Stephen Ministry at FPCRO

12 2012 Stephen Ministry 2

12 2012 Stephen Ministry

The Stephen Ministry is a system of caring ministry in which specially trained congregation members called Stephen Ministers provide one-to-one Christian care to people who are experiencing a life challenge or crisis.


As a Stephen Ministry congregation, First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak is part of a ministry that involves over 7,000 congregations from over 90 denominations worldwide. Over a quarter-million lay people have been trained as Stephen Ministers.  Presently, we have nine active Stephen Ministers providing Christian care to members of our church.


Stephens Logo OneStephen Ministry was developed in 1975 by Dr. Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, who saw that he alone as pastor could not provide for all the caring ministry needs in his congregation. So he began training lay persons, called Stephen Ministers, to help provide high quality Christian care. The ministry was so successful that other churches became interested and Dr. Haugk founded the not-for-profit Stephen Ministries organization. Today, Dr. Haugk is still the executive director of the Stephen Ministries organization, based in St. Louis. The staff of 50 people produces and delivers resources and training to support Stephen Ministry in thousands of congregations.


How Does Stephen Ministry Work?

Once the congregation is enrolled in the Stephen Series, the team of people who direct the ministry in the congregation - the Stephen Leaders - are trained at a seven-day Leader’s Training Course taught by the faculty of the Stephen Ministries organization.


Our Stephen Leaders recruit, select, and train members of our congregation to be Stephen Ministers. Stephen Ministers receive 50 hours of training in Christian caregiving skills. This training involves general topics like listening skills, feelings, assertiveness and boundaries, and specialized topics like using prayer and other Christian resources or how to minister to someone experiencing grief, divorce, a terminal illness, and more.


Stephen Ministers are Publicly Commissioned

Upon completion of their training, we commission our Stephen Ministers in our worship service. This is a way for the whole congregation to recognize that we are sending out these trained caregivers to provide one-to-one Christian care on our behalf to people in need. By commissioning them in worship, we are all recognizing that Stephen Ministry belongs to all of us - everyone at First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak. It is our ministry and a way we as a congregation care for the needs of people in our church and community.


Care Receivers Are Identified & Linked to a Stephen Minister

Stephens Logo TwoOur pastors and Stephen Leaders pair up each Stephen Minister with a member of the congregation or community who needs care. Stephen Ministers provide care for people experiencing divorce, the death of a loved one, hospitalization, loss of a job, a terminal illness, a relocation, the birth of a child, an empty nest, the transition into retirement, loneliness, a spiritual crisis—the list goes on and on. Many of these needs might otherwise go unnoticed or slip through the cracks because we would have lacked the staff to meet them. With Stephen Ministry, we have a team of well-trained Christian caregivers who can provide care in these situations.


Stephen Ministers Meet Regularly with Care Receivers

Stephen Ministers have one care receiver at a time. They meet with that person in a private, one-to-one, confidential setting for about an hour a week and may touch base on the phone once or twice a week. This is a completely confidential relationship. The only people who know the identity of a care receiver are the care receiver him or herself, his or her Stephen Minister, and the pastor or Stephen Leaders who linked them together. Nobody else knows - not even the other Stephen Ministers. This way care receivers can feel assured that anything they tell their Stephen Minister will remain confidential.


Supervision and Continuing Education

Stephen Ministers and Stephen Leaders get together regularly for continuing education and supervision. Continuing education is a way for Stephen Ministers to be always learning, growing, and enhancing their caregiving ability. Supervision, meanwhile, allows Stephen Ministers to guide and support one another in their ministry - and provide the best care possible to their care receivers. Confidentiality, again, is a major emphasis of supervision; names are never mentioned and details about the care receiver are never discussed. The focus of supervision is not on what is going on in the care receiver’s life - it is on the relationship between the Stephen Minister and the care receiver. This way care receivers can feel assured that no one will know they are receiving care from a Stephen Minister and that anything they say will remain strictly confidential.


Ongoing Cycle

These are the basic components of Stephen Ministry. It is important to note that Stephen Ministry is an ongoing ministry. We enroll only once, but we cycle through the other steps over and over as needed. More people may attend Leader’s Training Course to be trained Stephen Leaders to replace existing ones or to expand the Leader team. More Stephen Ministers are trained as needed. As one caring relationship ends, another one begins, so the cycle of caregiving continues and Stephen Ministry becomes a permanent fixture in our congregation.


