…Stephen Ministry Can Be the Solution
By Chad Mickelson
As my kids recently prepared to start their senior year of high school, my mind was racing way ahead of the moment. I found my thoughts fast forwarding to the next spring, wondering what graduation day would bring, and how I would eventually handle things as they left for college, and my wife and I entered the early stages of empty nesting.
I should have been settling in for a lot of enjoyment. The last local theatre production for my daughter. The last high-school bowling season for my son. A lot of “lasts” that are meant to be savored. How could I slow my mind down and make sure this year of turning a page was not too much of a blur?
I considered the Stephen Ministry program at Our Savior’s. I have worked to communicate the value of a one-on-one spiritual walk with a Stephen Minister, but having talked myself out of utilizing this valued resource during what I would consider more trying times previously, surely it would be silly to call upon it in this happier circumstance, wouldn’t it?
Sometimes you need to prioritize yourself, and Stephen Ministry is a beneficial way of doing that. I talked myself into truly believing things I have previously promoted, that a caring relationship is not just for times of trauma and grieving. It is designed for anything that may have your life off track or out of balance. I made the call and asked to have a Stephen Minister assigned to me.
Much like my mind hoped to skip ahead that fall, I will skip ahead now to say a year of plugging into the Stephen Ministry program provided all I hoped it would. It was a wonderful way to work through anxieties of a stressful year, while helping me to appreciate each of the many celebratory moments and enjoy them in the now.
Allow me the opportunity to unpack my year of walking with a Stephen Minister, and highlight some of the elements that make it work so well.
Sometimes the success is in the simplicity. As complex and well-structured as the Stephen Ministry program is, using it to obtain the support and care you need is simple and designed for a flexible fit for those in need. My caring partner reached out to me shortly after I made my request, and asked me what I thought was the most appropriate times and locations for our meetings.
Stephen Ministers are well-trained and available to meet on a weekly basis, but I thought once a month might be the best fit for me. It allowed for a much-needed monthly check-in that did not impact a busy year of activities. If the need for more meetings had arisen, the option was available. We opted for the comfort and convenience of Our Savior’s couches over coffee, but a Stephen Minister will meet you wherever it is most convenient.
There is no element of “fixing” involved with Stephen Ministry; no effort to find solutions or to force answers. The balm comes simply from the caring time of togetherness, a communal partnership of simply talking, listening, and lifting needs up in prayer.
Sometimes talking through internal stress and hearing things spoken brings calm to a situation. You find that by verbalizing some of the worry, you are lifting prayers to God through the assistance of your caring partner.
A specific example I recall is hearing myself discuss specific concerns I had for each of my kids, as they approached the big decision of finalizing their college plans. My daughter’s choice would take her to the East Coast, and would require a firm financial commitment. My son’s choice would mean living at home for a year or more, requiring less financial investment but perhaps more relational focus. Discussing these decisions with a Stephen Minister allowed me to hear how God was at work in guiding my family along life’s journey.
The caring relationship also provides a wonderful listening opportunity. In some cases, a chance to hear about similar experiences your caring partner may have been through. In others, a chance to know that life is also moving forward for them, too. You share the highs and lows of each week or month and you know that you are not alone. Others are struggling and stressed a bit at times. Others are joyful and celebrating at times. You share the ebbs and flows of life and find healing and renewal in the togetherness.
One fall season, I was anxious and stressed about the journey towards high-school graduation, and seeing my kids take their next steps—leaving me to my empty nest. A fast twelve months and a new fall season later, I had survived the college visits and graduation party, and shed my tears at the college drop-off. It was every bit as fast and furious as I feared it might be. But it was not a blur. It was clear and magical.
Sometimes Stephen Ministry can help carry you through times of trauma and heartbreak.
Sometimes Stephen Ministry can also help you remember to rejoice and celebrate.
Chad Mickelson is a Library Coordinator at Our Savior’s, and a longstanding proponent of Stephen Ministry.