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What it takes to serve the many needs of our community
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We live in a fast-paced community here in Hinesville, Fort Stewart, Liberty and the surrounding counties.  Many people suffer crises and tragedies, but they don’t have enough caregivers to count on.  

Family members and friends may be scattered across the country, or even the world.  Neighbors and some friends rarely offer the support they once did.  So when a crisis or challenge hits, many people have no one to turn to and end up facing it alone.

Stephen Ministry can help with these overwhelming needs.  With Stephen Ministry, people no longer have to go through crisis and difficulties alone.  Instead, they can have a well-trained, one-on-one, compassionate, gender-sensitive, caring friend, who, in strict confidence, will walk beside them for as long as necessary, providing emotional and spiritual care and directing them to professional referral care if necessary.  Stephen Ministers, both men and women, are taught to recognize needs and trained to make a difference on a one-on-one basis. Although faith-based, the program has no faith-restricted boundaries or requirement from care receivers.

The Stephen 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 properly train gifted lay people to supplement any church with an adjunct to the already overworked pastoral staffs of these churches.   Stephen Ministry greatly multiplies grassroots, one-on-one ministry in many core areas in every community it serves.

As of January 2012,  there are more than 950,000 trained Stephen Ministers in more than 12,000 churches in  162 denominations in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and 29 foreign countries. In addition, there are 65,000 trained Stephen Leaders teaching and supervising the training of Stephen candidates and programs.

The Stephen initial training program here in our community currently is 145 hours in many of today’s core crisis and care topics. After completing the initial course of study, continuing education is completed monthly as an ongoing requirement of the program. The Stephen Series Program sets a global standard for training, faith-based compassion, gender sensitivity, confidentiality and supervision.  We also are affiliated with and refer to professional local, state and outreach organizations that offer professional counseling, medical and physician’s service and many more areas of referral.  More than 50 percent of those we meet require referral assistance.  Our Stephen Ministers are trained to quickly and accurately assess those needs and recommend and help establish the proper referral.  

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 including Fort Stewart.  These pastors are overworked and overwhelmed. Stephen Ministers make up a balance that maximizes the possibility that those in need are being reached, which many times frees pastors to focus on areas where they are most needed.

The program here has been very actively ministering to needs ranging from casual hospital, shut-in and nursing care facility visitation, to crisis intervention due to marital circumstance, deployment, hospice, grief management, hospitalization, disability, substance issues, depression, loss of jobs, family and personal communication and relationship issues and many more.  One of the main areas of need here in the community has been has been related to soldiers and their families, assisting with needs and supplementing over booked counseling and care agencies.  We are able to respond very quickly, especially to acute needs of individuals and families at the time they may be needed.  We have been able to work with many military families especially on issues related to deployment and aftermath issues upon returning.  We also have had the opportunity to work with soldiers in the Wounded Warrior program and their families. The needs in our community are 24/7, and every individual need is approached on a confidential and gender-sensitive basis.

One of the Stephen Ministry’s greatest desires is to speak with other pastors of other churches and denominations here in Liberty County and the surrounding area about this proven ministry and how it might work to expand ministry in their churches.  Our ministry is made up of men and women, young and old, from many walks of life, with experience and the common goal to serve their fellow person with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

If you or someone you know could use a Stephen Minister to walk with them through caregiving that changes lives, or is interested in discussing this outstanding adjunct program for your church, please call 320-7840 for a confidential appointment.

Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.

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