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#404 Stephen Ministries: Equipping God's People for Ministry

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger
The Truth Network Radio
May 19, 2020 12:56 pm

#404 Stephen Ministries: Equipping God's People for Ministry

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger

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May 19, 2020 12:56 pm

Stephen Ministries founder, Dr. Kenneth Haugk called the show to discuss the work of this extraordinary organization. Dr. Haugk, along with program director, Joel Bretscher, share the scope and vision of Stephen Ministries, as well as the way they are adapting to the social distancing challenges currently facing the world. 

If you want to know more about Stephen Ministries, please call:  314 428 2600 or visit:


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Live on Sirius XM 131. This is Hope for the Caregiver. I am Peter Rosenberger and we are so glad to have you with us. How are you feeling?

How are you doing? This is the show that is for the family caregiver, about the family caregiver, and hosted by a family caregiver. We're thrilled to have you a part of this show today. Do you remember when Dr. Kenneth was on our show? Do you remember when we had Stephen Ministries on the show? Stephen Ministries on the show several years back. And in an interview with Jeff Foxworthy and his wife, Greg, about a month or so ago, and she mentioned that she had got involved with Stephen Ministries. And I thought, gosh, that was so fun. I didn't know that.

I've known him for 20 years. I didn't know that. And so I reached out back out to them at Stephen Ministries and I wanted to have them on the show and talk about a little bit of what's going on during the quarantine. How are they adapting? How are they helping folks with what they do with their ministry? So I just want to bring them both on the show.

I've got Joel Bruxher, who is also a program director there, as well as Dr. Houck. And so welcome, gentlemen. Thank you for being a part of the show today.

Good to be here. Yeah, thank you. Doc, am I saying it wrong? Houck?

Yeah, it is with a K at the end, Houck. That's why, see, I shouldn't second guess myself, John. You've told me about that. I'm well with my, yeah, that's my job.

Yeah. All right. Well, first off, before we begin, because I want to just give as much time to you guys as I possibly can. Dr. Houck, tell us the beginnings and the origin of Stephen Ministries. For those who have no idea what you guys are all about, I love your organization. I love the heart and the passion of what you guys do. Tell us a little bit how it started, what it is, and then I've got some very specific questions for both of you.

All right. I was a pastor serving in a congregation. And by profession, I'm a pastor, but I'm also a clinical psychologist.

So a long time ago, I found out that I couldn't do all the caring myself and give the kind of quality caring that was needed. So I trained nine people in the congregation to provide one-to-one care. Well, it worked so well in our congregation that a couple of the Stephen ministers, the caregivers, said to me, let's share this with other congregations.

Well, after a while we did. And that number is now over 13,000 congregations. And there have been over 600,000 Stephen ministers trained in congregations all over the world.

And they provide one-to-one caregiving for a variety of life struggles. When you started this, I mean, when you look at those numbers now, I mean, that has to just be incredulous to you when you see the explosive growth of what happened with you guys. Yeah, it is. I feel really good about that. And it is a lot of fun. It is so good diving into caring with Stephen leaders whom we train and indirectly through Stephen ministers whom the Stephen leaders train. Well, and my wife was a direct recipient of one of the Stephen ministers you trained.

I mean, that's how we got tied in. Of course, I've heard about you guys for years, but then when it intersected us at a very critical time in our life, I was just so deeply moved by what you guys bring to the table, what you offer and how you're impacting people's lives, you know, every day around the world now with this. And it's a whole different kind of minister, one that I absolutely wholeheartedly endorse and see such tremendous value in. And I want to be able to introduce as many people as I can to what you guys do.

Joe, tell us a little bit of what you do. Yeah, it's interesting because I came in, got involved in Stephen ministry on the ground level ground level where I was trained as a Stephen minister at my church where I was going in Phoenix, Arizona. And it was a life-changing experience to me. That was way back in 1987 that I trained as a Stephen minister and served as a Stephen minister for many years there. And then I came on board, moved to St. Louis and came to work at Stephen ministries and as a writer and editor and program developer and teacher, all of us in Stephen ministries wear about 10 different hats and we all work together well.

And so I started off on the front line and now I'm working for the headquarters. In this time now, as we're dealing with this, when the country is so isolated in quarantine, we're family members and the churches and so forth. Dr. Howe, how has this changed the scope of what you guys do? Well, first thing, what we are finding is that congregations involved in Stephen ministry are using their Stephen ministers to the fullest. First of all, traditionally one-to-one caring and the one-to-one caring situations that were going on before the pandemic continue.

Most of them are now by the phone or Zoom or some other mechanism. So the one-to-one caregiving continues and congregations are finding that people are needing more or more people are needing one-to-one caring. So that is increasing. Another thing that's happening, which is so cool, is that when congregations in this pandemic and when they're not meeting, they want to keep in touch with their members, as well as attendees who are not necessarily members. They are marshaling the Stephen ministers to call entire congregations just to check in with them to find out how they're doing. So Stephen ministers are doing weekly one-to-one caring in congregations and they're also doing touching base with members and attendees. Dr. Howe, if you had to encapsulate in one sentence what a Stephen minister does, what does an average Stephen minister encounter look like, what would that be? Okay, I'll try to string together a long sentence, maybe kind of like the Germans do.

