ST LOUIS, MO – Stephen Ministries are laypeople in local, Bible-believing churches who have been trained to come alongside others who are experiencing grief or stress in their lives. Galatians 6:2 is the basis for the compassionate, one-on-one, caregiving ministry by commissioned Stephen Ministers.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (NRSV)
Founded in 1975 by Kenneth C. Haugk, more than 12,000 congregations from 160 Christian denominations are now involved in Stephen Ministries throughout the U.S., Canada, and 24 other countries.
Staff or lay volunteers from local churches commit to taking required Leader’s Training Courses before and through the duration of the ministry. Stephen Leaders cast the vision for the ministry within their church; recruit, select, and train Stephen Ministers; provide on-going supervision and training of Stephen Ministers; and connect them with people in need of care.
Before becoming commissioned as a Stephen Minister, they receive training that is described as “a Christ-centered experience that equips participants with essential caring and relating skills.” The training equips potential Stephen Ministers to provide quality, Christ-centered emotional and spiritual care, with insights into the needs of hurting people; and developing Spirit-led relationship and caring skills.
Once their training has been successfully completed, the Stephen Leader will skillfully match the Stephen Minister with someone who is going through a crisis. The Stephen Minister meets once a week in confidentiality with that person to listen, encourage, listen, provide emotional and spiritual support, listen, pray, and listen.
Stephen Ministry is about helping someone through the process of pain and hurt. It is not about fixing a person’s issues. It is helping them to bear the burden that has beset them.
I have been a Stephen Minister. It may have been one of the most significant responsibilities I have ever undertaken. Like multiplied others, I became a Stephen Minister because I had received care from one. The Lord used my caregiver to part the dark clouds so that I could see Jesus working during my crisis.
I knew I wanted to help others the same way he had helped me. The pain associated with my crisis eventually diminished to a point where I knew I had been safe in the arms of Jesus all along. I also had empathy for others who faced equally stressful situations. I was reminded that “there is a heartache in every pew.” I wanted to be able to confidently offer the same kind of care that I had received.
Like thousands of others, I went through the training program that groomed me to be a broken person who was able to help other broken people through their crisis. Ironically, my first care receiver was a person going through the same type of crisis from which I had emerged.
Stephen Ministry may be the most effective layperson ministry available to Christ-followers in local churches today.
This brief (1:27) video, “The Many Needs for Care,” will help readers understand the kinds of crises into which broken people invite caregiving by compassionate and competent Stephen Ministers.
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