Most people are perplexed by Stephen Ministry and have little idea of what a Stephen Minister is or does in our church. I have been a Stephen Minister for 5 years. Along with all of MPPC’s 15 active Stephen Ministers, I went through 50+ hours of Stephen Ministries training. In addition, Karen Ferebee and I attended Stephen Ministry Leadership Training this summer for another 60 hours of training for leadership and ministry to those in need.

Stephen Ministry is one of those programs that flies under the radar but emerges when someone needs it most: during and after a time of stress, crisis or upheaval in one’s life. Think of it as a bridge from one side to the other; the foundation you are standing is wobbling and scary but across the bridge the foundation is steady and sure.

The Stephen Ministry program connects care givers with care receivers for personal, one-on-one care and support. The ministry is a beautiful representation of God’s call to us to care for one another and to bridge the emotional divides that can erupt when we are in crisis. The bridge between a Stephen Minister and the care receiver is a firm testament of God’s love for us. We don’t have to face loneliness, hopelessness, worries or fears alone. These and more are the conditions and situations that Stephen Ministers are trained to handle confidentially with compassion, holy listening, and acceptance. “Stephen Ministers provide the care, God provides the cure.”

Because Stephen Ministry is confidential, and person-to-person, you may not hear much about it. I’m convinced that it is one of the most authentic glimpses into the grace of Jesus Christ that we can experience. Two people sitting together, one listening attentively to the other, with the heart of Christ. It is powerful.

To help explain the process, here is a fictional story of a person reaching out for a Stephen Minister…

Susan is having such a difficult time lately with her 3 children, they are all in different schools due to their age differences, and each one seems to have their own unique problems. Susan writes a weekly blog for Moms and often feels like such a failure as she gives advice she doesn’t heed herself. Often she reaches out to her best friends for advice and suggestions but they are so busy too. Plus, they rarely get through a conversation without someone’s cell ringing, interrupting the flow and mood. It’s frustrating and not helpful leaving Susan at times angry and overwhelmed.

Susan decides to try the ministry program that she’s heard about at church. She calls the church and is referred to the Stephen Ministry Leader who will ask Susan a few questions in order to connect her to a Stephen Minister who will be a good fit. The Stephen Minister calls Susan, they talk briefly deciding to meet at a coffee shop in two days.

Susan’s Stephen Minister explains that ideally, they will meet for an hour each week and will continue until Susan feels comfortable and confident. Susan begins talking, becoming more relieved and calm as she shares her concerns. She notices that her care giver is attentive, focusing only on her. After they part, Susan realizes that the Stephen Minister has not made suggestions or given advice. She just listened and asked some questions that helped bring clarity to Susan. She feels comforted and valued. As Susan and her Stephen Minister meet over the next several months, Susan is becoming more resilient and able to make tough decisions with confidence. She knows that God is clearly working in not only her life but her children’s lives and she can put her trust and hope in Him.

The Stephen Ministers are available to you. We pray that you won’t need us. The reality though, is that we all go through times that are difficult, stressful, chaotic, or just busy. We need someone to talk with, to share with, to confide in; someone who will gently lead take our hands.

The Stephen Ministers of Myers Park Presbyterian Church are compassionate and dedicated caregivers ready to offer support through the various challenges of life.