Stephen Ministry in a Nutshell

Stephen Ministry is a Christ-centered pastoral ministry driven by lay-people, which offers one-on-one emotional and spiritual support for individuals who are having a struggle in their lives as a result of a crisis.


The nature of the crisis will vary greatly from one individual to the next. The type of help offered, however, is constant. It comes in the form of a distinctive structured friendship marked by its empathy and confidentiality. The caregiver comes alongside the care-receiver and, through weekly visits, walks a journey with the person, providing spiritual and emotional support.


[Caregivers trust that they provide care for a person, but it is Jesus who cures a person].

At no point does this relationship supplant the role of a pastor or healthcare professional. Rather, it fits into the pastoral work of a congregation as a supplement to the more specialized work of a pastor – at a level fitting for trained lay-people to be able to exercise.

Stephen Ministry was founded in 1970 by Kenneth Hauck, a trained pastor and psychologist. who felt overburdened by the pastoral needs he was attending to. He decided to train specific members in the congregation to help meet the needs of those requiring pastoral support. Out of that, Stephen Ministry was born.


Over 13 000 congregations have implemented Stephen Ministry. The headquarters for Stephen Ministry is in St Louis, USA.

The Structure of Stephen Ministry

Five roles make up Stephen Ministry

The care-receiver.
- One
Stephen Minister. - The caregiver is known as a Stephen Minister - (not to be confused with an ordained Minister!) An individual is commissioned as a Stephen Minister once they have been trained.
- Two
Stephen Leaders - Stephen Leaders run the ministry in the congregation, under the authority of the congregation’s Minister/pastor. They recruit and train people to become Stephen Ministers, and by means of structured supervision, provide support for the Stephen Ministers as they provide care. Stephen Leaders are not Stephen Ministers.
- Three
Lookouts - Lookouts are people who connect a potential care-receiver with Stephen Ministers. It is an informal role, which anyone in the congregation can play.. They look out for people who may desire care.
- Four
Stephen Ministry is Christ centred. It recognizes that only Jesus can cure us. We are caregivers; Jesus - through His Holy Spirit - is the Cure giver.
- Five

Who are the care-receivers?

In Stephen Ministry the person experiencing the life-difficulty is known as a care-receiver. Common struggles include:

  • Illness
  • Grief
  • Job-loss
  • Divorce
  • Infertility
  • Trauma
  • A sense of isolation or loneliness or sadness
  • A spiritual crisis
  • Major medical crisis
  • End of life (Hospice)
  • Long term illness, chronic conditions and disability
  • Financial difficulties
  • Major life transition (relocation, blended family, empty nest, retirement, move to assisted living

People who are not the central figure in a crisis, but who are affected by it, are also frequently care-receivers. For instance, the spouse of someone who has a life-threatening illness may receive benefit from being a care-receiver.

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Stephen Ministries at St Columba’s

A Christian community where people are well cared for – particularly in times of trial – is a fragrant, appealing witness to Christ’s presence among us, and His Lordship over us.


Stephen Ministry fits into the pastoral limb of St Columba’s ministry. In implementing the ministry, St Columba’s leadership hopes to enhance and broaden the pastoral care that the church offers.


Stephen Ministry will thus be an addition to the pastoral work of the Ministers, and the care offered by the eldership, and the fellowship among us as congregants.


The Church Leadership has adopted an inside-out approach in which the ministry will be available to members, but then hopefully extend as a form of outreach into the community too.

What is Stephen Ministries?

Stephen Ministries is a not-for-profit Christian education organization founded in 1975 that produces training and resources known for their excellence, practicality, psychological integrity, and theological depth. These resources cover topics such as caring ministry, assertive relating, spiritual gifts discovery, grief support, spiritual growth, and more. Congregations and other organizations use these resources to strengthen and expand ministry. Individuals use them to improve their ability to relate to and care for others, grow in faith, and journey through life crises. Our 30-person staff is based in St. Louis, Missouri.
For more information, please email or chat to Kathy Aitken, Lorna Wridgeway or Charles Bester.