In Acts 6, we learn that in the early church, widows were often neglected in the daily distribution of food. The church leaders were mortified that they had neglected the Word of God and the very people they promised to help. In order to resolve the injustice, it was decided that seven men of "good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom" would be appointed to provide ongoing care to those within the community. The first layperson commissioned by the apostles was a man named Stephen. He would later become the first martyr of the church.
Stephen Ministry began in 1975 when Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk, a St. Louis pastor and clinical psychologist, trained nine laypeople within his church to provide care to the members of his congregation and community. He called them Stephen Ministers and empowered them to serve as one-on-one caregivers. After great success, these individuals insisted that he offer this same type of training to other churches. Dr. Haugk fine-tuned his own methodology and maximized his caring ministry by training laypeople to become Stephen Leaders-representatives of various churches who return home fully equipped to select, train and supervise their congregation’s Stephen Ministers.
Since its inception, the Stephen Series has been implemented in more than 10,000 congregations representing more than 150 Christian denominations. More than 62,000 people have been trained as Stephen Leaders all around the world and over 500,000 laypersons have become Stephen Ministers.
In January 2011, Marble Church sent Rev. Steve Pierce, along with seven Marble members - Barbara Costigan, Ted Gregory, Sean Harvey, DeeDee Headings, Baleta McKenzie, Lesley Mazzotta, and Nick Testa - to attend a weeklong training to become Stephen Leaders and learn how to effectively implement and direct the Stephen Series at Marble. They are now empowered to recruit and equip Marble's Stephen Ministers with 50 hours of required training in Christian caring skills. Topics covered include: listening, Christian assertiveness, confidentiality, maintaining boundaries, caregiving and many others. This educational process is distinctively Christian and focuses on God as the One who cures as we care.
This year's Stephen Ministry training at Marble will be held from March-June, 2012.
When Stephen Ministers have completed their training, they are commissioned during Sunday worship and ready to begin their ministry. Working under supervision, they are available to meet weekly with people experiencing such problems as bereavement, job loss, terminal illness, long-term hospitalization, natural disasters, a spiritual crisis and difficult transitions.
It is important to point out that most Stephen Ministers are not typically ordained clergy or therapists (though some may be). They are not problem solvers or just casual visitors. They are care providers who bring healing and support to people who have real hurts and needs. They commit to at least two years of service, including the initial training and ongoing supervision. The skills learned are not only used in this caring ministry, but also in everyday relationships.
If you are interested in being considered for Stephen Ministry here at Marble, please download the PDF application form, print it, fill it out and either mail it to Rev. Kirsty DePree or hand-deliver it to the switchboard attendant during your next visit to the church. You may also save this form to your computer and email it to Judy Tulin. The Stephen Leaders will review your application and contact you. All applications are held in strictest confidence.
To learn more about Stephen Ministry, please visit www.stephenministries.org