I was so excited a few years back when I learned Stephen Ministries was coming to First Pres. I had first heard something about it when I lived in St. Louis Missouri, where it actually had originated. It was apparently a wonderful way to support people in a congregation on a one on one basis, and I was interested enough to have looked up their website. There were pictures of people speaking chatting together, giving support. I put it on my bucket list, as something I should do someday.
So now was my chance! I went to Pastor Doug to ask to join the training. I was given a stack of books, and committed to the designated training time. At our first meeting, I looked around the room. I was the youngest person in the class, and wondered if I was out of my league, since I was surrounded by experience! But I really wanted to do this, and I gripped my pencil to take a lot of notes and sat up as close to the front of the class as I could, so I could really listen.
The training opened my eyes to a new way to support the people of a congregation. It was explained how everyday normal people all go through a difficult season in their lives. During such times, it is so meaningful to have a designated person, a Stephen Minister, available to offer encouragement on a weekly basis. It is not a counseling partnership, but just two people coming together for a certain time for support. It made me realize how difficulties are made more manageable when you can talk confidentially with someone trustworthy about them. Stephen Ministers take the privacy of their care receivers very seriously.
Two years later, I am surprised at how the tentacles of Stephen Ministries have attached themselves to so many areas of my life. It has become a part of me, something I can’t turn on and off, and I use what I’ve learned constantly to support people I care about, whether they are in the program or not. I would recommend Stephen Ministries to anyone who wants to take supporting the congregation to new heights. It is a wonderful experience.
by Courtney Fassbender
When I was first asked if I had ever thought of becoming a Stephen Minister I reacted by rejecting the idea out of hand. After all, I reasoned, I was not a biblical scholar; I had no training in human psychology or behavior, and I was absolutely sure that there was no way I would have the patience or capacity to listen to and deal with other people’s problems. But somehow the idea kept resonating in my mind and I decided to find more information about the ministry and get some answers to the long list of questions that were in my mind about the program. I decided that I would explore it by using the journalists method, namely the what, why, when, & how where and who, and I convinced myself that in doing so I would surely confirm my original rejection of the idea of becoming a Stephen Minister.
But He had another outcome in mind. The more I looked, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I realized how powerful was the underpinning of the Stephen Ministry, best expressed by Jesus to his disciples at the last supper when He gave them a new commandment:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 (ESV)
Thus, I came to see and understand that if we truly want to obey Him, we need to put our faith into practice and in doing so help others whose lives are in crisis and who need a helping hand; a shoulder to lean on, and the ongoing presence of a trained, confidential counselor with whom to share their life burdens. The rest resides in my personal history. I took the 50 hour Stephen Ministry training course, led by Pastor Doug, and was commissioned along with my classmates in front of the whole congregation. I will share with you that the training is rigorous, time consuming, and stretches one’s learning capacity. Along with a large dose of hard work, including reading and contemplation, also comes the humbling experience of being a prayer partner with a classmate, and mutually sharing with them one’s innermost thoughts about our life experiences, good and bad, along with a careful examination of our personal faith journey.
After commissioning, and with the encouragement of our Pastors, Doug and Holton, I subsequently decided that I wanted to go further and take the Stephen Ministry Leadership Training Course, which is a week-long intensive seminar series led by the staff and leadership of the ministry, several of which are held periodically in various venues around the country. And so 2 years ago, I attended the Leadership Training Course in Orlando, and became a Stephen Leader. After I was assigned to a care receiver in our congregation I realized even more fully how wonderful is the opportunity to help another who is in crisis, and how true is St. Paul’s abjuration: ”I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 (KJV)
by Malcolm Noden