The United Methodist Church of Chugiak has had a Stephen Ministry program since the late 1970’s. Stephen Ministry was started in the mid-1970’s by an Episcopal pastor who recognized there was more need for care in his congregations than he could provide on his own. So he trained a handful of people, and they began their ministry of distinctively Christian care. This idea quickly spread to other congregations and denominations. The need to feel loved, and in the company and care of others, is universal. Today Stephen Ministers provide care and support for a variety of needs and support the pastoral care ministry of the Pastor.
Preventing the crisis– We know that certain life events bring change and we even plan and celebrate those events: weddings, the birth of our children, their graduation from high school or college and/or leaving the house, retirement, new jobs, moves to new cities, etc. Usually we think of these as positives – but for some these events bring feelings and doubts they hadn’t counted on. And these feelings can show up BEFORE that day we are looking forward to. This is where having a Stephen Minister can help. A Stephen Minister is that caring Christian who puts no judgment on your feelings – even when your friends say you should be looking forward to the joy of _______, and you AREN’T! A Stephen Minister will help you sort through all that stuff before the “big day,” anticipate and plan for the changes, and come away a whole person when it’s all said and done.
Crisis Care– Crisis care is just what it sounds like. You find yourself in an unplanned event that completely knocks you for a loop. The sudden death of a spouse, an illness, loss of a job, a major health event/hospitalization, even a disaster in your community can all lead to a crisis for you. You may feel like you’ve lost your bearings and your faith. You may feel abandoned by God and your friends. This is when a Stephen Minister is there to walk the long road beside you, and be that caring friend when your other friends don’t quite get it. Crisis care may be separate or in addition to any pastoral care you may receive; Stephen Ministers are a lay extension of the pastor.
Follow up care– The crisis has passed, the flowers have died, the casserole dishes have stopped coming, and so have your friends. But you are not “over it.” You still have a long way to go before you feel like a whole person, and you are afraid you will be doing it all on your own. This is when a Stephen Minister continues, week after week, to show up. Just because you didn’t have a Stephen Minister in the “crisis” does not mean that you can’t have one now.
Long term care– Long term care comes when you are dealing with parenting your parent(s), dealing with a medical issue on a long-term basis, dealing with adult children who have moved back in with you, or never left in the first place, moving to an assisted living home or long-term care residential home, and/or other issues of aging to name just a few. This is a time when you need the presence and comfort of Christ through a Stephen Minister. These caring relationships may last more than a year, or new Stephen Ministers may be assigned periodically to ensure the Care Receiver is getting the best Christian care.
Undoubtedly, you’ve thought of a situation that didn’t match one of these neat definitions. That doesn’t mean that a Stephen Minister would not be assigned. Each referral is given careful and prayerful consideration as to whether someone would benefit from a Stephen Minister. In each case, the goal is to provide distinctively Christian care to those hurting and in need of the physical presence of Christ with them as they deal with whatever life has flung their way.
Stephen Ministers are a Christian friend to walk with you through your difficult times.
Grace and Peace to you,