(Article written for St. John’s Episcopal Church, Royal Oak, MI, newsletter, News & Views.)
Stephen Ministry is coming to St. John’s.
Stephen Ministry is a way to extend pastoral care to people who need someone who is willing to listen and support them. Stephen Ministers complete 50 hours of training and then serve as lay care givers in a supervised, confidential ministry. Care receivers may be struggling with illness, aging, family issues, death of a loved one, or other problems. Stephen Ministers are not counselors, but caring listeners. They do not cure, they care.
At St. John’s we are adopting Stephen Ministry as a way of extending pastoral care beyond the clergy. We have ministries that do some of this already, with Mending Hearts and the Looking for Work group, for example. Stephen Ministry cannot replace these wonderful groups, but it can provide pastoral care individually where that is needed.
Stephen Ministries have been in operation for over 30 years, in thousands of churches of every denomination. I just returned from a week of training as a Stephen Leader. Kathy Stricker will be going to the training in April. The 150+ lay and ordained people I trained with represent over 30 church bodies. One of the impressions I carried away from the training is the focus on providing a distinctly Christian ministry to hurting people. Those of us gathered last week might agree on very little of our theology, worship, music, or many other aspects of our faith. We never discussed those things. Yet we could meet, learn, pray and share together, united in our common desire to bring Christ’s love to others and see the face of Christ in those who are in need.
I think this is a great program that will be of great benefit to St. John’s and its people. You’ll be hearing more about it in the next several months.