Stephen Ministry is a lay ministry of people like you and me who have been trained to provide confidential, one-on-one support to anyone who is experiencing some sort of life challenge. This can be anything from the loss of a job, death of a loved one, loneliness, illness, divorce, and many other difficult situations. When we are experiencing a difficult time, it can be helpful to know that someone else cares, that someone else is praying for us, that someone else is willing to listen to us and to reach out to us. Stephen Ministers can provide that support to those who are hurting in our church community at Church of the Ascension.
Stephen Ministry is named after Stephen, found in Acts 6:5, who was the first layperson commissioned by the Apostles to provide a caring ministry to those in need. The training program was begun in 1975 by Dr. Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist in St. Louis, and has been adopted by over 12,000 congregations around the world. Each Stephen Minister has gone through an intensive 50-hour training course and study to be equipped to provide distinctively Christian care to someone who is hurting. Usually Stephen Ministers meet once a week with their care receivers of the same gender and these meetings, which are totally private and confidential, continue for as long as the need persists. Many times the person who is in a crisis situation needs to talk about the challenge of the situation, and the role of the Stephen Minister is to listen, really listen, as the care receiver processes his/her difficulty. Stephen Ministers, however, are not counselors or therapists and are not trained to care for those who have any mental health problems. But they do provide individualized care through a ministry of presence and companionship by offering to pray, to listen, to explore feelings, and to share Christ’s love.
If you find yourself in a crisis situation or in a situation where you need emotional or spiritual support, you are encouraged to ask for a Stephen Minister by contacting one of our clergy or one of the Stephen Ministry Leaders. Galatians 6:2 calls us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Everyone goes through difficult and challenging times, but it is important to know that a Stephen Minister can provide the love and support to those hurting in the community at Church of the Ascension.