Stephen Ministry: Empathy in Action


It would not be right for us to abandon our responsibilities

for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the

care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among

you, whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and

good sense, and we’ll assign them this task…. They … chose

Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit…”

Acts 6:2-3, 5

“Stephen Ministry” is named after this man, Stephen, who was called to serve alongside the apostles in the early church. We often call Stephen a “deacon” because his ministry was one of caring and serving.

The organization “Stephen Ministries” was founded in 1975 by a man named Ken Haugk, who was both a pastor and a clinically trained psychologist. Realizing that he did not have the time to minister adequately to the various needs of his parishioners, Dr. Haugk envisioned a Christian caregiving ministry led by highly trained laypersons.

Over the last 20 years or so, I have gained a tremendous respect for Stephen Ministry. After his wife died, one man told me, “Stephen Ministry literally saved my life.” Other persons’ needs have been less dramatic, but they, too, have found the support they needed through Stephen Ministry.

Stephen Ministers are laypersons who go through 50 hours of training to learn to be empathetic listeners. They don’t fix things; they listen, care, and walk alongside persons who are carrying a heavy load. At Shandon UMC, our Stephen Ministers are Susan Brant, Rita Dorroh, Meredith Dreibelbis, Sue Kanipe, Claire Manning, Frank Manning, Jennifer Parker, Lynda Smith, and Frances Tompkins.

Last summer, in order to take over as our staff liaison for Stephen Ministry, I attended 25 hours of training to be Stephen Leader. The training made me even more impressed with both the spiritual and clinical excellence of Stephen Ministry. It will be an honor to be formally commissioned as a Stephen Leader in our worship services on February 11.

The scriptures tell us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Sometimes, life is hard, and we need to know that we have a friend walking the road with us. A Stephen Minister can be that friend. If you would ever like to talk about having a Stephen Minister, or if you might feel led to be a Stephen Minister, please reach out to me at or (803) 722-1063.

Grace and peace,