by Rev. Hunter Van Wagenen
The ministry of pastoral care is not just for pastors. God has gifted many individuals in the Church with gifts of encouragement, mercy, faith, and compassion that we on the staff of Church of the Redeemer hope to see used within our local body. That is why we are excited to introduce Stephen Ministry!
Under the leadership of Fr. Dan Nobles, six members of the church – five laypeople and one clergy – have already completed nearly all of their fifty hours of training in order to become Stephen Ministers. Stephen Ministers are highly trained (I can’t emphasize enough that they will have completed fifty hours of training!) in the scriptures and theology of pastoral care, the psychological realities of pastoral care, and the nitty-gritty practical details of a one-on-one, confidential, caring relationship. Once training is complete, Fr. Dan will gather them as a group on a bi-monthly basis so that we as a group can reflect on each one’s caring relationship and offer care for the caregivers.
Note the words I used above. Stephen Ministers are caregivers and those they serve are care receivers. Stephen Ministers are not perfect people who fill in a gap for broken people. They are not professional counselors or therapists with an agenda or goal. They are simply trained members of the church who offer the care and presence of Christ each and every week to those who need it. That’s what the logo is meant to portray: all of us are broken (the fractured figure on the left), but in the cross of Christ we find wholeness (the whole figure on the right). Stephen Ministers are caregivers, but Christ is the cure-giver.
What makes you a good candidate to be a care receiver? A lot of it comes down to change. A professor at my seminary often told us, “Change means loss. Loss means grief.” Whether the change is good, like the arrival of a new child; bad, like a debilitating illness; or ugly, like the breakup of a family; change means loss. I can’t do the same things I did before my son was born. Cancer, injury, or serious infection can lead to the temporary or permanent loss of enjoyed activities. Divorce or other family conflicts often means the loss of central people in our lives. Plenty of other things come to mind – moving to a new house, neighborhood, or city; a change in job situation; fertility issues; death of a loved one; chronic loneliness – if you have experienced any of these things, you know what a gift it is to have someone regularly spending time with you. Listening to you. Walking through the darkness with you. Praying with and for you. This is the work of the Stephen Minister.
At the end of June, we will commission three men and three women from your midst to serve our congregation as Stephen Ministers. If you desire the care I described above, please email Fr. Dan Nobles or me and we will follow up with you. If you feel called to be a Stephen Minister, or wish to consider it, a great way to start is by taking Fr. Dan’s class on spiritual gifts in August. Please email him for more information.
Here are some testimonies from care receivers about the blessing of Stephen Ministry (You can find countless testimonies HERE):
God bless you, and please join me in thanking God for your Stephen Ministers!