The Germans like to string together sentences and words that go on seemingly for paragraphs. Stephen ministers listen, they don't lecture. They share Jesus' love. They are the embodiment of Jesus. They are present, fully present with individuals. They share God's love with people and they're now doing this over the phone.

They listen. They provide a means by which people can pour their hearts out to them. They pour their hearts out when they have lost a loved one by death. They pour their hearts out when they are going through a divorce or separation.

They pour their hearts out when they are terminally ill or otherwise suffering. So Stephen ministers care for a whole wide variety of life crises and life situations that many of us go through at various times in our lives. You yourself were a recipient of this kind of care in your family?

Yeah, I was. My wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she had a Stephen minister herself and I did too from the perspective I was a caregiver. I was suffering right alongside my wife and I was able to talk to a Stephen minister to share a lot of my feelings with another person outside of the family and that was just fantastic to be able to do that. Was it a little bit surreal being, you know, the recipient of that care for you for somebody who envisioned this entire program that has now gone on to such a global reach and here you were finding yourself in that situation? How was that for you? It was, as a matter of fact, the person who cared for me was someone whom I trained at one of our leaders training courses and I did not have any trouble with that because I know that in order to provide good care, my role was as a care receiver. I didn't need to take over and wax eloquent about anything. I was there to be to talk and to be listened to and to share feelings. So it was kind of surreal, it was but it was very very gratifying at the same time. Were they nervous?

I just gotta ask. I was gonna say did you give them good notes? They weren't nervous.

I mean they're doing this for the man himself and I mean did they feel self-conscious or did they just jump right into it? I don't think he was nervous because I communicated very clearly that I was there to receive care and I think, you know, it's like in our staff at Stephen Ministries and when I'm there, I work very hard not to be bigger than life just to fit in and that's how I did it with my Stephen Minister. That's wonderful to hear. Joel, what's changed with you now that we're dealing with this global pandemic? What are some things that you see as the core needs of people that have risen to the surface and what are some thoughts you have on this? Yeah, it's like Stephen Ministries were, before this whole thing hit, Stephen Ministries were already out there with their care receivers who were going through issues like grief or divorce or a medical crisis or unemployment or whatever the life challenge was and then this pandemic hit and it's increased those needs for care that the person who was already struggling with that life difficulty, now on top of that they're going through all of the, you know, the isolation that's going on and the fear and the anxiety or people losing their job or, you know, struggling financially or just the increased stress so that Stephen Ministries were already providing that care and now those care receivers, their needs have increased substantially and so Stephen Ministries themselves are also feeling that tension of everything going on that we're all feeling right now as we go through this and, you know, in a sense one really neat part of Stephen Ministries is that Stephen Ministries get twice monthly peer supervision where they come together and they support each other in their ministry and that's really been really important right now during this crisis that the Stephen Ministries, when they're providing that care, they're also receiving care from each other as they go through it. When you are, now I assume that you guys are having to do a lot of things by telephone and video conferencing now, do you see the impact of the not physically being in the same room or do you feel like that's been able to adapt pretty quickly? I think it's, I think Stephen Ministries are adapting, it's still, you know, when somebody's going through any kind of life struggle, nothing beats having a warm-blooded living, breathing person sitting right next to you, possibly holding your hand or giving you that pat on the back or praying with you, you know, to have that person right there is just so valuable and right now, given circumstances, Stephen Ministries can't do that and be there physically with that person. So they are doing, they're adapting and doing their best by carrying over the phone or through Zoom or through Skype or other electronic means to do the best they can and I think every Stephen Minister and care and every care receiver out there are looking forward to that day when they can get back together and start meeting in person because that's, you know, having that person right next to you is just so helpful but they're doing the best they can and they've adapted and adapted really well to the challenges that all of us are facing right now. Well these are things that as I'm watching this whole, our country kind of struggled with this whole thing and I know the scope of what you guys do and I know how important it is and I know how isolated and lonely people feel and now it's even, it's, like you said, Dr. Hauck, it's escalated even more.

I've got a couple more questions I want to ask you if you could hang on through the break. This is Peter Rosenberger. This is Hope for the Caregiver. We're talking with Stephen Ministries. This is Dr. Kenneth Howe who founded it and Joel Bresher who is one of the program directors there.

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An independent associate. Welcome back to Hope for the Caregiver here on Sirius XM 131. This is Peter Rosenberger. This is the nation's number one show for you as a family caregiver. 877-655-6755. If you want to be a part of the show 877-655-6755.

