Who are Stephen ministers?

Stephen ministers provide a listening ear and a loving heart to people in our community who are going through challenging times in their lives. We are not professional counselors; instead, we are caring Christians to be with, one-on-one, in troubling times.

  • Trained: Before they are commissioned, Stephen ministers complete 50 hours of training on topics like listening, feelings, boundaries, and confidentiality. 
  • Laypeople: Stephen ministers are well trained and supervised volunteers who provide a high level of care. They are not professional care-givers—their role is different from that of a counselor, therapist, pastor, or physician. 
  • One-on-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 they have both agreed on. 
  • Christian: A Stephen minister’s care is an extension of Christ’s love and an expression of the pastoral care of SRVUMC. When it comes to spiritual matters, Stephen Ministers meet their care receivers where they are, helping them 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, while offering emotional and spiritual support. Their role does not include providing other types of assistance— such as shopping, transportation, childcare, and other such types of help—although at times they may help care receivers identify ways to fill those needs.

What happens in a visit?

Visits typically occur weekly for about an hour. Visits will be one-on-one, so you can talk freely with your Stephen minister. You and your Stephen minister will agree on a private place, often your home or the San Ramon Valley UMC campus, to meet.

During each meeting, your Stephen minister will listen to your thoughts and feelings about the particular challenge that brought you together. Stephen ministers are not professional counselors and will encourage you to draw your own insights. If you like, you can pray together, discuss spiritual matters that seem relevant, or consider the Bible together…or not, depending on how you would like to spend your time.

Your Stephen minister will not provide other types of assistance, like shopping, transportation, or care for dependents. If you need help with any of those things, your Stephen minister might be able to identify some resources that can help you with those needs.

What happens at our first meeting?

The first visit is a time to get to know each other and for you to share what is happening in your life and what your needs or goals might be. Often the needs and goals in the beginning are simply to share with someone who cares. Over time, as you process your feelings, this discussion will help you gain insight. Your needs may change, and a care giver is trained to help facilitate your processing of those needs as well.

Also, on the first visit, the Stephen minister will talk with you about ongoing peer Stephen Ministers’ training meetings and how confidentiality works. Your relationship with the care giver is always confidential unless you choose for someone to know about it.

Do Stephen Ministry relationships end?

Yes. Eventually, the formal one-hour visits with your Stephen minister will end, but they may continue for weeks, months or longer. As you get through the difficult times, you both may agree that it is time to consider bringing these visits to a close. However, your Stephen minister will present the idea of closure to his or her peer supervision group before winding down your scheduled visits. Of course, you and your Stephen minister won’t necessarily end your acquaintance.

How will my visit be kept confidential?

Your Stephen minister values your privacy and will be careful not to reveal your identity or too many details about you to anyone, including other Stephen ministers or your friends and family. You can tell the people in your life as much or as little about Stephen Ministry visits, but your Stephen minister will guard your information very carefully.

Is my Stephen Minister supervised?

Yes. San Ramon Valley UMC’s Stephen ministers meet twice monthly for continuing education and to reflect on the needs of the people they are seeing. Your Stephen minister gains invaluable perspectives from talking with other Stephen ministers about boundaries, closure or other topics. None of your Stephen minister’s peers know your identity or would ask prying questions because they value your privacy, too. A peer review meeting is never a gossip session.

How do I connect with a Stephen Minister?

Most commonly you have sought out the pastors during a difficult period, and they have suggested that you might like to connect with a Stephen minister to listen and discuss the life challenge with which you are struggling. Less often, a friend at San Ramon Valley UMC might encourage you to ask about Stephen ministry as a way to unburden during illness, bereavement, divorce, job loss or other stressful change in your life.

To learn more about Stephen Ministry, we hope you feel comfortable talking with your own Stephen minister. However, you can also look at the national Stephen Ministry website, www.stephenministries.org, for more information. If you have specific questions, you can also email Al Banisch or Lisa Jancarik.