Hope United Methodist Church

Stephen Ministry

Who are Stephen Ministers?

Stephen Ministers are members of a congregation who are specially trained to provide emotional and spiritual care to individuals facing a crisis or difficult situation. They demonstrate God’s love by coming alongside care receivers who need a little extra support.

How are Stephen Ministers trained?

After being interviewed and passing reference and background checks, potential Stephen Ministers must complete 50 hours of training. Topics include the art of listening, Christian caring and prayer, confidentiality, assertiveness, boundaries, how to begin and end a caring relationship, depression, grief and loss, ministering to the dying, job loss, and divorce. Stephen Ministers participate in monthly continuing education to help them grow as Christians and as caregivers.

How are Stephen Ministers supervised?

All Stephen Ministers participate in supervision twice a month. This supervision provides support, encouragement, and accountability for each other so that they can continue to provide the highest quality care. During supervision, Stephen Ministers may discuss issues their care receivers are facing, but they never discuss their care receivers by name or give other identifying information. Only the two Stephen Leaders who handle referrals know who is receiving care.

Who are Stephen Leaders?

Stephen Leaders are Stephen Ministers who have undergone extensive additional training and who oversee the Stephen Ministry. They recruit, select, train, organize, and supervise Stephen Ministers. They also identify people in need of care and match them with the trained Stephen Ministers.

Why do Stephen Ministers volunteer?

Stephen Ministers are Christians who have discovered that they have gifts of caring, encouragement, listening, faith, mercy, and compassion. They feel called to serve others through this ministry and participate because they know that in Christ alone there is hope.

What kinds of problems are Stephen Ministers equipped to deal with?

Stephen Ministers support care receivers who are dealing with all sorts of problems. These include, but are not limited to:

The loss of a loved one, divorce or separation, failed relationships, family stress
Hospitalization, serious or chronic illness, aging and dying, recovery after an accident or disaster
Birth, adoption, miscarriage, infertility
Unemployment or job crisis, financial concerns, relocation

Are any problems off-limits?

Stephen Ministers are not equipped to work with minors, those who are at risk of hurting themselves or others, or those who need mental health treatment, therapy, or medication. When necessary, Stephen Ministers refer their care receivers to health professionals or counselors.

Receiving a Stephen Minister
How do I know if I should request a Stephen Minister?

If you’re facing a challenge you can’t deal with on your own, or if you find yourself wearing out your friends and family with your problems, a Stephen Minister might be right for you. Stephen Ministers are specially equipped to walk with you through problems large and small.

How do I request a Stephen Minister?

Contact Pastor Kelly Smith - 727-372-4689 x. 103 or kelly@hope-umc.com

I have a friend who could use a Stephen Minister. How can I refer him or her?

First, talk with your friend about the Stephen Minister program and get his or her permission. Then, contact Pastor Kelly Smith using the contact infomration above. Please do not surprise your friend by referring him or her without permision.

I’m not sure whether I should request a Stephen Minister or contact Pastoral Counseling. What should I do?

At Hope, Stephen Ministry is an extension of pastoral care. Some care receivers start with pastoral counseling and then work with a Stephen Minister once they need a lower level of care. Others move in the opposite direction or work with both a counseling pastor and a Stephen Minister at the same time. If in doubt, contact Pastor Kelly Smith.

How are Stephen Ministers assigned?

When you request a Stephen Minister, Pastor Kelly Smith, a Stephen Ministry Leader, will work to place you. He reviews the list of available Stephen Ministers and determines who would make the best match based on factors such as work schedules and geography to facilitate meetings, potential conflicts (such as being in the same Sunday school class) and your preferences (such as a request for a specific Stephen Minister). After prayerful consideration, he or the assigned Stephen Minister will notify you. You have the chance to bring up any issues or concerns before the assignment is finalized and the relationship begins.

Do I get a man if I’m a man or a woman if I’m a woman?

Yes, care receivers are always paired with a Stephen Minister of the same sex.

I’m a teenager. Can I get a Stephen Minister?

No. Minors are not able to give legal consent to receive care, nor would it be possible or necessarily advisable to guarantee confidentiality since parents have a legal right to know what goes on in any caring relationship where their child is the care receiver. In addition, the United Methodist Church's Safe Sanctuaries policy prohibit one-on-one contact with minors.

My spouse and I have the same issue. Can we work with a Stephen Minister together?

While you may be facing the same issue, you’re probably processing it differently. Therefore, it’s beneficial for each of you to have a unique individual to work with. Furthermore, Stephen Ministers are most effective when they are paired with a single care receiver at a time.

What if my Stephen Minister and I don’t click?

We would encourage you to explore with him or her why this may be the case. Your Stephen Minister could also explore the difficulty in supervision. If all else fails, a new Stephen Minister can be assigned.

Will I get a Stephen Minister with expertise in my issue? Will it be someone who’s been through the same thing?

That is possible, but not a requirement, as Stephen Ministers are trained to listen and help process all sorts of issues. If you request a Stephen Minister with special experience, that request will be considered during the referral process.

Working with a Stephen Minister
When/where/how often will we meet?

You and your Stephen Minister decide. Meetings typically occur once a week and last an hour or so, although the frequency tends to taper off to semimonthly or monthly as things improve. The location could be at church, in your home, at a restaurant, or on a park bench—wherever you feel most comfortable. Phone calls sometimes supplement the meetings, but face-to-face contact is usually most effective, especially early in the process.

What exactly will we do when we meet?

Talk, listen, laugh, cry, pray — whatever you need. Stephen Ministers are trained to listen, not to try and solve the problem.

That sounds a lot like friendship. What’s the difference?

Friendship is a two-way relationship with each person supporting the other. Stephen Ministry is a one-way relationship focused on helping you with your issues. That being said, some Stephen Minister relationship do evolve into friendships.

How long will the Stephen Minister work with me?

Stephen Minister relationships last anywhere from a few weeks to several years. The average length is 18 to 24 months, including a wind-down time. As things improve, the care receiver and Stephen Minister begin to talk about closure and end their formal relationship when the care receiver is ready.

My problem seems small. Can we just meet once or twice?

Caring relationships last as long or short as needed. Keep in mind, however, that it usually takes more than a couple of meetings to establish a trusting relationship.

How can I be assured of confidentiality?

Absolutely. Confidentiality is a cornerstone of Stephen Ministry and is emphasized in both training and supervision. Stephen Ministers do not share what is discussed in their caring relationships. Only the two Stephen Leaders in charge of referrals know who is receiving care. If anyone else finds out, it will only be because you chose to share your experience — which you are certainly free to do if you wish. The only exception to the confidentiality rule would be if a Stephen Minister must share confidential information in order to save a life.

Other Questions
Is there any cost involved?

No. Stephen Ministry is a gift from Christ Church to those in need.

Is Stephen Ministry just for Hope members/visitors? What about my neighbor who’s going through a rough time?

Stephen Ministry is open to family members, friends, church staff, and neighbors who may not be members. The key criteria is ensuring that the caring relationship is safe for the Stephen Minister. We need to know enough about any potential care receiver to ensure safety.

Why is the program called Stephen Ministry?

Stephen Ministry is named after Stephen, who was the first lay person the apostles commissioned to provide caring ministry to those in need (Acts 6).