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Stephen ministers called to service
In the pulpit
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First Baptist Church of Hinesville recently began a new ministry program called Stephen Ministry.
Organized in 1975 by Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, Stephen Ministry is a global adjunct organization based in St Louis. The program has trained more than 500,000 active Stephen ministers from more than 10,000 congregations. The trainees hail from more than 150 denominations. Approximately 2 million people in the United States and 29 other countries have benefited from the services of Stephen ministers.
The name Stephen comes from St. Stephen, who was the first layperson commissioned by the apostles to provide caring ministry to those in need (Acts 6).
“This is the first Stephen Ministry program in the outlying region,” said John Scherer, First Baptist minister trainer. “The program is gender sensitive and we currently have eight candidates (four males and four females) in training to serve the men and women of the community. We are almost halfway through our initial training period. This training period will range close to 100 hours based upon our criteria.”
Scherer has been a Stephen minister for 11 years and is active as a pastoral staff volunteer under the direction of First Baptist Senior Pastor Chuck Owens. “The need is great, especially here in Liberty County,” Scherer said.
The program multiplies the number of caregivers by equipping and mobilizing lay people to provide quality Christian care.
“The program is designed to greatly assist the constant need for care receivers to be reached not only in the host church’s congregation, but in the entire community of Liberty County, the surrounding area and Fort Stewart. Today’s pastors are overworked and overwhelmed, and Stephen ministers make up a balance that maximizes the possibility that person in need are being reached,” the trainer said.     
“Stephen ministers are trained in a mandatory minimum 50-hour class environment, which we have extended to 100 hours to include more than 35 core topics. These topics include areas such as basic hospital, home and nursing home visitation, crisis intervention, hospice, grief management, divorce, substance and physical abuse, relationships, deployment, and many more,” he said.
When trainees complete their studies, they will be ordained and commissioned as Stephen ministers and lay pastors and will become members of the pastoral staff, with a minimum two-year service commitment.
“The program, although faith-based, has no faith restricted boundaries or requirements from care recipients. It is based upon a guideline of total confidentiality and professional, proven and training based guidelines,” Scherer said. “The Stephen Ministry program strengthens the ministry of pastors. Typically, the needs for care far exceed what pastors can provide. Stephen ministers help meet those needs, freeing pastors to focus on areas of ministry where they are most needed.”
Pastors who want to participate or enroll members of their congregations in the program can call Scherer at 320-7840 for information.   

Anderson is the author of “Lack of Knowledge” and “Dare to Soar.”
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