Frequently Asked Questions about Stephen Ministry

What Exactly is Stephen Ministry?

Stephen Ministry is a ministry in our congregation in which trained and supervised lay persons, called Stephen Ministers, provide one-to-one Christian care to individuals facing life challenges or difficulties.

Who Is Involved?

Stephen Leaders are the ones who oversee and direct our Stephen Ministry.  They recruit, select, train, organize and supervise our Stephen Ministers, identify people in need of care, and match them with a Stephen Minister.  We currently have 14 Stephen Leaders at Westminster, including the Rev.Ann Hatfield, who are responsible for interviewing those seeking care and matching those in need with Stephen Ministers. 

Stephen Leaders have each received leadership training at one of six courses provided across the US each year.  Courses last a full week and address the administration and supervisory aspects of Stephen Ministry.

Stephen Ministers are the caregivers.  They have been through 50 hours of of traing in Christian caregiving, including general topics such as listening, feelings, boundaries, assertiveness, and using Christian resources in caregiving.  In addition, their training covered specialized topics such as ministering to the divorced, hospitalized, bereaved, and aging. 

Care Receivers are the recipients of Stephen Ministers' care.  They are people from our church or community who are experiencing divorce, grief, loss of a job, loneliness, hospitalization, terminal illness, or any of an endless number of life difficulties.  Stephen Ministers usually meet with their Care Receivers once a week for about an hour for as long as the Care Receiver will benefit from the relationship.

What do Stephen Ministers do?

Stephen Ministers are caring Christian friends who listen, understand, accept, encourage, and pray for and with Care Receivers who are working through a crisis or a tough time.

Are Stephen Ministers Counselors?

Stephen Ministers are not counselors; they are trained lay caregivers.  Their role is to listen and care - not to give advice or counsel.  Stephen Ministers are also trained to recognize when a Care Receiver's need exceeds what they can provide.  When that happens they work with Care Receivers to help them receive the level of care they really need.

Can I Trust a Stephen Minister?

Trust is essential to a caring relationship, and Stephen Ministers are people you can trust.  Confidentiality is one of the most important principles of Stephen Ministry, and what a Care Receiver tells his or her Stephen Minster is kept in strictest confidence.

Why the Name Stephen?

The name Stephen comes from St. Stephen, who was the first lay person commissioned by the apostles to provide caring ministry to those in need, as recorded in Acts 6.

What's the Pastor's Role?

Pastors will always be the primary caregivers, but there is no way pastors can meet all the needs for care.  God has called all of us, not just pastors, to minister to one another.  Stephen Ministry multiplies ministry by turning pastors in to equippers, so they can enable lay people to provide caring ministry as well.

Where Did It All Start?

Stephen Ministry has been around since 1975, when Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, began it to multiply the caregiving in  his congregation in St. Louis, Missouri.  Westminster has had Stephen Ministry since 1995 and is one of more than 7,500 Stephen Ministry congregations from more  than 100 denominations.  Stephen Ministries, St. Louis, the organization behind this international ministry, is headquartered in Missouri.

How Can Someone receive Care From a Stephen Minister?

Any of our Stephen Leaders would be happy to talk you through the process.

How Much Does It Cost?

Stephen Ministry is a caregiving ministry available to our members and community free of charge.  Likewise training to become a Stephen Minister has no financial costs.

How Can Someone Become a Stephen Minister?

Begin by talking to one of our Stephen Leaders and they can tell you more.  We usually train a new class of Stephen Ministers every other year.   Stephen Ministers make a two year commitment to train and serve.

What Does the Stephen Series Logo Mean?

The Stephen Series Logo consists of a cross and circle together with a broken person and a whole person.  The broken person behind the cross symbolizes the brokenness in our lives due to our sin and imperfections.

The whole person stands in front of the cross because it is only through the cross of Jesus that we are made whole.  The circle symbolizes both the wholeness we receive through Christ and God's unending love for us.

Receptivity to Care

Most people are much more open to giving care than to receiving it.  When a person is giving care, he or she seems to be in a position of strength, stability and authority.  When a person is receiving care, he or she seems to be acknowledging weakness, insecurity, and vulnerability. 
As a result, there are countless people today who, though they could really benefit from a Christian friend who would listen and care for them, instead they tough it out on their own.  They remain the strong silent type, or wear a smile across a face that is holding back a flood of tears.  Society encourages this (particularly for men).  To ask for help is to admit weakness.  To show weakness is to admit inferiority.

But God did not create us to be independent.  We were created to be interdependent.  God's Word is clear on this all the way back to Genesis: "It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him' (Genesis 2:18).  The New Testament underscores this theme with more than 50 verses that contain the word "one another." 
These verses include admonitions such as "love one another",  "encourage one another" , "build up one another, " and "pray for one another."
What these verses don't say is that we only are to love, encourage, build up, and pray for other people.  The "one another" wording gives them a reciprocal meaning.  It also tells us that we are to allow other people to love, encourage, build up, and pray for us!

It is most difficult for people to ask for help.  Whether it is because of guilt, shame, inadequacy, or fear of rejection, many would prefer to suffer alone than ask for help. But suffering alone is not God's intent for us.  Jesus promises, "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  We can receive this promised rest when we turn to one another for comfort and help.

Our Stephen Ministers know all about receiving care.  Many of them have been on the receiving end if care at an earlier point in their lives - something that has motivated them to give care now.  They know how difficult it can be to ask for help. but they also know the great personal and spiritual growth and healing than can follow.  They know how to respond in a loving caring and nonjudgmental manner.  They are equipped, ready, and waiting to provide the comfort and care God very much desires you to have.

If you find yourself now, or in the future, facing difficulties in life, don't succumb to society's norm of remaining strong and suffering alone.  Take the courageous step of seeking help.  Open your heart to God's love and grace through another person.  Our Stephen Ministry offers the opportunity of a confidential relationship with someone who will listen to you and provide you with the care and encouragement you need, while Christ works with you both, giving His love and peace.