Residents of military communities like Hinesville, Fort Stewart, Liberty and the surrounding counties are often hundreds of miles away from their nearest family members. Many people don’t have friends or caregivers on whom they can depend. During a personal crisis or problem, the distance can worsen a person’s feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
Neighbors rarely offer the support they once did. When a challenge hits, many area residents have no one to turn to, and they’re forced to face problems alone.
The Stephen Ministry is designed to help people in overwhelming situations. The program produces ministers, both men and women, who are taught to recognize needs and trained to refer people in crisis to counselors, physicians or community agencies. The program, although faith-based, will provide for anyone in need.
The ministry is a global organization founded in 1975 by Dr. Ken Haulk, a pastor and clinical psychologist in St Louis. Haulk recognized the need to train lay people to support churches with overworked pastoral staffs.
Currently, there are more than 600,000 trained Stephen Ministers in the field in more than 10,000 churches in more than 150 denominations in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and 24 foreign countries. In addition, there are 55,000 Stephen leaders teaching and supervising the training of Stephen candidates.
First Baptist Church inHinesville is graduating seven Stephen Ministers today. Their instructor is John Scherer, who has been a Stephen minister and leader for 10 years.
“We here at First Baptist are very pleased and proud of our first class of Stephen Ministers,” Scherer said. “They are Becky Carter, Paulette Stetzer, Desiree Johnson, Judy Scherer, John Stetzer, Ray Lancia and Craig Dunham. They have completed more than 110 hours of initial study and will attend monthly continued education.
“The Stephen series program sets a global standard for training, faith-based compassion, gender sensitivity, confidentiality and supervision ...”
The Stephen program at First Baptist Church reports to and is supervised by the Senior Pastor there, Dr. Charles E. Owens.
The program is designed to be a part of the pastoral staff and is under pastoral supervision at every church.“
Scherer said, "This type of regulated ministry allows every pastor to greatly multiply their area of ministering to so many more individuals and families. There are only so many hours available to pastors beyond their normal staff responsibilities and the confidence of having these trained staffers multiplies their ministry for their congregation and especially the Liberty County community. These pastors are overworked and overwhelmed. Stephen Ministers make up a balance that maximizes the possibility that those in need are being reached, many times freeing pastors to focus on areas where they are most needed.”