd to provide strictly confidential in-depth caring. 

Illness, death, job loss, spiritual crises, other losses…all these things are a part of life, but sometimes an individual suffering through these or similar things would like to have someone in whom they can confide the doubts, fears, and anguish they may be suffering.  That’s where Stephen Ministers come in.  Stephen Ministers have the gifts of mercy, faith, encouragement, and knowing how to share insights of their own deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 WHILE THIS IS PRIMARILY BEING WRITTEN FOR THOSE THINKING ABOUT BECOMING A STEPHEN MINISTER, THIS IS AN APPROPRIATE JUNCTURE TO SAY THAT IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO READ THESE INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS AND FEEL THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE NEED OF A STEPHEN MINISTER, PLEASE CALL PASTOR PAT AT 513.891.1700, x111, MARY NAYLOR AT 513.891.1475 OR PAUL ZINNECKER AT 513.791.8246. 

GIVE ME SOME BACKGROUND, PLEASE!  WHY IS IT CALLED STEPHEN MINISTRY?

Stephen Ministry is named in honor of Stephen, whose story is told in the 6th chapter of the book of Acts.  As you may recall, the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, commissioned a group of individuals to work with them to do acts of caring ministry and Stephen was one of those persons.  Hence, Stephen became one of the first lay persons to be sent forth to do caring ministry.  Because Stephen Ministers are commissioned to do acts of caring ministry, it seemed appropriate to the founders of Stephen Ministry for this program to be named in honor of Stephen.



WHERE AND WHEN DID THE STEPHEN MINISTRY PROGRAM BEGIN?

It all started in 1975 at St. Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church in St Louis, Missouri, where then Associate Pastor, Dr. Kenneth Haugk was seeking ways to make their congregation a more caring place to be and a more powerful serving entity.  Now some 36 plus years later, the Stephen Ministries organization he founded has helped more than 11,000 congregations implement Stephen Ministry.  These congregations represent more than 150 denominations and come from all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces, and 23 other countries.

Stephen Ministry International has a well developed program for equipping laypeople to provide quality Christian care to hurting people.  The 50 person staff headquartered in St Louis provides congregations with the training programs, resources, and ongoing support to organize and equip a team of lay caregivers.  Stephen Ministers are taught to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care and support to people experiencing grief, divorce, cancer, job loss, loneliness, disability, relocation, and other life difficulties.


WHAT ABOUT GOOD SHEPHERD’S PROGRAM?

Good Shepherd’s program has been in place since 1997 when Anne Miller and Mary Naylor took the leader’s training course offered by Stephen Ministries International and them came back to lead the first class of GSLC volunteers.  Since then, Good Shepherd has commissioned over 52 volunteers for this caring work and sent 7 individuals to Stephen Leader training.

Note:  Our current roster of active Stephens numbers 15 volunteers.  Their names and the names our four current Stephen Leaders are shown below should you wish to talk with them regarding this calling.

WHAT DO OUR GOOD SHEPHERD PASTORS THINK ABOUT THE STEPHEN MINISTRY PROGRAM?
They value the program highly….but let’s let them speak for themselves.  We asked them recently and this is what they said:  


Pastor Pat…
”What impresses me about the Stephen Ministers of Good Shepherd, is the training they receive, the weekly commitment they make to their care receivers, and their commitment to prayer and continuing education all so they can support another member or associate of Good Shepherd who is in need. This type of commitment helps extend the caring ministry of Good Shepherd to a greater number of those in need and that is a blessing for which I am thankful."


Pastor Heidi..."In the gospel of John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.”  This refers to the Incarnation, Jesus taking on human flesh and living in the world.  While Jesus lived in the first century, we believe that the work of Jesus continues to take on flesh through the work of believers.  

Stephen Ministers put flesh on Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbors, as they care for and walk with those who find themselves on a difficult path. They offer a ministry of listening, praying and presence.  It is the body of Christ alive and well and in the flesh among us, through us and in us!  Stephen Ministry offers the resources, training, support and invitation for people to find their place in the body of Christ."


See Pastor Alice’s comments in the section "ARE THERE ANY OTHER THINGS I SHOULD KNOW GOING INTO SUCH A PROGRAM"


WHY WOULD I WANT TO BECOME A STEPHEN MINISTER?

The rewards for being a Stephen Minister are many but, of course, are unique to each individual.  Many Stephens will tell you that in spite of the significant time commitment involved, they have received a good deal more than they have ever given!  Helping a fellow Christian weather the storms of life brings a deep sense of fulfillment…it gives meaning to some of the eternal questions about one’s own purpose and destiny.  

Rewards for becoming a Stephen Minister begin as early as the 50 hour training class which all Stephens must complete.  The introspection required in many of the training exercises leads one to think in much deeper ways about one’s personal faith journey. That alone is a major blessing.  Yet another great bonus coming out of the training is that trainees often develop valued and lasting friendships with their fellow Stephen Minister trainees…and, of course, they become highly trained Christian care givers.




HOW MUCH OF A TIME COMMITMENT IS STEPHEN MINISTRY?

