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An Introduction to Stephen Ministry for Pastors

A Letter from Rev. Kenneth C. Haugk, Ph.D.

Dear Pastor,

In 1975, at my first parish in St. Louis, Missouri, I quickly encountered a reality of pastoral ministry: The needs for care in the congregation and community far exceed what any pastor can provide alone.

Led by the Spirit, with a firm conviction in the priesthood of all believers and the role of the pastor to equip the saints for the work of ministry, I drew on my background in theology and my training as a clinical psychologist to equip nine parishioners to be the first Stephen Ministers.

Pastors in more than 13,000 congregations have found Stephen Ministry to be an extremely effective way to expand their caring ministry and help carry out the mission of the church. This lay caring ministry functions as an extension of your own pastoral care ministry, reducing the load you carry yourself while meeting real needs and involving more people in active ministry.

I invite you to call us at (314) 428-2600 and ask to speak with someone on our pastoral staff. We would be happy to answer your questions and help you explore the possibility of Stephen Ministry in your church.

God bless you in your ministry.

In Christ,
Rev. Kenneth C. Haugk, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
Stephen Ministries St. Louis

What Is Stephen Ministry?

Stephen Ministry is a system for organizing, equipping, and supervising a team of congregation members to provide high-quality, one-to-one, Christ-centered care to people experiencing life difficulties in the congregation and the community.

Stephen Ministry involves three main groups:

  • Stephen Leaders are lay leaders, church staff, and pastors chosen by the leaders of the congregation and trained by faculty from Stephen Ministries St. Louis to provide ongoing leadership for their congregation’s Stephen Ministry.

  • Stephen Ministers are congregation members trained by their Stephen Leaders to offer care to people who are hurting. A Stephen Minister typically has one care receiver at a time and meets with that person once a week for about an hour.

  • Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty and who are matched with a Stephen Minister.

Learn more here.

Stephen Ministry fills a crucial caring need, providing an additional layer of crisis care and ongoing care through a team of well-trained, well-supervised, reliable laypeople.

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How Are Stephen Ministers Equipped for Ministry?

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Pastors can feel confident referring people to Stephen Ministry because they know their Stephen Ministers are carefully selected, well trained, and well supervised. Stephen Ministry uses an interview and selection process to make sure each caregiver is a good fit for this ministry, and many pastors choose to be involved in this process. Stephen Ministers are then trained in the congregation by their Stephen Leaders to provide a high level of emotional and spiritual care to those experiencing life crises.

Read more about the training here.

What’s the Pastor’s Role in Stephen Ministry?

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It varies—some pastors choose to be deeply involved in Stephen Ministry, including by training as Stephen Leaders themselves, while others rely on lay Stephen Leaders to handle the day-to-day leadership. In any Stephen Ministry congregation, though, the pastor provides support in tangible ways, and the congregation’s Stephen Ministry supports the pastor in turn.

How Does Stephen Ministry Benefit the Pastor?

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In addition to supporting the congregation as a whole, Stephen Ministry benefits and supports you as pastor in a number of important ways.

  • It extends your pastoral care—while pastors will always be the frontline caregivers, Stephen Ministers add to the amount of ongoing, consistent care you and your congregation can provide.

  • It optimizes your time, allowing you to focus on other aspects of ministry you are uniquely gifted and called to do.

  • It helps create a growing base of spiritually mature members, deepening their faith and involving them in active ministry.

  • It promotes clergy health through a group of fellow caregivers who take a significant portion of the caregiving load off your shoulders and provide you with personal support.

Read more about the benefits here.

How Does Stephen Ministry Support the Congregation’s Mission?

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Stephen Ministry aligns with and helps carry out several key components of the mission of the church.

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For a closer look at how Stephen Ministry helps the church achieve its mission, read “The Missional Value of Christian Care for 21st-Century Congregations” by Rev. David A. Paap, Program Director Emeritus of Stephen Ministries St. Louis.

What Are Other Pastors Saying about Stephen Ministry?

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Where Can I Learn More?

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Videos about Stephen Ministry

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A Heartfelt Message from a Stephen Ministry Pastor to His Congregation
The Stephen Minister Training Experience

How Do We Get Stephen Ministry Started?

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The first steps to beginning Stephen Ministry are simple.

  • Enroll your congregation—a onetime process.

  • Register one or more people for the Bridge Leader’s Training Course, where they’ll be equipped as your first Stephen Leaders.

  • Upon completion of their training, your Stephen Leaders will then train your first Stephen Ministers—who will provide one-to-one, Christ-centered care to those who need it.

Learn more here.