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What is the Stephen Ministry?

Stephen Ministry is a ministry that equips lay persons to provide confidential, one-to-one, distinctively Christian care to individuals who are experiencing a variety of life needs and circumstances, both within the CLC congregation and outside of it.

Individuals seeking a Stephen Minister include those who are dealing with issues involving separation/divorce, job loss, long term/chronic illness, aging, depression, death, and loneliness.

Who are Stephen Ministers?

Stephen Ministers are members of Christ Lutheran Church who have gone through 50 hours of training in providing high-quality Christian care to individuals experiencing a crisis or challenge such as divorce, grief, loss of a job, hospitalization, depression, or loneliness, or any variety of trying circumstances. Stephen Ministers will be assigned a care receiver and meet with that care receiver for about an hour a week. This caring relationship will last for as long as the care receiver needs it. If you would like more information on how to become a Stephen Minister or to receive care from one, please call the church office. 323-3572.

Who Benefits from Stephen Ministry?

Everybody benefits from Stephen Ministry. Those receiving care from Stephen Ministers benefit because they receive prayer and support throughout the crisis they face. Stephen Ministers benefit through the spiritual growth they experience from being involved in meaningful ministry. Our pastor benefits because caring ministry at Christ Lutheran is expanded, and fewer people will slip through the cracks. Most of all you benefit from the knowledge that special care is available to you should you need it. In addition, you now have a place where you can refer a friend, neighbor, coworker, relative, or anyone else you know who is going through a difficult time so that they can receive special care when they need it most. Stephen Ministry makes Christ Lutheran a much more caring place.

What will my Stephen Minister do?

Your Stephen Minister will meet with you regularly (up to once a week typically) in your home or at the church or a mutually agreeable location. Since Stephen Ministers are not professional counselors, they are not able to meet with couples or families.

Your Stephen Minister will listen, offer support and encouragement, and help you express your thoughts and feelings.

Your Stephen Minister will help you think about choices and options and help you set goals.

Your Stephen Minister will pray for you and with you. Your Stephen Minister will encourage you to seek spiritual growth and healing.

Your Stephen Minister will meet periodically for supervision with other Stephen Ministers to get support and guidance about how to provide the best possible Christian Care for you.

Your Stephen Minister will keep your identity and your conversations in confidence. When Stephen Ministers meet for supervision, your situation may be discussed, but never your identity. Unless you're planning to harm yourself or someone else, you can be assured your conversations will be kept confidential.

Your Stephen Minister, when appropriate, will recommend you seek legal or financial counsel, medical care or professional counseling, or other forms of care that might be helpful in your particular situation. If you are seeing a professional counselor, your Stephen Minister may ask you to sign a "release of information" form. When you're receiving care from more than one person, it's important that they be able to talk together.

Your Stephen Minister will probably not socialize or talk much about himself / herself. If Stephen Ministers have had similar experiences that are relevant to your situation, they may let you know what it was like for them and what they found helpful. But unlike ordinary friendships, your relationship with your Stephen Minister will be more one-sided. The purpose of Stephen Ministers is not to form ongoing friendships but rather to focus on helping you deal with your situation.

When your particular difficulty has been resolved or your goals have been achieved, your Stephen Minister will talk with you about putting an end to your official Stephen Ministry relationship. Sometimes both people are interested in having an ongoing more mutual friendship.

How can I optimize the benefit of my Stephen Minister?

Please make every effort to meet regularly with your Stephen Minister. When you miss appointments of have infrequent appointments; it's hard to keep a clear focus on your work together. Please take responsibility and initiative in the relationship. Don't always wait for your Stephen Minister to call.

Please be honest. Your Stephen Minister is not there to judge, so please talk as openly as you can about what's really going on and what's really on your mind.

Realize that you are the key. So much depends on your willingness to take on the task of growth, your faithfulness in seeking to understand painful or threatening realities, your courage to bring about change by taking steps in a positive direction. Don't expect your Stephen Minister to somehow change you or your situation. Actively seek your own understanding and change.

During this difficult time, pursue spiritual growth and healing through worship and prayer, through Bible and devotional reading, through confession and service to others. You can't change and grow without God, so ask God to guide you. Seek to know his will and his purpose for you. Ask God for courage, for insight and wisdom, for healing and for strength. Seek to cultivate an attitude of hope and trust in God's ongoing work in your life. [See Philippians 1:6] Let your prayer be that of St. Augustine: "Grant, Lord, that I might know myself and that I might know Thee."

