Stephen Leaders work together to lead Stephen Ministry in a congregation. Tim Price and I had the great blessing of attending this training for Stephen Leaders in Orlando during the second week of June. Leadership Training for seven days sometimes involved work over a 12-hour period, with 8-10 hours of lectures and activities most days. We were immersed with 190+ Stephen Leaders in worship, exercises, presentations, role plays and problem solving around how to care for others in our churches and our communities. We had the benefit of working with others on their challenges and received their guidance and feedback for our own challenges in providing quality care to our members. It felt miraculous that 190+ people from such diverse denominations were connected by Stephen Ministry as the way we all act each day as Christians.
During the whole week, the thought recurred consistently that Stephen Ministry provides a structure for us to act with Christian love. A Stephen Minister acts as a care giver to the care receiver, that person in need. God is the cure giver. So a Stephen Minister actively listens and asks questions reflectively. A Stephen Minister is there to accept, to share pain and loss and, most essentially, to help the care receiver to find his or her own answers, without judging. It is not counseling. It is friendship in Christ. The relationship must be held reverently. A Stephen Minister relationship with their care receiver is held private and not shared with anyone. Yet there is a structure for supervision and reflection for Stephen Ministers, so they receive guidance and support while sustaining confidentiality.
We are all ministers. Is that not what God calls us to do? It is a fact that sometimes in disaster, in chaos, in loss, we need that connection most. As Christians, we tend to depend on clergy, family and friends for supporting us in times of need. But it is our task as Christians to act in truth and love with all those around us in need. Stephen Ministry is a path, structured, trained , and supervised, which supports a care receiver in finding a stronger connection with God during difficult times. Our church now has 28 active Stephen Ministers and 12 active Stephen Leaders. Take a moment and listen to the stories at https://www.stephenministries.org
As Joyce Rupp shares in her book, Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment, : “Quality Presence means we have a heart of love and a desire to care for others. It means that ‘being with’ is just as significant as ‘doing for.’ It means being willing… to faithfully stand by the cross of another… (and to provide) attentive perceptive listening with our heart.”
Do you or someone you love need the caring support of a Stephen Minister? If so, please contact Becky Balentine at email@example.com or (919)601-8682. If you are interested in becoming a Stephen Minister, please notify Becky as a class will be starting in the early fall.