A group settles into a meeting room at Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church on a Tuesday evening. They greet each other warmly. They are the Stephen Ministers of Fleetwood CRC in Surrey, British Columbia.
“These are men and women who have been trained in providing one-to-one confidential Christian care to hurting people in and around our congregation,” said Benita Van Andel-Vander Mey, one of two trained leaders. Fleetwood CRC has 16 trained caregivers.
Fleetwood CRC is one of a number of Christian Reformed churches that have chosen to use the Stephen Ministry model. Caregivers receive 50 hours of training, after which they are ready to be paired with a care receiver. The pastors, elders, and deacons are involved in referring those who desire support through a time of need or crisis.
The support of pastors is crucial. Rev. Lammert Slofstra, one of four male caregivers and a retired pastor, sees the Stephen Ministry as an extension of care provided at the pastoral and council level. “This training would be good for all elders and deacons, as they are often ill-equipped for one-on-one ministry,” he said.
Caregiver Elly Kooger noted, “We’re not there to cure or fix. We give a listening ear, a presence, a support, safety.”
The care receivers remain anonymous to the whole group. “I was blessed to have a Stephen Minister visit me for a year and a half during a very difficult time in my life,” said one recipient. “I received much strength and encouragement from her visits, and I’m grateful for the compassion and love shown to me.”