A Denver area church uses lay leaders through its Stephen Ministry to comfort and support people affected by difficult life circumstances.
Stephen Ministers at First CRC meet together.
First Christian Reformed Church in Denver, Colo., started working with Stephen Ministries about four years ago. At that time the church trained 12 people to work in the ministry. Four years later the program is still going strong.
“We are not professional counselors, we are not therapists. We are lay leaders . . . trained to provide Christian care and a listening ear,” said Alice Waanders, one of the leaders of the ministry.
Becoming a Stephen Minister is a serious commitment. “It’s not just whoever signs on the dotted line,” said Waanders. “They have to interview and be accepted. Stephen Ministry is a national program with headquarters in St. Louis. It is very well-organized, and their training has been excellent.” Volunteers receive 50 hours of training to work in the ministry.
One recipient of the care at First CRC said, “I sought the care of a Stephen Minister after experiencing the loss of a family member. The most beneficial part of being on the receiving end was knowing that I could share my feelings in confidence, receive wonderful spiritual care, and spend meaningful time in prayer.”
“One of the tenets of Stephen Ministry is that it is confidential, enabling people to speak freely without fear of judgment from anyone,” Waanders said.
Recipients of care are screened prior to being counseled. Stephen Ministry counselors do not deal with addictions or severe psychological problems, nor do they offer services to anyone under age 18.
“The number of people we care for in a month varies greatly,” said Waanders. “Several of our care receivers have used our services for well over a year, and others have had their needs met with as little as a single meeting.”