These types of church ministry initiatives have always been attractive to me.
At their most healthy, they transfer the focus of meeting a congregation's needs from one person or a staff of professionals to members whose giftedness transform the lives of everyone involved.
It a context that helps facilitate something I'm growing to appreciate more and more...community.
'Since its inception 10 years ago, the ministry of congregational care and counseling at Union Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, has made Stephen Ministry a vital component of its continuum of care.'
'Union—a thriving, predominantly African-American congregation of about 4500 members—enrolled in Stephen Ministry in the spring of 2000 and sent me to a leadership training course in Orlando. When I returned to North Carolina, I conferred with Union’s pastor, Kenneth R. Hammond, and began recruiting additional Stephen leaders from the church. Six months later, Union’s first Stephen Ministry class began with nine trainees.'
'One of the most appealing aspects of this model of ministry is its ability to balance attention between both the spiritual and emotional needs of care receivers. Stephen Ministry trainees receive 50 hours of preparation over four months in areas such as listening non-judgmentally, managing care receivers’ feelings, practicing assertiveness, establishing boundaries, observing confidentiality, and recognizing the limits of the care they can offer. These practical skills help to establish a trusting bond between the Stephen minister and care receiver, and they also provide a superb foundation for the care receivers themselves to cope with challenging circumstances in their lives.'
'Because Stephen Ministry trainees are encouraged to establish prayer-partner relationships with one another, they too are formed spiritually by their work. Specific training on using scriptures when providing care and identifying ways that Christ cared for others augment the spiritual experiences Stephen ministers have as they devote themselves to what is a two-year “calling.” While Stephen Ministry is unapologetically Christ-centered, it allows space to accept care receivers at their specified point of need, which often is not articulated as faith-based. Stephen ministers can openly reflect their own Christian identity without proselytizing.'