"Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
What is Stephen Ministry?
Being in fellowship with other Christians is so important. Many people are loved and cared for in small groups, but others may not have any support at all. Here at East Cooper Baptist, we train people to be caregivers who can provide distinctive Christian care to members of our congregation. Stephen Ministry was 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, particularly the widows.
Who are Stephen Ministers?
Stephen Ministers are spiritually mature members of our congregation, many who have experienced and overcome difficulties in their own lives. Because of God’s grace and the love of people who have helped them heal, they have been called to serve others with "distinctively Christian care" in their time of need. After committing to two years of service and completing 50 hours of training, a Stephen Minister is commissioned by church leadership then assigned care receivers – one at a time – who have been referred. Men care for men; women care for women. Twice a month ministers attend peer supervision groups for support, accountability and guidance. Additionally, ministers attend three continuing education classes a year to enhance their caregiving skills and keep their ministry relevant.
What do Stephen Ministers do?
- Meet with their care receivers once a week for about an hour and may also check in by phone depending on the complexity of needs.
- Listen, really listen, as their care receivers talk through their difficulties.
- Reflect what they hear from care receivers, ask open-ended questions, and help care receivers recognize, express, process, and accept their feelings.
- Remain process-oriented. Stephen Ministers do not try to fix care receivers or their problems. Stephen Ministers focus on the caregiving process and rely on God to achieve the results.
- Relate assertively and maintain boundaries. Stephen Ministers respect both care receivers and their needs while setting appropriate boundaries in the caring relationship so care receivers remain as independent as possible.
- Recommend professional care when necessary. Stephen Ministers are not counselors. Therefore, they are not trained
to care for those who have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, addictions, abuse, suicidal tendencies, etc. If Stephen Ministers recognize that the needs of their care receiver exceeds the care they are able to provide, they refer them to a mental health professional.
- Maintain confidentiality. Care receivers need to know that what they say to the Stephen Minister will remain in confidence. The only exception is when a care receiver expresses suicidal or homicidal thoughts.
- Pray daily for their care receivers asking God to support them, to resolve the difficulty, to achieve the desired spiritual growth, and to remind them of His presence.