SO…WHAT IS STEPHEN MINISTRY, ANYWAY?!?
Stephen Ministry is an effective way to train and organize members of our church to provide one-to-one Christian care to individuals struggling with a life challenge or crisis, such as grief, divorce, loneliness, relocation, hospitalization, terminal illness, unemployment, mild/moderate depression, etc. The need for this kind of care greatly exceeds what pastors alone can provide. By equipping laypeople with the skills to walk alongside people who are hurting, we can help the caregivers fulfill their calling as Christians to love one another, and we expand the amount of caring ministry available through Lord of Life.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STEPHEN LEADERS AND STEPHEN MINISTERS?
Stephen Leaders are folks who have completed the intense Stephen Leader Training Course, taught by the Stephen Ministries faculty. Currently, the leaders are Deb Bergstrom, Lolly Kalinoski, Pr. Erika Nilsen, and Pr. Steve Rye. They have been commissioned by Lord of Life to recruit, select, and train members of the church to provide care. After completing the required 50-hour course, trainees are also commissioned and become the Stephen Ministers, who then provide one-to-one Christian care to individuals who are experiencing a difficult time in their lives.
…AND WHAT IS STEPHEN MINISTRY TRAINING LIKE?
Training consists of 50 hours of education on Christian caregiving. Topics are many; some examples include listening, assertiveness, confidentiality, and ministering to people in specific situations. Stephen Ministers are also trained to recognize when care receivers’ needs go beyond the care a Stephen Minister can provide and how to refer a care receiver for additional care. The training classes are held one time a week, usually on a weekday late afternoon/evening, for about 4 months. Each class lasts for 2-1/2 hours. There is also required pre-class reading each week. In addition, there are two 6-hour Saturday retreats during the 4 months of training. The classes involve discussion, skill practice, role-playing, and lectures. The trainees form a very close and supportive team, and the classes are very upbeat and lively.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT AFTER TRAINING?
Lord of Life’s first class of Stephen Ministers was commissioned during worship on June 23, 2019. Soon after commissioning, each new Stephen Minister was paired up with one same-gender care receiver. Each pair meets for about 1 hour weekly, and the caring relationship will continue for as long as needed. Stephen Ministers and Stephen Leaders also continue to meet together twice monthly for continuing education and peer-group supervision to ensure that they are providing the best-quality Christian care possible. Confidentiality is critical – whatever a care receiver tells the caregiver remains confidential. Even in supervision, the names of care receivers and specific details are never discussed. Stephen Ministers initially commit to 2 years of service, which begins at the start of their training, but many recommit to serve longer.
I’VE NEVER HEARD OF STEPHEN MINISTRY! WHAT ELSE CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT IT?
Stephen Ministry was created in 1975 by Rev. Kenneth Haugk, Ph.D, an ELCA pastor and clinical psychologist. Stephen Ministries St. Louis is now a not-for-profit, trans-denominational, religious and educational organization providing training for Stephen Leaders and support for ministry in more than 20,000 congregations worldwide, representing 160 different Christian denominations. Dr. Haugk still serves as Executive Director. The name Stephen Ministry honors St. Stephen, who was the first layperson commissioned by the Apostles to provide caring ministry to those in need (Acts 6). More than 75,000 people have been trained as Stephen Leaders at Leader Training Courses. These have returned to their congregations to train members to be Stephen Ministers, now more than 600,000 in number across the globe, touching the lives of millions with distinctively Christian care.
HOW WOULD I REQUEST A STEPHEN MINISTER FOR SOMEONE I CARE ABOUT OR FOR MYSELF?
To learn how a Stephen Minister can help you or someone you know, you can either speak with one of the Stephen Leader Team members or simply call the church office at 218-828-9734. Pr. Erika Nilsen is Lord of Life’s Stephen Ministry Referrals Coordinator. Confidentiality will be strictly maintained through all steps of the referral process and care.
I HAVE MORE LOTS MORE QUESTIONS! HOW CAN I GET THE ANSWERS?
Lord of Life’s Stephen Leader Team includes:
Pr. Erika Nilsen
Pr. Steven Rye
and John Wolf
Any one of these Stephen Ministry leaders would be happy to answer your questions. You can email or leave a message requesting a callback at Lord of Life’s office – 218-828-9374. For general information about Stephen Ministry and to view several inspiring videos, go to www.stephenministries.org
WHEN WILL THE NEXT TRAINING COURSE BEGIN?
We hope to begin a new training course in the fall of 2019, date undecided, depending on how many Lord of Life members express interest in being trained as Stephen Ministers. We also plan to offer a Winter 2020 training course. Please prayerfully consider joining Lord of Life’s Stephen Ministry. We, the Stephen Leader Team, are enthusiastically optimistic that God is calling and equipping many lay congregation members to take part in this powerful and fulfilling ministry.