Why Stephen Ministry?

Why do we need Stephen Ministers - don’t we have pastors to provide caring ministry? The simple answer is that our pastors cannot possibly provide all the caring ministry needed. Our pastors are like firefighters - when a crisis happens, they rush to the scene to put out the fire. But shortly thereafter, another fire breaks out in the congregation, and they rush to that scene. They still provide care to the victims of the first fire, but their time quickly becomes consumed by the second, third, and fourth fires. This is on top of their other duties as pastors.


This is where Stephen Ministers come in. The pastors will always be our firefighters, but our Stephen Ministers are people who come in after the fire is put out (and sometimes before) and help the victims sort through and clear the debris and begin to rebuild. Stephen Ministers continue to give care as long as needed during the rebuilding process - one month, two months, six months, possibly a year or more. They provide the steady, consistent one-to-one follow-up care that our pastors want to, but simply cannot provide.


We Are All Called to Care

Stephens Logo ThreeWe have Stephen Ministry because God calls every one of us to love and care for one another. Remember the story Jesus told in Matthew 25, when the people asked, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” Jesus wasn’t telling that story only to the pastors; he was speaking to all of us.


Putting Spiritual Gifts to Use

The Holy Spirit has blessed us all with gifts for ministry. Stephen Ministry provides a place where those who have the gifts for caring ministry can put them to use in a meaningful way.


The Needs Are There

Why did Sir Edmund Hillary climb Mount Everest? Because it was there. Why do we have a caring ministry to meet people’s needs? Because the needs are there. Sometimes the needs are quiet and can go unnoticed. Sometimes people think, “My need isn’t important enough - I’ll go it alone.” Or we want to look the other way just as the three men did who preceded the Samaritan on the road to Jericho. The needs are there - people’s hearts are wounded, their lives broken. They are in need of Christ’s love and healing. Stephen Ministry helps our church meet the many needs that are out there.


Reaching Out With Christ’s Love

Stephen Ministry can be a wonderful outreach of Christ’s love both to our own members and to the community. In the second chapter of his epistle, James tells us, “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.” He says we need to be “doers of the Word, not just hearers.”  Just talking about loving and caring for one another doesn’t automatically make us a loving and caring congregation. We need to be doers! Stephen Ministry is a wonderful way to be doers of the Gospel.


Jesus’ Great Commandment and Great Commission

Jesus gave us his Great Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and his Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Stephen Ministry is one tangible way we can fulfill Jesus’ Commandment and Commission.


Who Benefits From Stephen Ministry?

  1. Persons who receive care benefit.  He or she no longer has to walk along through life’s struggles alone. A Stephen Minister walks alongside this person for as long as he or she needs care, bringing Jesus’ unconditional love and acceptance to the person. 
  2. Pastors benefit.  Stephen Ministry was begun by a pastor who realized that he could not meet all needs for care by himself and needed a way to provide care for all who needed it. Pastors fulfill their calling to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) by training lay people for caring ministry. Pastors are no longer alone in bearing the burden of meeting caring ministry needs for all people.
  3. Stephen Ministers and Stephen Leaders benefit.  Although they participate in this ministry out of a desire to serve and care for others, they encounter tremendous growth themselves. They grow personally and spiritually.
  4. The Congregation benefits from Stephen Ministry.  People feel cared for in their time of need. There is a ripple effect to Stephen Ministry. Many Stephen Ministers are also active in Church School, on church boards and committees, in Bible studies and small groups, in fellowship groups, social events, vacation Bible school, and more. They find themselves using their caring ministry skills in a variety of ways.
  5. Everyone in the Congregation benefits.  Everyone of us knows someone who has faced a difficult crisis - perhaps a neighbor, a coworker, a friend, a relative, or ourselves. Stephen Ministry gives us a place where we can connect those people to receive Jesus’ love and care when they need it most.
  6. The Church as a whole benefits. More people experience Christ’s love in a significant way, are called to Christ, and grow in faith. They become better disciples and thus are better able to reach out with Jesus’ love to still others who may be outside the church.

If you would like to know more about Stephen Ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, please call Reverend Kent Clise, at (248) 541-0108 ext. 206, or email him at

© 2017 First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak
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