Individuals needing support and comfort to help cope with a difficult life transition or crisis have a new source of help to call on: the Stephen Ministry program of Urbana United Methodist Church (UUMC).
Stephen Ministry is a not-for-profit organization that helps church congregations across the country and in other nations equip and empower lay caregivers – called Stephen ministers – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting.
Jene Wilson and Nita Bauer lead the Stephen Ministry program at UUMC. They completed extensive training to direct the local program and train church members to serve as Stephen ministers, or caregivers. Seven Stephen ministers – five women and two men – have completed 50 hours of initial training. They will receive continuing education to further enhance their skills, and more Stephen ministers will be trained as the need requires.
The ‘After People’
Stephen ministers are often referred to as the “after people,” Wilson says.
That is, Stephen ministers provide a listening ear, encouragement, comfort and caregiving support to people after – and during – challenging life events and transitions. A few examples: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a financial setback, a life-changing or life-threatening medical diagnosis, divorce, family turmoil, a loved one being deployed for military service, disability, loss of independence, or having a loved one who is sent to prison.
Stephen ministers are matched one-to-one with care receivers. Men are paired with men, and women with women. They meet weekly with their care receivers to listen, care, encourage and provide emotional and spiritual support. And they can refer care receivers to community resources to provide further support as needed.
“You can seek support from a Stephen minister any time you need or are ready for help at a difficult time. It doesn’t have to be immediately after an event in your life,” Wilson says. “A care receiver that one of our ministers recently started meeting with suffered a loss a year ago.”
She adds, “It has to be God’s timing. It is our job to make ourselves available when people are ready.”
For more information about Stephen Ministry, to learn how to seek the help of a Stephen minister, or to learn about upcoming training for new Stephen ministers, call the Urbana United Methodist Church, 937-653-3741.
Information from Urbana United Methodist Church