Acts of the Apostles has an account of the first deacons to be ordained. The apostles chose seven deacons to spread the Good News to even more people. Stephen, who eventually became St. Stephen, performed many miracles. It’s from the work of St. Stephen that the Stephen Ministry was born.
Here at St. Francis Xavier, we have a Stephen Ministry group, and there are several others throughout Stillwater. The groups participate in joint trainings, moving to different churches over the training period. This is a non-denominational ministry in which ministers provide pastoral care for other Christians.
“This ministry was born out of need at a Lutheran congregation in St. Louis, Mo.,” says Don McCroskey, a Stephen Minister since 2002. “The pastor couldn’t care for all those who needed help and decided to establish the Stephen Ministry.”
The motto for this ministry is “Christ caring for people through people.” Our faith leaders can’t provide pastoral care to everyone who may need it — there is just not enough time in a day. That’s where Stephen Ministers come in. Those who are seeking care, called care receivers, can be going through any number of challenges — divorce, loss of a job, grief, and more.
“The person just needs someone who will be there to listen,” Don says. “We aren’t there to try to fix anyone. We want to be there for them.”
Stephen Ministers are typically trained over the course of 20 weekly sessions. They learn everything, from listening skills to ministering to those experiencing grief. Ministers leave the training well-equipped to walk with those facing a challenge.
Don was asked many years ago to become a Stephen Minister and thought it would be a good fit — he was right. This ministry has genuinely blessed his life.
“You know when they say you end up getting more out of something than you put in?” Don says. “That’s true of this ministry. I went into it to help others, but they’ve helped me along the way.”
Most care receivers meet with a minister for several months. Some relationships can be shorter than that, and others longer. Don has met and provided care to many people over the years, and he’s forged a relationship with all. He knows some Stephen Ministers who end their caregiving relationship and have become close friends with the care receiver. He also recalls the story of a Stephen Minister who enjoyed walking. She was matched with a care receiver who also walked. The two would spend their weekly time talking while walking.
“The Holy Spirit truly helps with the matching of caregivers and care receivers,” Don says. “It’s amazing how well the people usually get along.”
Don encourages people to get involved with this ministry. It has truly blessed his life in so many ways.
To receive care through this ministry or to become a Stephen Minister, contact Ellen Holley at 405-762-9357 or email@example.com.