Life can turn on a dime. A routine medical appointment delivers a devastating diagnosis. A spouse abruptly abandons a marriage. Someone near and dear leaves this world. A career is expended due to corporate mayhem. These are the realities of our human journey. Devastating losses and life changes can leave us wounded and broken, wondering if we will ever again experience wholeness or some sense of normalcy. As we enter in to that sacred space of suffering, often our deepest longing is to know we are not alone and that another is willing to journey with us.
In 1975, Rev. Kenneth Haugk, a clinical psychologist and pastor in St. Louis recognized “there were so many needs in our congregation and only one of me.” He set about training nine lay caregivers in his congregation to extend high-quality, confidential Christ-centered care and support to those who were struggling with significant life altering challenges and Stephen Ministry was born. In 1978, Stephen Ministries
began training leaders across the country to then provide training in their own
congregations. Today, more than 12,000 congregations have an active Stephen Ministry presence representing more than 170 Christian denominations, in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces, and 29 other countries. Stephen Ministers have provided one-on-one Christian care to more than a million people in need.
First Church is blessed with a vital Stephen Ministry program which was begun by Rev. Bill Mooney about 27 years ago. Since that time, our congregation has sent both pastors and church members to Stephen Leader training in order to offer Stephen Ministry training every other year to those interested in becoming a trained Stephen Minister. The training is a 50 hour course which equips lay persons to provide Christ-centered emotional and spiritual care to others. Insights into the thoughts, feelings, and actions of those who are hurting are explored in depth through a combination of lecture, video, group discussion, skill practice and spiritual growth activities. Stephen Ministers are typically commissioned after completing the training and are assigned a care receiver with whom they meet on a regular basis for as long as the need persists. Twice a month, Stephen Ministers gather with their Stephen Leaders for supervision and continuing education.
A Stephen Minister assignment is entered into as a result of referrals to our Referral Team. The potential care receiver and Stephen Minister are put in contact with one another and the decision to begin this structured, supervised and highly confidential relationship is arrived at by mutual consent. There are also numerous other endeavors that Stephen Ministers are involved in at First Church. Stephen Ministers assist in serving communion, taking communion to homebound church members, helping pastoral staff with hospital visits and sending grief booklets to those who have experienced a loss. These additional duties are separate and distinct from the caring relationship that exists between an assigned Stephen Minister and a care receiver.
In order to prepare for the role of Stephen Minister people go through a 50-hour training program. Training programs are offered, in conjunction with the Grace Lutheran Church and Kern Memorial United Methodist Church, every other year. We will be offering training starting in January of 2020. If you feel God calling you toward this ministry, or would like information about receiving a Stephen Minisiter, please contact the Rev. Jenny Caughman ().