Stephen Ministry FAQs
Do I need a Stephen Minister?
Do you need to talk to someone who knows how to listen? Would you like to talk with a qualified person about a personal situation in your life? Are you looking for a caring person to help you through a personal crisis? Stephen Ministry is a free and confidential program that provides one-to-one Christian care to hurting people within our congregation and surrounding community.
How can I tell if I really need to talk?
• Do I feel like I have lost control of my life and my problems?
• Do I often feel overwhelmed?
• Do I doubt God’s presence and love for me?
• Am I hurting?
• Do my job worries seem too great to handle? Are they getting me down?
• Am I feeling lonely? Do I often wish I had someone to share my thoughts with?
• Have there been changes in my life that have caused readjustments in my lifestyle?
• Am I having difficulty making decisions and finding answers?
• Have I recently suffered a loss?
• Do I ever feel like I just want someone to listen?
What is Stephen Ministry?
Stephen Ministry is a non-denominational program designed to equip lay persons to provide emotional and spiritual support during difficult times. Stephen Ministers are men and women trained to listen without offering unwanted advice. They listen patiently, without judging, and can assist you in identifying feelings you are experiencing. These volunteer lay people have completed extensive training and participate in continuing education. When appropriate, a Stephen Minister may also help you explore what resources are available to you.
Stephen Ministries' core purpose is summed up in the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Who is a Stephen Minister and how are they trained?
Stephen Ministers are committed Christian men and women who:
• Express God’s care through their lives to others
• Receive 50 hours of initial training in important caring ministry skills including: How to listen; how to deal with feelings; how to be professional; how to express honesty, warmth and care; how to help in times of crisis; how to minister to those dealing with grief, divorce, death and dying, depression, illness, aging, hospitalization and many other areas
• Are commissioned as Stephen Ministers after completing their initial training
• Visit his or her care receiver regularly and dependably
• Participate in regular support and supervision twice a month under the guidance of trained Stephen Leaders for purposes of ongoing evaluation
• Are committed to preserving the confidential nature of the caring relationship
• Serve for at least two years
• Receive continuing education and skill-building throughout their years of service
• Recognize when a care receiver’s needs go beyond the care a Stephen Minister can provide and where and how to refer the care receiver for additional care.
• How does the Stephen Series work and how are Stephen Leaders trained?
• Stephen Leaders attend a seven-day Leader’s Training Course, taught by pastors and clinical psychologists from the Stephen Ministries' St. Louis faculty. They in turn provide 50 hours of training for lay people who feel called to be Stephen Ministers. Upon completion of their training, Stephen Leaders then link each Stephen Minister with a care receiver – a member of the congregation or community who is in need of quality Christian care. A Stephen Minister is normally assigned to only one care receiver at a time and meets with the care receiver for an average of about one hour each week.
Are Stephen Ministers ordained?
• No. They are lay persons who feel moved by the Holy Spirit to serve as instruments for bringing God’s love to persons in need. Following training, these men and women are commissioned by a pastor into this active, caring ministry.
• Isn’t it up to the pastors to provide this kind of care?
• It is not the purpose of Stephen Ministry to take over the duties of the pastors, but to assist and extend the reach of the pastors. In many cases, referrals for a Stephen Minister come from the pastors.
• A commonly used phrase to describe the role of Stephen Ministry is that “Stephen Ministry begins when the last casserole is sent home.” In other words, Stephen Ministers begin their work after friends and relatives have returned to their lives – and the person in need is still hurting. A Stephen Minister remains in the caring relationship as long as the need is present. By assigning a Stephen Minister to someone experiencing a difficult time, it simply allows the person to receive the kind of ongoing, long-term care that is needed. Pastors will continue to care about congregants and pray for them. Even those people who have a Stephen Minister should feel free to contact a pastor when there is a need.
• Will the Stephen Minister “preach” to me?
• No. When (and if) you decide that it is appropriate, the Stephen Minister will share with you Christian resources such as prayer and scripture readings.
How effective is this program?
When people experience loss, grief, or other stressful changes in their lives, there is usually need for an empathetic listener. Family and close friends are often too emotionally involved to meet this need. Stephen Ministers are trained to be caring Christian friends who can help hurting individuals sort out options. They do not give advice or provide solutions. Stephen Ministers are not professional counselors, psychologists, social workers, or experts in law, finance, church doctrine, and so on, but neither are they merely casual visitors. God is viewed as providing the cure while Stephen Ministers provide the care.
Most people find that they are helped, at least to some degree, simply by having someone with whom they can share their concerns. In some instances, the Stephen Minister may suggest a referral to an appropriate professional.
Is what I tell a Stephen Minister kept in confidence?
Stephen Ministers pledge a vow of confidentiality regarding anything discussed between an individual and their Stephen Minister. The only exceptions are when a possible suicide or harm to another person exists. The reputation and integrity of the Stephen Ministry program depends on that vow of confidentiality.
There may, on occasion, be times when a care receiver is asked to give permission for the Stephen Minister to consult with a pastor or a Stephen Leader about how to most effectively provide care. This would be similar to a family doctor consulting with a specialist.
If you are embarrassed to talk about your difficulties and concerns, Stephen Ministers have been trained to be non-judgmental and to accept you exactly as you are. In fact, they have probably felt much this same kind of embarrassment at one time or another. While it may be difficult at first, a Stephen Minister can help you learn to get over embarrassment so that you can go on from there.
What kind of needs does Stephen Ministry address?
Needs that can be met by a Stephen Minister include, but are not limited to:
• Declining health, disability, or terminal illness
• Illness of a loved one
• Death of a loved one
• Divorce or separation from a spouse
• Severe financial setback
• Difficulties associated with aging
• Transition to assisted living or nursing homes
• Family or domestic problems
• Job crisis
• Struggles in faith
• Childbirth or adoption
• Moving into or out of the community
• Intense stress or an overwhelming burden