Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

New online leader training helps churches begin or expand Stephen Ministry

9/10/2021

Stephen Ministries St. Louis is now training caring ministry leaders through a live, interactive online training experience called the Bridge Leader’s Training Course (BLTC). This event fully trains Stephen Leaders—the pastors, church staff, and lay leaders who begin and lead Stephen Ministry in their congregation.

The BLTC draws on newly redesigned and updated Stephen Ministry resources to equip participants with the skills and know-how to lead all aspects of their congregation’s Stephen Ministry. This includes training a team of congregation members as lay caregivers (called Stephen Ministers), matching them with hurting people in the congregation and community, and offering ongoing guidance and support to Stephen Ministers as they provide one-to-one, Christ-centered care to people experiencing a wide range of life difficulties.

“We serve over 13,000 churches in 180 denominations, and the United Methodist denomination is our top one,” said Amity Haugk, contact for Stephen Ministry. “We don’t know why, but it may be an emphasis on lay people being involved in ministry.”

Established in 1975, Stephen Ministry is a lay caring ministry being used by thousands of congregations of all types, sizes, and settings—across the US, Canada, and 30 other countries. Stephen Leaders in these congregations have equipped more than 600,000 people as Stephen Ministers, who in turn have cared for millions of people in need. The new training and resources carry this ministry into the future, preparing congregations to meet the ministry challenges of an ever-changing world.

“We’ve seen a huge increase of interest in Stephen Ministry over the past year and a half,” says Joel Bretscher, Program Director at Stephen Ministries St. Louis. “Pastors have always had an incredible caregiving load, tending to more needs than they could ever meet alone, and the pandemic has brought even more of those needs to the surface. It’s underscored the importance of having a team of well-trained caregivers, which is why so many churches have been relying on their Stephen Ministry and so many more are getting it started. The Bridge Leader’s Training Course, the new training resources, and the updated system have made it quicker and easier for congregations to begin Stephen Ministry or strengthen an existing Stephen Ministry.”

The Bridge Leader’s Training Course is delivered via Zoom to cohorts of twenty people, led by two members of Stephen Ministries’ teaching faculty. Each session uses a variety of teaching methods—presentation, small- and whole-group discussions, skill practice, video, and more. The course consists of ten sessions held twice weekly for five weeks or once weekly for ten weeks.

The Bridge Leader’s Training Course has welcomed participants from churches across the United States and Canada, as well as from other countries including Australia, China, Germany, and Switzerland. Since the initial cohort in July 2020, more than a thousand individuals representing hundreds of congregations have completed the training from the convenience of their own home or office and are now serving as Stephen Leaders.

“I’m a new pastor at a church that already has a strong Stephen Ministry,” said Rev. Tom Newman from Concord United Methodist Church in Roxboro, North Carolina, which has had Stephen Ministry since 2011. “The Bridge Leader’s Training Course was a very positive, engaging experience. Now I’m prepared to support the Stephen Ministry at our church in the best ways I can.”

“The Bridge Leader’s Training Course was an amazing experience—thorough, engaging, and uplifting,” said Melissa de Boer, a Stephen Leader with Onalaska United Methodist Church in Onalaska, Wisconsin. “There’s really no way I can’t succeed as a Stephen Leader after having been through this course.”

To learn more about Stephen Ministry, visit www.stephenministries.org or call (314) 428-2600. Additional information about the Bridge Leader’s Training Course is available at www.stephenministries.org/bridge.

 

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