Some people find it hard to admit they need help, while others are screaming inside and scared, hoping to find an objective person to just listen and try to resolve their problem. The problems — there are many to choose from — stem from everyday issues, underlying circumstances, issues gathered over the course of a lifetime and immediate crises.
Some people feel their needs are too personal to speak with a family member or friend and they have tried to speak with others but their concerns haven’t been addressed directly or followed up on. But there are people, right here in the community, who truly realize that everyone needs help in a life transition. Seeking that help is a sign of strength as well as an opportunity to grow personally and, in many cases, spiritually.
A Stephen Minister can help. Stephen Ministers are there for those who are dealing with separation, both emotionally and physically, illness and hospitalization, depression, moving and relocation, loss of a loved one, financial setbacks, family frustrations and challenges, serious or terminal illness, job related issues, childbirth, youth and teen concerns, aging and the elderly, divorce, substance, physical or emotional abuse, pregnancy/adoption, faith issues, disability and many more concerns that happen every day.
We also have care receivers who are in our military — many based here at Fort Stewart — who are going through issues dealing with deployment. Military families have many needs ranging from deployment, children’s emotional and behavioral issues, school, loneliness, depression, separation from spouse and other everyday concerns that the non-military community may not quite understand.
A Stephen Minister is a caring, compassionate friend and caregiver, a good listener, someone who is bound to total confidentiality and a firm believer in God. Stephen Ministry is faith-based, but faith is not a requirement to be a care receiver. The ministry is gender-sensitive, totally confidential and there is never a cost to anyone.
The Stephen Ministry was founded in 1975 by Dr. Ken Haugk, an ordained minister and clinical psychologist in St. Louis who recognized the needs of many in communities to have someone to talk to in times of difficulty. He also realized the growing need for this ministry was in churches, where pastoral employees were overworked and understaffed and couldn’t adequately meet the needs of their congregations and surrounding communities.
Haugk then created training guidelines for qualified lay people to study and become Stephen Ministers. The program is a direct adjunct to pastoral care-giving and a way to serve the needs of many throughout the country while multiplying the ministry.
Today, there are more than 700,000 trained Stephen Ministers and 58,000 Stephen Leaders in more that 12,000 churches in 150 denominations throughout the United States, and even more throughout Canada and 29 foreign countries. The ministry program must be sponsored by an individual church through a qualifying process. There are four Stephen Ministry programs in Savannah and the unit here in Hinesville is the first in the Savannah regional outlying area.
The local Stephen Ministry in Hinesville is sponsored by First Baptist Church. There are eight trained Stephen Ministers here who have completed an initial 110 hours of classroom and clinical training, covering a course study of 25 core topics related to care-giving. There are four women and four men, and anyone who wants to speak with a Stephen Minister will do so one-on-one in a gender-sensitive environment.
Much of the program pertains to direct impact referral and the Stephen Program is actively connected to virtually every community, state and government agency as well as private sources and includes special needs. Continuing education classes are held each month.
In forthcoming articles, we will bring information that may deal with circumstances you or someone you know — a friend or family member — may be facing. If you or someone you know could benefit from the care of a Stephen Minister, call John at 320-7840.
Scherer is coordinator of Stephen Ministry in Hinesville.