Stephen Ministry offers support to those in crisis
By Teresa Howell
A mom is dying? A child is sneaking out and taking drugs? A husband wants a fast car and a younger wife? Life events like these are common, but finding themselves in a maze of problems, many people are unable to find a way out.
"They are focusing on their pain," explains Pastor Bill Barnes, minister for First Presbyterian Church in Newhall (First Pres), "Sometimes you need someone with you who can refocus you on the solutions."
Stephen Ministry is a complete system geared to provide one-on-one Christ-centered care to hurting people. First Pres, located at 24317 Newhall Avenue, Newhall, California, is starting a Stephen Ministry program, and the first step is gathering dedicated laypersons to be Stephen ministers. On November 8 and 15, 2009, the church is sponsoring an informational meeting at 12:15 p.m. at the Market Street house, located on the church campus.
"These November meetings are informal informational meetings," said Sandy McIntosh, First Pres' Deacon Moderator. "They will give the church family an opportunity to ask questions about Stephen Ministry. We plan to answer questions concerning how Stephen Ministry works, about the training, and commitment to helping people in crisis. After this meeting, each individual will then have to make a personal decision. Each one of us will have to decide if this program is something we can and want to commit to do."
According to McIntosh, the course for Stephen Ministry is 50 hours of training over five months. The Stephen Ministry at First Pres starts January 13, 2010, meeting two hours each week, and ends mid May 2010. During this period, the training will include one Saturday half-day work and
study retreat, approximately five hours.
"For people who go through the training and decide to become a Stephen minister, we are asking for a two year commitment," Pastor Barnes advises.
Characterizing Stephen Ministry as a care-giving ministry of trained lay people, Pastor Barnes states, "The Stephen Ministry provides a safe haven where you can vent what is stressing you, and you can talk about how you can fix it. The relationship is one-on-one, and it is confidential."
According to Sandy McIntosh, the Stephen Ministry is over thirty years old, and it is being used in 10,000 churches.
Reviewing the need for Stephen Ministry, Pastor Barnes explains, "We need this program in our church for our church family because we, like everyone, are hit by heart-rending problems. Sometimes we need a sensitive ear to listen. We need someone to walk beside us and say, 'it will get better.' We need someone to give us direction. Sometimes the pain obscures our way out of a problem because we are focused on the pain. Sometimes we all need help."
Stephen Ministers are trained to help in numerous types of crisis, including loss of loved one, hospitalization, divorce, loneliness, spiritual crisis, unemployment, terminal illness, incarceration, chronic illnesses, and recovery from an accident. Like a substitute teacher that comes in for a
teacher, Stephen Ministers support the pastor's care ministry. McIntosh characterizes the one hour once a week meetings between the caregiver and care receiver as supportive care meetings to provide emotional and spiritual care during a crisis. Phil Aijian, pastoral care at First Pres, explains that Stephen Ministry is a program which can help the community at large, as well as the First Pres church family.
As Aijian explains, "We will not turn someone who is hurting away. If the individual wants help, we will help."
The training for Stephen Ministry at First Press is being led by Pastor Bill, Aijian, and McIntosh. All three have been through the Stephen Ministry training program. According to McIntosh, the Stephen Ministry program at First Pres flows from the Stephen Ministries St. Louis, the sponsoring group for all Stephen Ministry programs. Stephen Ministries is a non-profit Christian educational organization, and it is the creator of the program. Founded in 1975, Stephen Ministries provides training and resources for Stephen Ministry programs like First Pres'. For more information on Stephen Ministry and to sign up to attend the informational
classes, call the church office at 661-259-0555.