Stephen Ministry

Stephen Ministry

Stephen Ministry is a ministry in our congregation in which trained and supervised laypersons will provide one to one Christian care to individuals facing life challenges or difficulties.

There are times when every one of us experiences difficulties.

  •    loss of a loved one •    spiritual crises
  •    cancer •    hospitalization
  •    imprisonment •    disability
  •    discouragement •    loneliness
  •    divorce •    rehabilitation
  •    job loss •    many other challenges.






God never intended for us to go through this experience alone.  That’s why god has brought us together as a congregation—and why we have Stephen Ministers.

While Pastors will always be the primary caregivers there is no way the pastors can meet all the needs for care. God has called all of us, not just pastors, to minister to one another.

Stephen Ministers are members of our congregation who have received 50 hours of Christian care giving training to minister to people experiencing a crisis, facing a challenge, or simply going through a tough time.

General topics include listening, feelings, boundaries, assertiveness, and using Christian resources in care giving. In addition, their training covers specialized topics such as ministry to the divorced, hospitalized, bereaved, and aging.

Stephen Ministers are caring Christian friends who listen, understand, accept, and pray for and with care receivers who are working through a crisis or a tough time.  The meeting is once a week for about an hour for as long as the care receiver will benefit by the relationship.

Confidentiality is one of the most important principles of Stephen Ministry, and what a care receiver tells his or her Stephen Minister is kept in strictest confidence. Trust is essential to a caring relationship.

Stephen Ministers are not counselors.  When a care receiver’s need exceeds the Stephen Ministers training then they work with care receivers to help them receive the level of care they really need.

Stephen Leaders are the ones who oversee and direct our Stephen Ministry. They recruit, select, train, organize, and supervise our Stephen Ministers, identify people in need of care, and match them with a Stephen Minister. We have three Stephen Leaders. They are: Fr. Ed McNeill, Phoebe Goold and Dianne Growitz.  If you or someone you know could benefit from the care of a Stephen Minister, you can talk to us.

If you are interested in becoming a Stephen Minister, begin by talking to one of our Stephen Leaders and they can tell you more. We hope to train a new class of Stephen Ministers every two years. Stephen Ministers make a two-year commitment to train and serve.

For stories of Stephen Ministry that wil touch your heart and illustrate the benefits of this life giving ministry, check out this page on the Stephen Ministry web site.


Founding of Stephen Ministry

Stephen Ministry dates back to 1974 when Kenneth C. Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, was pastor of St. Stevens Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Fresh out of seminary, his strengths and heart were in caregiving ministry, and he was looking forward to making a positive impact on his congregation and community by providing pastoral care to all those experiencing divorce, grief, hospitalization, discouragement, and other life difficulties.

Very quickly, though, he found that the needs for care by far exceeded that which he alone could provide. He faced one of a pastor's greatest frustrations: seeing people slipping through the cracks because their urgent needs were going unmet. In November of 1974 he discussed the situation with two seminary friends over a cup of coffee. The conversation turned to Ephesians 4 and "equipping the Saints for the work of ministry." Haugk realized that God didn't intend for pastors to monopolize ministry. Rather, God gave all his people gifts for ministry and one of his roles, as pastor was to equip others to use their gifts in ministry.

Haugk returned to St. Stevens with a plan. In the coming months he recruited nine lay people who had the gifts and heart to do caring ministry. He then used his combined backgrounds in theology and psychology to develop a training program in Christian caregiving. By March 1975 the nine were commissioned as "Stephen Ministers." The name Stephen comes from St. Stephen, who was the first lay person commissioned by the apostles to provide caring ministry to those in need as recorded in Acts 6. Their first Care Receivers included a widower, a blind person, a young woman with cancer, a truck driver forced to retire early, and in inactive member struggling with faith issues.

The impact was immediate. People began receiving the focused Christian care they needed. Fewer people were slipping through the cracks, and Haugk found he had more time to perform his other pastoral duties. The Stephen Ministers cornered Hawke on a hot May morning after worship services. "This is good stuff," they said to him. "We're not going to let you go until you promise to bring this ministry to other churches!" Still wearing his vestments and perspiring from the heat, Haugk gave in and agreed to find a way to bring Stephen Ministry to other churches.

In November 1975 Haugk and his wife Joan founded the not-for-profit Stephen Ministries organization and began bringing Stephen Ministry to other congregations. It spread like wildfire. St. James' is one of more than 7000 congregations from more than 90 Christian denominations that now have Stephen Ministry. Over a quarter million people have been trained as Stephen Ministers, a number that grows by tens of thousands each year. More than one million people across United States, Canada, and the world have been touched by God's love through a Stephen Minister. And that is the mark of Gods doing, because finally the story of Stephen Ministry is a million stories and more of caring ministry.

For more information check the Stephen Ministry FAQ page.