Stephen Ministers in Our Midst
by Robert Sigler | Reprinted from COLUMNS Magazine
Sunday, June 15, seven members of our church family were officially commissioned as Stephen Ministers, joining 36 other Stephen Ministers at our church. The seven from our church were part of a larger group of 15 from surrounding churches who participated in a six-month training program to prepare for this caring ministry. Stephen Ministers volunteer their time to provide Christian care to others who are suffering from significant challenges in their lives, such as serious illness, divorce, death of a loved one, relocation, job loss, depression, or other serious issues.
Strict confidentiality is a hallmark of the Stephen Ministry program, which has had an active presence in our church since 1990. Worldwide, over 600,000 people have been trained as Stephen Ministers since its founding in 1974, providing care to millions of hurting people. The training program is built upon the premise that God is the cure giver, and the Stephen Minister is the caregiver. At First Pres, the program is directed by Tammas Smith and the training program, which runs annually from January to June, is led by Barbara Brown.
“It was my honor to be the ‘Dean of the School’ for the 2014 class of Stephen Minister trainees,” said Barbara Brown. “There were 15 in the class, from five different area churches. I believe they will be a blessing to their church’s ministry teams.”
Bill Avery, a trainee from Maitland Presbyterian Church, said, “My take-aways can be encapsulated in the following: approach your care receiver authentically, listen to them intently, talk with them confidentially, pray for them unceasingly, and live your own life gratefully!”
Susan Fenstermaker, a new Stephen Minister in our church family, feels a strong sense of call, saying, “I felt as if God had tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Now... it’s time!’ The course has been amazing. The teachers were great and the message is powerful. He is the vine, we are the branches!”
And church member Michael Coffman said of the experience, “I’ve been a member of FPCO since 1986 and this is the best series of classes I’ve attended. The instructors were wonderful, the weekly lessons and materials are in-depth, the leadership is outstanding, and Barbara is terrific! I felt the Lord’s calling to the Stephen Ministry and now feel prepared to answer that call!”
Stephen Ministers are caregivers trained from the congregation by Stephen Leaders. They are not pastors. They play a unique role in the life of the church, offering high-quality, one-to-one Christian care to people going through tough times. Each Stephen Minister usually provides care to one person at a time, meeting with that person once a week for about an hour. Twice a month, Stephen Ministers gather with their leaders for supervision and continuing education.
Care receivers are people from within our church family or in the community who are paired with a Stephen Minister. Often, individuals call upon our Stephen Ministry when experiencing a difficult time in life, or when they simply need someone to listen.
There are careful guidelines for all Stephen Ministry caring relationships to protect both the care receiver and the Stephen Minister. The relationship between a care receiver and a Stephen Minister is confidential. Men are matched with men; women with women. When a care receiver’s needs exceed what a Stephen Minister can provide, the Stephen Ministry team makes a referral to an appropriate community resource or mental health professional.
Each Stephen Minister is unique, just like each relationship and season of care is unique. Thankfully, God equips our church family for the needs among us, and we are grateful to those who answer that call to ministry.
What do Stephen Ministers do?
- Explore feelings
- Share Christ’s love
- Maintain confidentiality
- Attend to the caregiving process and leave the results to God
Stephen Ministers care for people who are:
- In a crisis
- In need of long-term care
- Experiencing losses as they age
- Going through a crisis of childbirth
- The family and friends of people in crisis
For further information about becoming a Stephen Minister, or if you feel you may benefit from the services of a Stephen Minister, contact Tammas Smith, Director of Pastoral Care at 407.423.3441 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about how this covenant community cares for one another at fpco.org/care.