Stephen Ministries trains laypeople to walk alongside those with challenging life changes… not to fix the problem, but to be a support system available to the hurting. With 50 hours or more of training – and ongoing education – Stephen Ministers support those in a church’s community with issues of illness and dying, family changes, grief, caregiving for others, and more. The ministry is one-on-one, confidential care for those who request it or are referred by clergy.
Win Norris is a Stephen Minister at Holy Cross in Loganville, GA, where there are five to six Stephen Ministers serving the church at any time, mostly supporting those dealing with end-of-life issues and illness.
“It’s a great ministry, even if you’re just there for a couple of days… or sometimes, some of the relationships are longer than a year,” says Norris. “A lot of times it’s just to talk, because the family doesn’t want to talk.”
Although they may only have a handful of people officially go through the Stephen Ministries program every year, Stephen Ministers at Holy Cross are continually serving as liaisons between the hurting and other ministries. They work with a local nursing network to be sure no one in the church leaves the hospital without resources for care at home: housecleaning, meals, visits, and more. One Stephen Minister serves as the church’s go-to resource for those dealing with Alzheimer’s. And the ongoing training Stephen Ministers receive trickles down to the rest of the church in the form of classes and knowledge of local resources to recommend.
“It’s excellent training… I’ve heard priests say that the training is as good as anything in seminary,” says Norris.
Joyce Bowman, Stephen Minister leader and coordinator at St. Peter’s Anglican in Frankfort, KY, also raves about the training she and the team there have received as part of Stephen Ministries.
“All ten of us love this program because it is things that you use daily in your life, just interacting with people in need. And it’s not necessarily a formal title of Stephen Ministries, but you just apply it every day,” says Bowman. “In training others, I have grown and I have learned. Interacting and relationships with family members, with friends and neighbors… It’s taught me to be a listener and not a fixer.”
St. Peter’s is currently working to finish training and get their Stephen Ministry off the ground. They expect to be mostly supporting those dealing with family changes: “Babies being born, jobs, relocation, dealing with your children growing up and getting on with their lives,” says Bowman.
And Stephen Ministries seems to be a natural extension of their congregation.
“Our body is just so compassionate, a very giving and loving body of people. You can just say “so-and-so’s in the hospital” and three people will show up. It wasn’t forced, it is just the Spirit in this body. It’s a spirit of great compassion and concern,” says Bowman. Interest in the ministry is strong, so she expects they’ll train another group of people down the road.
Having a Stephen Ministry also raises the profile of receiving emotional care and accepting the support of those in your church: “People are not shy about calling and saying ‘hey, I need prayer’… it works. I think it works because God makes it work,” says Norris.
Both Norris and Bowman note that the support of their priests has been the biggest factor in starting this ministry that impacts so many in the church. And Norris, for one, is hoping there are more people out there in ADOTS churches who have been through the Stephen Ministries training already, and can work to start Stephen Ministries in their parishes.
“Surely in all the Anglican churches that have been started, there are ex-Stephen Ministers and ex-Stephen leaders… and they need to get busy!”
Are you a Stephen Minister? Email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story!
by Rachel Moorman, ADOTS Communications Associate (email@example.com)