If your Stephen Minister recommends you consider additional types of counseling or other forms of care, please do so. Stephen Ministers aren't always able to help with all particular needs. You may need to seek out the assistance of others in addition to your Stephen Minister.

Please realize that your Stephen Minster, while not a professional counselor, is not an ordinary friend either. Unlike professional counselors, Stephen Ministers do not have years of training and do not receive payment for their services. They seek simply to show God's love by offering Christian care. But unlike ordinary friendships, Stephen Ministers don't usually socialize or talk much about themselves. Please understand that their purpose is not a mutual ongoing friendship but rather to help you on your situation. Their gift to you is the freedom to focus exclusively on helping yourself. Whether the two of you ever choose to develop an ongoing friendship or not, their greatest joy is that you will have moved forward and will one day no longer need an official Stephen Minister.

Receptivity to Care

Most people are much more open to giving care than to receiving it.  When a person is giving care, he or she is in a position of strength, stability, and authority. When a person is receiving care, he or she is acknowledging weakness, insecurity, and vulnerability.

As a result there are countless people today who, though they really could benefit from a Christian friend who would listen and care for them, instead tough it out on their own. They remain the strong silent type, or wear a smile across a face that is holding back a flood of tears. Society encourages this (particularly for men). To ask for help is to admit weakness. To show weakness is to admit inferiority.

Our Stephen Ministers know all about receiving care. Many of them have been on the receiving end of care at an earlier point in their lives something that has motivated them to give care now. They know how difficult it is to ask for help, but they also know the great personal and spiritual growth and healing that follows. They know how to respond in a loving, caring, and nonjudgmental manner. They are equipped, ready, and waiting to provide the comfort and care God very much desires you to have.

If you find yourself now or in the future facing difficulties in life, don't succumb to society's norm of remaining strong and suffering alone. Take the courageous step of seeking help. Open your heart to receiving God's love and grace through another person.  Our Stephen Ministry offers the opportunity of a very confidential relationship with someone who will listen to you and provide you with the care and encouragement you need, while Christ works inside to bring rest to your weary, burdened heart.

The Importance of Confidentiality in Stephen Ministry

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of Stephen Ministry because it is absolutely essential for building safe, healing, caring relationships...

Stephen Ministry is confidential. Stephen ministers don't reveal what their care receivers have told them. Not to the pastors, not to the Stephen Leaders, not to their spouses or friends, and not to other Stephen Ministers.

Why? Because trust is vital for a caring relationship to be effective. Care receivers are experiencing difficulties that leave them feeling very vulnerable. Discussing their innermost feelings is an important step in the healing process. But in order to open up and discuss that which is troubling them most, care receivers need complete trust in their Stephen Minister and the assistance that what they say will not be circulated to others and become news for gossip.

This assurance builds trust and creates a safe place where care receivers can risk revealing their most painful issues problems they might not even discuss with close friends or family. Confidentiality helps create a relationship that promotes healing and hope.

Another aspect of confidentiality is that nobody-except the Stephen Minister, the care receiver, and the pastor or Stephen Leader who matched the two together even knows that a care receiver has a Stephen Minister. Care receivers, of course, are free to tell others about the relationship and who their Stephen Minister is, but the Stephen Minister never tells. This means a care receiver can choose to have complete anonymity so that if he or she doesn't want people even to know that he or she has a Stephen Minister, nobody will ever know.

One final point involving confidentiality involves the Stephen Ministry model of supervision, where confidentiality is also a key element. (Supervision, done twice monthly, is vital to Stephen Ministry so that Stephen Ministers can provide the best quality care possible to their care receivers). In supervision the focus of discussion is on the relationship between the Stephen Minister and the care receiver, rather than the details of what is going on in a care receiver's life. By not revealing a care receiver's name or any significant details, confidentiality is maintained; and supervision becomes a place where Stephen Ministers can support and encourage one another in ministry while they provide the best quality care to their care receivers. It's a model that has enabled life changing ministry to happen in thousands of Stephen Ministry congregations since 1976.

Why this talk about confidentiality? To build your trust in Stephen Ministry. It is a high quality care giving ministry that you can count on should you ever have the need. Confidentiality is a cornerstone of good ministry and of our Stephen Ministry.

For more information on Stephen Ministry, please contact the church office, 323-3572.

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