We're talking with Stephen Ministers. It's a wonderful organization that is a ministry of presence. They listen. They spend time with people who are hurting and the founder of this organization is Dr. Kenneth Howe and I've had the privilege of interviewing him several years back and just love the conversation. He brought along a friend today with Joel Bretscher who is one of the program directors and do you guys got time for a lightning round of questions?

Because I got a lot of them. Sure. All right so Joel I'm gonna start with you. If somebody wants to volunteer and be a part of what you guys are doing, what are you looking for? What type of person are you looking for?

What are you looking for? A Stephen Minister is somebody who is patient and caring, is willing to listen. Somebody who isn't going to jump in and try and fix things for the person because we can't fix another person's issues but is just going to be a conduit of God's love and then they would work with their local congregation. Stephen Ministers are very well trained before they go into their get assigned to a care receiver. So really it's just somebody who wants to be a faithful caring listener even if you don't feel you've got the precise skills. I remember when I before I became a Stephen Minister I wondered could I really do this?

But I was very well trained, very well supported to do it and that's why there's you know over 600,000 people over the years have now been trained as Stephen Ministers. So they don't have to be theologians, they don't have to have all this vast reservoir of knowledge, they just have to care and and have a sincere faith and just want to be able to care for folks and you guys will handle the heavy lifting on all the training. Yeah exactly and you know one of the phrases we use in Stephen Ministry is the Stephen Minister is the caregiver and God is the cure giver. That you focus on the process of listening and caring and embodying Christ's presence and let God work through you to bring about the healing that that care receiver needs.

That is that is awesome. Okay Dr. Howe what type of churches participate in this? Is it any type of church, any type of denomination, in Independence? You got it everything is any any church that wants to get involved with this is that pretty much the case? Yeah any any Christian church. We across around the world we there are Christian churches of over 180 denominations that are involved in Stephen Ministry. So we're from Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists and Lutherans and independent congregations you name it Stephen Ministry is in those churches. I'm sorry I don't know this but that's why I'm asking do you have a program that specifically connects to pastors with a Stephen Ministry emphasis on that pastor who pastors need this kind of care and do you have something like that? Well a lot of people who come to our one week leaders training courses are pastors and then they go back and sometimes they serve as Stephen leaders and at other times they let lay people run Stephen Ministry and they provide referrals to Stephen ministers. But in terms of pastors it's interesting that you ask that question. A number of years ago I wrote a book which is now in its second edition called Antagonists in the Church How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict and pastors love that book because it talks about the one percent of a congregation that might be troublemakers and you know very unhealthy individuals. So in that sense we do you know we do some significant ministry through that book to pastors. I know a couple pastors I need to send that book to you know wherever wherever two or three are gathered there will be problems. But I see now as the country is struggling now on what does pastoral care look like what does ministry look like and I see you guys emerging as a tremendous already you're already a tremendous resource but now it's even exponential of what you guys can bring to the table because I think people are just so unsettled and they're so fearful and troubled in these things and you guys are ready to step in.

You've been ready for this for years didn't necessarily know you were being ready for a pandemic but that doesn't but you're still ready for it because you've been preparing for dealing with these kinds of things for a lifetime and so I just love what you guys do. It's an extraordinary ministry. If people want to get in touch with you guys what's the best way for them to do it?

Well I think it's a great way to it. They can call us at 314-428-2600 or they can just look us up on the web or if you just google Stephen Ministries you'll get to our website. I do appreciate very much you guys taking the time to call in today and it is a it's an extraordinary ministry and it's a it's a it's a powerful work. We have been recipients of this in my family and I am very grateful to to you all for what you do and I'm going to put this out on our podcast. I'm going to put this out on our website and I want as many people as possible to touch and connect with you all because I think that the not just to receive your care but to also participate in what you're doing and be trained by you guys and go out and continue this great work. Thank you for what you do.

Thank you for what you did for my family and what you continue to do and and for some of the other families out there and and I just I'm just grateful for you. And thank you and I just want to say it was nice to hear Gracie's voice. Oh she's rocking. She's got a new record out. Thank you for that.

It's called Resilient and she is indeed resilient but she you know she got the coronavirus and yeah but she punched through it and she is she is doing much better and we're still working on a I think it made her a little bit tired or maybe she's just tired of me John. I don't know. I think we can knock that one down as a mark that one down as a yes yeah. Survey says.

Yeah 54 top response. Joel, Dr. Hauke, thank you very much. I'm going to put this out on the podcast put this out on the on the web page. Thank you for taking the time to call on a Sunday afternoon. I really do appreciate what you guys do okay. Thank you. All right. Same here. All right.

All right we'll see you. This is Hope for the Caregiver. This is Peter Rosenberger. This is the show for you as a family caregiver. You know healthy caregivers make better caregivers. This is how we do it is learning to connect with folks who bring this level of ministry and care and I love what they say they don't try to fix it.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-23 16:02:59 / 2024-01-23 16:11:37 / 9

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