What Does a Stephen Minister Do?

Yesterday I posted about Stephen Ministries. Today I’m providing some additional information about what a Stephen Minister does.

*One-to-one. Each Stephen Minister is matched with one care receiver of the same gender. The two meet in person, typically once a week for about an hour, in a setting both have agreed upon. The caring relationship will be brought to closure when the need for care has been addressed.

*Laity. Stephen Ministers are well-trained, supervised volunteers who provide a high level of care. They are not professional caregivers –their role is different from that of a counselor, therapist, pastor or physician.

*Christian. A Stephen Minister’s care is an expression of Christ’s love and an extension of the care offered by a pastor. When it comes to spiritual matters, Stephen Ministers meet their care receivers where they are, helping the work through challenges without pressuring them or forcing faith on them.

*Care. Stephen ministers care by listening, supporting, praying, and helping their care receivers explore feelings without being judgmental. They offer emotional and spiritual support. Their role does not include providing other types of assistance–such as shopping, transportation, childcare, etc. — although they may help care receivers identify ways to fill those needs.

Graceful Listening

“There is a grace of kind listening, as well as a grace of kind speaking.  Some men listen with an abstracted air, which shows that their thoughts are elsewhere.  Or they seem to listen, but by wide answers and irrelevant questions show that they have been occupied with their own thoughts, as being more interesting, at least in their own estimation, than what you have been saying.  Some interrupt, and will not hear you to the end.  Some hear you to the end, and the forthwith begin to talk to you about a similar experience which has befallen themselves, making your case only an illustration of their own.  Some, meaning to be kind, listen with such a determined, lively, violent attention, that you are at once made uncomfortable, and the charm of the conversation is at an end.  Many persons, whose manners will stand the test of speaking, break down under the trial of listening.  But all these things should be brought under the influences of religion.

Frederick Wm. Faber

Question for the day:  Do you listen gracefully?

For more on listening see these posts:

Loving by Listening

Joan’s Pet Peeve #2– Is Anybody Listening?

Listening to God before We Speak for Him


Joan’s Pet Peeve #2– Is Anybody Listening?

A quote from Pope Francis:

“Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.”

— Message for World Day of Social Communications, Jan. 22, 2016
Here’s my pet peeve for the day–technology can be great, but why can’t I speak with a real person anymore?
We’ve been having trouble getting our newspaper on time lately — now, I don’t mean it’s 30 minutes late, I mean it’s hours late.  Every morning I end up calling the circulation department of the newspaper to report that we don’t have our paper.  When this happened in the past, I would usually be connected with someone who could tell me what the problem was–whether it was temporary or ongoing, and what was being done to resolve it.  Now there is an automated attendant.  You simply punch in a number, depending on your problem, and hear the message “your complaint has been registered.”  I guess I had been calling so frequently that yesterday, the automated attendant told me I should probably to speak with someone and so I was being transferred, but guess what?  I got a voicemail!  I asked for a call back, which I never received.
I also called my doctor’s office with a question about renewing a prescription.  Once again, I was answered by prerecorded message telling me to make a selection.  Since my call was of a “non-urgent” nature, I would have to wait for a call back. (Thankfully in this case, I did actually hear back from someone and was able to have a real conversation  HOORAY!)
My point is this:  efficiency is fine, but often a problem can be solved, or an agreement reached, unless two people actually connect.  Leaving a message may allow someone to “hear” my concern, but it doesn’t mean actual communication has occurred.  In fact, (at least in my case), it often leaves me feeling angry and frustrated.  There are times when I would prefer to wait for a while in order to speak with someone.  That is the only way to properly explain my issue and get an answer.  Even when call backs are made promptly, they may be missed as I cannot put my day on hold to wait.  When this happens, we are caught up in a telephone-tag situation.
Sometimes I feel that people really don’t WANT to communicate with others anymore.  It’s much easier to have a canned response or shoot out a text or email. The task has then been dealt with.  What happened to listening?  What happened to understanding?  What happened to responding with some real emotion such as “I’m sorry” or “I see what you mean” or “I care about what you’re going through?”
That’s it.  My rant for the day.  My point is this — let’s start listening to one another..
“He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.”  Proverbs 18:13

Pet Peeve Rant

Beware, personal opinion rant coming up!!

For years I have noticed that the workers in my building will greet everyone they meet with a “Hi, How are you?”  and then they keep walking.  I just say Hello and also keep walking.  Why do they ask how I’m doing when they obviously don’t want to know?

The time when this would really, really bug me is when I was in the middle of caring for my husband.  I was “walking exhausted” all the time.  I lived on coffee.  In fact, I would drink a half a pot of coffee in the evening just to make it to bedtime.  During this time in my life I really wanted to stop these people and just lay into them and let them know how I felt.  But I didn’t.

Then there are the people that when you ask them how they are doing (and you really want to know) and they say they are “fine”.  What does that mean?  You look at this person and you can tell they are not “fine”, but that’s what they say?  What’s with that?  You are not “fine”.  You are feeling lousy, tired, beat-up, but yet you still say “fine”.  Please….

I’d like everyone who has the habit (because it is a habit!) of asking how everyone is doing and not really caring, to think about this.  If you don’t want to know how someone is doing, Don’t Ask!!  But if you do, take the time to stop and ask like you mean it.  That person may be having a really rough time.  If you ask how they are doing and they tell you about the rough time they are having, then you can listen.  Usually there isn’t a whole lot you can do to help them, but really listen, sympathize with them, pray with them.  Pray right there and then for them and then tell them you will regularly pray for them and then do it!

And to you all that are always “fine”?  Stop it.  Let others know that you are not fine.  If you  need to have someone listen to you, pray with you, then let others know.  I know that when I was in the midst of taking care of my husband that sometimes just talking to someone and praying with them would help.  It didn’t ease my situation, but it did help to lean on someones shoulder for a bit and unburden myself.

We in the body of Christ need to learn to trust and listen to each other and share our burdens.  So start a new habit today…  Ask someone how they are doing, and really mean it.


Biblical Relationship Advice