Think of your darkest moments. Maybe you are living in them now. What would it be like to have the tangible felt presence of Christ there with you? Have you found yourself longing to have someone that you can regularly depend on to be near? Do you wonder what it would be like to pour out your heart to a person - knowing that they will listen, not judge, or feel overwhelmed by the struggles you face? Sometime we just need one person who will walk along side of us for the long haul.
Most of us, in difficult seasons of life, long for the gift of care. Grace to be extended to us during our time of need. Someone to give care when we feel the most alone. There is grace and hope found in sharing our burdens with others.
I received an incredible gift this week. It was the gift of discovering Stephen Ministry. I was sent to a week long training conference to learn how to lead and begin Stephen Ministry in our church. This ministry will become a large focus in my portfolio as Pastoral Care and Communications Pastor at Evangel.
Stephen Ministry is a Christ-centered one-on-one lay caregiving ministry where lay members of the church receive training to give quality Christian care to those that are in difficult seasons of life. In essence, it is being Christ's hands of love and healing extended. A caring and supportive presence in a person's life.
What I discovered and how I grew this week extended beyond the impeccable leadership training I was given. I certainly feel well equipped to-with God's help-walk our church through the process of beginning this new ministry. But beyond that, I was so blessed by the passion and calling that this organization has to move beyond spiritual care to include emotional care as well. Included in this was the passion and calling to equip lay church members to operate in the gifts that God has given them of mercy, compassion, care, etc. This ministry multiplies the efforts of the Pastoral staff in ways that will forever impact people's lives and hearts.
Time and time again, I have felt defeat because I couldn't walk ongoing with a person through their season of struggle. I certainly would check in and be available when I could. However, I could not and realistically cannot be the main support and ongoing presence in their lives. No Pastor can. Pastors do the best we can, but our role is to care for the people as a whole. And, as soon as one crisis has settled - another one comes up and you must move forward to be available for that one.
It is heart breaking to know you cannot always be present. Most Pastors, I think, fight the hero complex for multiple reasons. Yet, at the heart of most, is a strong passion and burden for people to be loved, cared for, and drawn closer to Christ.
Imagine my excitement to learn of a ministry that "equips the saints" just as it references in Ephesians 4:11-13.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Stephen Ministry will allow the church to multiply the care given to those who need love and support. When we assign someone a Stephen Minister, we can rest in confidence knowing that they are receiving the love, care, encouragement, and more they need to walk in this season of life.
My passion and calling is to "bind up the broken-hearted" - bringing the hope of Christ to those that have been broken by the difficulties of life. I believe that in pairing spiritual and emotional health, a person will experience deep and transformational change thus experiencing the abundant life that Christ offers.
I sat humbled and amazed to hear of a ministry that is doing those very things while equipping others to do it as well. It strengthened my faith and my own passion to serve others in this way. Grace certainly "found" me at this conference, and this time of training became a huge "grace moment" in my life.
God is so faithful. I felt very emotional all week. I heard story after story of those that had experienced first hand this ministry of care in their life. Their lives were changed. They received hope and life in the darkness they faced. I heard stories of those that experienced first hand what it meant to serve in this ministry as care givers - how the training they received revolutionized the way they related to those around them, transformed their capacity to love and care for others.
I thought often of my mom, and how she would have benefited greatly from a Stephen Minister after my dad died and again, when she was diagnosed with cancer. I thought of myself and my sisters who could have used the support and ongoing encouragement of someone who would not comment on our situation or grief, but would simply listen and be present as we shared our disappointment, our fears, our anger, our sadness-our pain.
God has used the ashes of my life, the losses, the insurmountable pain to cultivate and to plant a desire for true change in my life and true change in the lives of those around me. A desire to become healthy and whole in all areas - body, soul, and spirit. A desire to be a tangible felt presence in people's lives of His hope, His love, and His redemption. He has fulfilled His promises to redeem and restore that which has been lost. That is the message of hope I speak of - His promise to restore, redeem, and transform - even when all hope seems lost and all that we hold dear has been stripped away from us. And, Stephen Ministry will offer this hope to others.
I sat in those training sessions being reminded over and over again of His incredible faithfulness. I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn, to grow, to discover. I am so grateful our church will be implementing this in the future, and that I have the opportunity to be a part in being Christ's hands extended to our church and community.