When we move in one another's lives to ease their way, we are echoing the reverberations of God's grace.
What do I do to stay humble? When was the last time I served?
These words hung in the air at the end of a church service recently.
If you are thinking about where you can serve, consider Stephen Ministry.
A trained Stephen Minister brings comfort and healing to one person at a time in a completely confidential relationship. The minister meets the person weekly and spends about an hour listening, encouraging, asking helpful questions and praying. If this sounds like it might be a hard job, it is! That is why we do not depend on ourselves to help, but by simply being there, and listening, we allow God to bring healing. As the Stephen Minister sees the hurting person's relief that comes from having a trusted person to confide in, as the person begins to feel stronger and find his/her own ways of coping, the minister finds that he/she has been helpful and been used by God. There is great joy in this.
Are you a good listener? Are you able to refrain from giving advice? Are you willing to commit to weekly meetings and twice monthly supervision meetings? Look for the Stephen Ministry table at Rally Day and find out more; or call the church and ask for a call about Stephen Ministry. The next training class begins in January.
If you are hurting and would like to speak confidentially with someone outside your friends and family, please call the church and ask for a call about Stephen Ministry or email Pastor Jane at email@example.com with a phone number where you may be reached and appropriate time to call.
What does a Stephen Minister do?
A Stephen Minister gives one-to-one, lay Christian care.
- One-to-one: Stephen Ministers meet privately with one care receiver of the same gender.
- Lay: Stephen Ministers are trained and supervised lay volunteers, not professional counselors or therapists, pastors, or physicians.
- Stephen Ministers are not authorized to give legal, medical, financial, or any other advice, but Bible-based encouragement.
- Christian: Stephen Ministers are Christians who care in the name of Christ. They are willing to talk about spiritual issues but won't force them
- Care: Stephen Ministers care by listening, supporting, encouraging, praying, being dependable and trustworthy and maintaining confidentiality in their caregiving.
What Is the Difference between a Stephen Ministry Relationship and a Friendship?
A Stephen Minister is different from a close friend, and it's important to
understand the distinction. In a time of grief or crisis, the care receiver
benefits from the care of both a Stephen Minister and close friends.
Stephen Ministers have a lot in common with close friends. You can depend on
them; you can trust them; you know that they'll keep confidential whatever
you tell them. They'll be there for you and help you through a rough time.
But the Stephen Minister's role is different from the role of a close
A Stephen Ministry Relationship Isn't a Mutual Relationship
Close friendships are mutual. Friends are there for each other; they share
their good times and bad times and support each other.
A Stephen Ministry relationship is one-sided. Stephen Ministers listen,
reflect thoughts and feelings, and care. Stephen Ministers don't share their
own problems with the care receiver as a friend might. They focus only on
the care receiver's issues, and they bring in their own experience only when
they sense that they might be able to shed some light on the care receiver's
situation. But such sharing is rare and always geared toward the care
receiver's needs, not the Stephen Minister's.
A Stephen Ministry Relationship Is Intentional
The relationship has been established for a reason--so that the Stephen
Minister can walk with the care receiver through a difficult time. The
Stephen Minister knows this, and the care receiver knows this. So when the
Stephen Minister arrives at the care receiver's home (perhaps after just a
little bit of small talk), the two can dive right into deep emotional or
spiritual issues. The Stephen Minister knows he or she "has permission" to
ask questions about difficult experiences. Likewise, the care receiver knows
he or she "has permission" to share painful feelings. The relationship has
been established with a clear purpose in mind.
A Stephen Ministry Relationship Is More Objective
Friends often aren't very objective. If someone's hurting, a good friend
usually hurts with that person. Friends often take the person's part even if
they might not feel that way if the situation were a little different. Their
friendship might cloud their judgment at times.
A Stephen Minister certainly empathizes, but he or she needs to stay more
objective than a friend. It's up to the Stephen Minister to keep from
"jumping into the mudhole" with the care receiver. By maintaining
objectivity, the Stephen Minister can provide balance and perspective that a
friend might not. He or she can, for instance, gently probe a care
receiver's idea in such a way that the person might rethink what he or she
This isn't to say that Stephen Ministers aren't sympathetic, even
empathetic. They hurt with their care receivers too! They may hug them, cry
with them, even at times be angry along with them. But if they're going to
help the care receivers, they need to maintain boundaries that will help
them move beyond those feelings and help the care receiver find a way beyond
A Stephen Ministry Relationship Is More Formal
Stephen Ministers go through 50 hours of training, regular continuing
education, and twice-monthly small group peer supervision. They are trained
caregivers--very highly trained caregivers. They have skills in active
listening, dealing with feelings, Christian caregiving, setting boundaries,
relating assertively, process-oriented caring, crisis intervention, and
ministering in a wide range of situations. Their care isn't casual, as a
friend's might be.
Stephen Ministers maintain boundaries that friends don't--which is why
Stephen Ministers are able to help in ways that friends may not. They focus
on the process of caring without trying to "fix things" or pushing for
results, as well-meaning friends so often do. They empathize without getting
tangled up in the person's feelings. They listen in ways that let the care
receiver find his or her own solutions. They may listen to the same story
sixteen times and be willing to listen for the seventeenth as well.
Stephen Ministers regularly evaluate the caring relationships--in
supervision and on their own--always with the goal of providing the best
care they possibly can provide for the care receiver. Their caring is a
ministry. The Stephen Minister is there as long as the care receiver needs
Stephen Ministers Provide Distinctively Christian Care
Most importantly, Stephen Ministers rely on God to direct their actions and help them as they care for their care receivers. Stephen Ministers pray for their care receivers and may pray with them when they welcome prayer. Stephen Ministry care is based on grace; Stephen Ministers strive to be the face of Christ to their care receivers. Friendships may have a spiritual perspective, but Stephen Ministry relationships always do. The Stephen Minister is always sensitive to the care receiver's needs in this aspect, never forcing prayers or Bible verses into the relationship. But Stephen Ministers often focus on spiritual as well as emotional and psychological hurts as they minister to their care receivers.
Stephen Ministry Relationships End
Friendships can be forever. Stephen Ministry relationships aren't. The time
will come when the care receiver no longer needs a Stephen Minister, and the
relationship will close.
Of course, once the Stephen Ministry relationship is over, the relationship
between the Stephen Minister and care receiver may blossom into a
friendship. But when a person is going through a rough time, he or she will
benefit from the focused care of a Stephen Minister--in addition to the care
of his or her loyal friends.
Stephen Ministers keep personal information confidential. Therefore, you can
feel free to share with your Stephen Minister without worrying that everyone
else will know about it. There are rare occasions when a Stephen Minister
must share confidential information in order to save a life. Those occasions
are suicide, homicide, or abuse.
Small Group Peer Supervision
Stephen Ministers meet twice a month in small groups to give and receive
peer supervision, which is necessary to help them provide quality care and
grow as caregivers. In supervision, Stephen Ministers talk about their
caring relationships and their own feelings about caregiving. They may share
small amounts of information about their care receivers, but they never tell
the care receiver's name and they do not share information that would reveal
the care receiver's identity. Stephen Ministers may also receive individual
supervision from a Stephen Leader or pastor, but the same rules apply.