What Is Stephen Ministry?
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, NRSV).
Stephen Ministry is the one-to-one lay caring ministry that takes place in congregations that use the Stephen Series system.
Stephen Ministry congregations equip and empower lay caregivers—called Stephen Ministers—to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting.
How Stephen Ministry Works
The best way to understand how Stephen Ministry works is to learn about three groups of people involved in this ministry: Stephen Leaders, Stephen Ministers, and care receivers.
Stephen Leaders establish and direct Stephen Ministry in a congregation. They—
- build awareness of Stephen Ministry within the congregation and community
- recruit and train Stephen Ministers
- meet with potential care receivers to assess their needs
- match care receivers with Stephen Ministers
- provide Stephen Ministers with ongoing supervision and continuing education
People learn to serve as Stephen Leaders by attending a Leader’s Training Course—a one-week conference that introduces the resources used to lead Stephen Ministry, develops key skills, and gets people excited about this caring ministry. Most congregations begin with two to four Stephen Leaders, typically including a pastor, possibly another church staff person, and one or more lay leaders.
Stephen Ministers are congregation members trained by Stephen Leaders to offer high-quality, one-to-one Christian care to people going through tough times. A Stephen Minister usually provides care to one person at a time, meeting with that person once a week for about an hour. Twice a month, Stephen Ministers gather with their Stephen Leaders for supervision and continuing education.
- What Is a Stephen Minister?—Stephen Ministers describe how much they grow from serving in this ministry.
- Stephen Minister Training—“The Best 50 Hours of Training You’ll Ever Experience!”
Care receivers are people—congregation members and others in the community—who receive care from a Stephen Minister. These are people struggling through a difficult time in life—experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or some other life crisis.
Some important guidelines for this caring relationship protect both the care receiver and the Stephen Minister:
- The relationship between a care receiver and a Stephen Minister is confidential.
- Men are matched with men; women with women.
- When a care receiver’s needs exceed what a Stephen Minister can provide, the Stephen Ministry team makes a referral to an appropriate mental health professional or other community resource.
The Blessings of Stephen Ministry
Stephen Ministry multiplies blessings throughout the church and community.
- Congregations receive a practical and powerful way to respond to Christ’s commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 RSV).
- Pastors have a team of gifted, trained, and committed lay caregivers ready to minister to hurting people (information for pastors).
- Laypeople nurture and use their gifts in meaningful ministry, growing spiritually as they serve others.
- People who are hurting have a compassionate companion—a caring Christian friend who provides emotional and spiritual support.
Stephen Ministry Is Built to Last
You’ll find Stephen Ministry in congregations from more than 160 Christian denominations, across the U.S. and Canada and in 29 other countries.
Stephen Ministry is built to last—going strong for over 20 or even 30 years in hundreds of congregations.
Since Stephen Ministries was founded in 1975:
- More than 12,000 congregations have enrolled in the Stephen Series.
- More than 70,000 pastors and lay leaders from those congregations have been equipped at Leader’s Training Courses.
- More than 600,000 laypeople have received Stephen Minister training.
- More than one-and-a-half-million people have had a Stephen Minister to walk with them, providing one-to-one Christian care during tough times.