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 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 crises and difficulties alone. Instead, they can have one-on-one time with a well-trained, compassionate, caring friend, who, in strict confidence, will walk alongside them for as long as necessary, providing emotional and spiritual support while providing a professional-care referral if necessary.
Stephen Ministers, both men and women, are taught to recognize needs and trained to make a difference. The program, although faith-based, 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. Dr. Haulk recognized the need to properly train gifted lay people to supplement the already-overworked pastoral staffs at churches with adjunct counselors.
In September 2010, there were more than 600,000 trained Stephen Ministers in the field in more than 11,000 churches in 159 denominations in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and 27 foreign countries. In addition, there are 58,000 trained Stephen leaders teaching and supervising the training of Stephen candidates and programs.
First Baptist Church- Hinesville has a dedicated and experienced team of Stephen Ministers, which includes eight men and women: Becky Carter, Paulette Stetzer, Desiree Johnson, Judy Scherer, John Stetzer, Ray Lancia, Craig Dunham and director John Scherer. They have completed more than 110 hours of initial study and attend monthly continuing-education courses and meetings.
The Stephen 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 more.
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 the proper referral. The Stephen program at First Baptist Church — and every Stephen program — is designed to be a part of the pastoral staff. The teams are under pastoral supervision at every church.
This type of regulated ministry allows every pastor to greatly multiply his or her area of ministering to many more individuals and families. There are only so many hours available to pastors beyond their normal staff responsibilities, and being able to have confidence in these trained staffers is beneficial to their ministries and their congregations — especially in the Liberty County and Fort Stewart communities.
Pastors are overworked and overwhelmed. Stephen Ministers balance things out and help to guarantee that those in need are being reached, often freeing up pastors to focus on areas where they are most needed.
The program here has been active for the past 20 months, working with our pastoral staff to minister to different needs, ranging from hospitalizations, shut-in and nursing-care facility visitation, crisis intervention due to marital circumstances, deployment, hospice, grief management, disability issues, substance-abuse problems, depression, job loss, relationship issues, family and personal communication conflicts and more.
One of the main areas of need in this community is deployment-related issues. It can be difficult to see to the needs of individuals and families separated by deployment, some for the third or fourth time. We also have had the opportunity to work with soldiers in the Wounded Warrior program and their families.
The Stephen Ministry does not charge those who receive care. Each Stephen-approved church provides this ministry as a part of its outreach to the community.
There are five other Stephen Ministries established at churches in Savannah, but First Baptist-Hinesville has the first program established outside of the Savannah area and north of Brunswick and Jacksonville.
Stephen Minister candidates initially undergo a 100-hour course of study in 25 core topics.
One of our greatest desires is to speak with other pastors at other churches here in Liberty County and the surrounding area about this proven ministry and how it might work in their churches. Our ministry is made up of men and women, young and older, from many walks of life, with experience and the common goal to serve others with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
If you or someone you know would like to have a Stephen Minister walk with him or her and provide care that changes lives, please call 912-320-7840 for a confidential appointment. Learn more about the global Stephen Program at stephenministries.org.