Stephen's Ministry at RCPC
By Vickie Haynie with thanks to Molly Koon
The Stephen Ministry is a worldwide, independent, not-for-profit Christian education organization. Since 1975, more than 600,000 individuals from more than 13,000 congregations and other organizations have been trained as Stephen Ministers. One can find a Stephen Ministry in congregations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as in 30 other countries.
It is a lay caregiving ministry that supplements pastoral care within the church congregation. The program teaches laypersons to provide one-on-one care for individuals who request support. The confidential caregiver and care-receiver relationship, usually conducted by weekly visits, may continue for months, sometimes longer. Reasons for requesting a Stephen Minister’s visits may range from grieving the loss of a loved one, experiencing a major illness, divorce, job loss, or other life difficulties.
When a care receiver’s needs exceed what a Stephen Minister can provide, a referral is made to a mental health professional or other community resources, upon the receiver’s request.
The Stephen Ministry was offered at RCPC for 15 years, from 1997-2012. Four church members were trained in Orlando, Florida: Molly Koon, Martha Edmunds, Margaret Allison, and Edna Yost. Our minister, the Rev. Tupper Garden, was also a part of that training. Over time, the “Orlando Team” trained 10-12 additional church members to serve as Stephen Ministers. Many of our congregants received this beneficial support during a difficult time in their lives. People who were hurting had a compassionate companion and a caring Christian friend who provided emotional and spiritual support.
Bear one another’s burden, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, NRSV).