The best way to understand how Stephen Ministry works is to learn about three groups of people involved in this ministry: Stephen Leaders, Stephen Ministers, and Care Receivers.
Stephen Leaders establish and direct Stephen Ministry in a congregation. They:
- build awareness of Stephen Ministry within the congregation and community
- recruit and train Stephen Ministers
- meet with potential care receivers to assess their needs
- match care receivers with Stephen Ministers
- provide Stephen Ministers with ongoing supervision and continuing education
Each Stephen Leader has attended a Leader Training Course—a one-week conference that introduces the resources used to lead Stephen Ministry, develops key skills, and gets people excited about this caring ministry. Most congregations begin with two to four Stephen Leaders, typically including a pastor, possibly another church staff person, and one or more lay leaders.
Stephen Ministers are lay caregivers trained in the congregation by Stephen Leaders to offer high-quality, one-to-one Christian care to people going through tough times. A Stephen Minister usually provides care to one person at a time, meeting with that person weekly for about an hour. Twice a month, Stephen Ministers gather with their Stephen Leaders for supervision and continuing education.
Care Receivers are the people going through tough times who are being cared for by Stephen Ministers. They are congregation members as well as others in the community. These are people struggling through a difficult time in life—experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or some other life crisis.