To be clear the time commitment is not insignificant!  As noted above…to begin with… Stephens must take over 50 hours of training to become a part of GSLC’s commissioned group and they commit to being a Stephen Minister for at least two years from their commissioning date.  

Typically, classes for new Stephen trainees meet weekly on Monday nights from 7-9:30 PM beginning in September and finish up in mid-February with commissioning services following in March. Classes do not meet during Thanksgiving week or the last two weeks of December.

Once a Stephen Minister has completed the training and is commissioned by the Pastors, he or she joins the on-going Stephen group and within a few weeks is assigned to a Care Receiver with whom the Stephen must meet weekly for about an hour each time to listen and provide the compassionate care he or she has been trained to give.  

Twice a month (from 7:30 to 9 PM on the 1st and 3rd Mondays), Stephens are required to attend a combination continuing education and supervision session both of which are intended to bolster their ability to deliver real Christian caring, provide support and encouragement to the individual Stephen Ministers and help them grow in their personal faith.



ARE THERE ANY OTHER THINGS I SHOULD KNOW GOING INTO SUCH A PROGRAM?

Well, of course there is much to learn as we have indicated, but there is a very important stipulation surrounding all Stephen Ministry work…and that is that the relationship a Stephen has with their Care Receiver is entirely confidential.  A Stephen Minister may not even mention the name of his or her Care Receiver-- even to other Stephens, or to their own family members.  Only the Pastors and the Stephen Leaders have knowledge of the pairings of Stephen Minister to Care Receiver.  There are no exceptions…confidentiality is an “iron clad” rule and understanding for all Stephens and they are honor bound to meet this obligation.  

On this point Pastor Alice said… “Confidentiality is hard to find these days. In a world where everything gets shared, whether we want it to or not, having a person we can speak with about our struggles who absolutely will not share the information is more precious than gold. Stephen Ministers offer this precious confidentiality to the Good Shepherd family. No matter what you speak about, they will not run away and they will not tell anyone else. What a blessing!”

BEYOND THE COMMITMENT OF TIME AND THE COMMITMENT TO CONFIDENTIALITY MENTIONED ABOVE, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A STEPHEN MINISTER?

Not everybody is suited to this calling.  Applicants must fill out an application and be interviewed to determine whether this is the right fit for them or not.

It goes without saying that nobody is perfect, but there are some core qualities which must be present: The person must be a Christian, have the ability to keep confidences, be able to relate to others non-judgmentally, be committed to giving the time necessary for training and service and be willing and able to participate faithfully in supervision.

Expanding this a bit…here is a broader listing of what Stephen Ministry would call “desirable qualities” for those aspiring to be Stephen Ministers:

PERSONALITY:  Shows humility; is tolerant, accepting, forgiving; shows positive regard for people; is reliable, dependable, trustworthy; makes decisions and follows through with tasks and responsibilities; shows emotional stability, is teachable, trainable and accepting of supervision.

SPIRITUALITY:  Understands faith as a relationship with Jesus and a way of life; is currently not experiencing a major spiritual crisis; has a close and growing relationship with God indicated by regular worship, Bible study, and personal prayer; has a heart and vision for servant ministry.

RELATIONAL  ABILITY:  Shows ability to relate to and work with diverse types of people, is comfortable meeting people and helping them feel comfortable; is welcoming and hospitable; expresses feelings in an honest and caring way; deals appropriately with confidential information.

MOTIVATION:  Shows a willingness to work hard and has an attitude that says, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes”; is greatly excited about and keenly interested in Stephen Ministry; has a deep desire to serve others through Stephen Ministry.


APPLICATION?  ISN’T THAT A BIT UNUSUAL FOR A VOLUNTEER PROGRAM RUN BY THE CHURCH?

Well, yes….that may be true, but Stephen Ministries of St Louis has had significant experience with situations where congregations did not conduct this somewhat elaborate selection process and the result is not always good. 

It is really all about “fit” and we believe the applicants would want to know before beginning the journey whether this is, indeed, right for them…so it is a two way process of understanding what it takes and whether a person is likely to be comfortable with the Stephen calling  and its demands.


GSLC’S CURRENT ACTIVE STEPHEN MINISTER ROSTER INCLUDES THESE PEOPLE:

Pam Akers, Laurie Boisclair, Mike Bonnoit, Cathy Bresko, Terri DeAngelis, Anne Dorward, Sharon Feldstein, Betsy Fields, Mary Grace Friesen, Christ Fitz, Lora Jollis, Connie Koppenhafer, Nancy Lougheed, Judy Miller, Sharon Norris, John Oliver, Katy Ping, Robin Smith, Dru Stockwell, Maggie Stone, John Stratman, Lee Ann Wilton, and Paul Zinnecker..

The Stephen Ministry group is a part of Pastor Pat’s CFAM (Caring for All Members) Ministries and is under her over-all supervision.

The current lay Stephen Leaders are: Anne Miller, Mary Naylor, Sue Greene, and Karen Eller.

In addition to Pastor Pat, any one of these leaders would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about Stephen Ministry!