Stephen Ministry at AACRC
At Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church we are called to create a welcoming and healing space in our faith community where we embrace those who enter into life with us. We are committed to being a healing community where all, members and nonmembers, can find healing for hurts, pains, addictions, and dysfunctions and move towards wholeness of body and soul. We are committed to accepting everyone as God has accepted us and encouraging authenticity with each other as we cultivate relationships in which we learn, grow, and thrive together. Stephen Ministers help us walk through challenging seasons of life together.
Stephen Ministry started in our church when when Harvey Stob, Lillian Kuiper and Dottie Elliott went to St Louis, Mo to be trained as Stephen Ministry Leaders. Over the last 12 years there have been 22 people trained as Stephen Ministry Care Givers. At present we have eight Stephen Ministers walking alongside of people in our congregation and many others who have been trained as Stephen Ministers and are still using their gifts in an informal way.
One way to think of Stephen Ministry Care Givers is that they are the “After People.”
- …after the phone call you hoped you would never get.
- …after the divorce papers are served and the bottom falls out of your life.
- …after the funeral, when everyone has left and the emotions you’ve held at bay come crashing in on you.
- …after the doctor say, “I’m sorry there’s nothing more we can do.”
- …after the nursing home director shakes you hand and says, “Welcome to your new home.”
- …after the last child honks the horn, waves and drives away—and the house suddenly seems empty.
- …after the baby arrives, demanding more of you than you ever dreamed possible.
- …after you find a pink slip with your final paycheck.
- …after your family and friends have heard your story one too many times, but you still need to talk it out.
- …after…(you fill in the blank).
Stephen Ministers are ready to come alongside you and provide comfort and support for as long after as needed. Men are always paired with men and women with women in a confidential caring relationship. Please contact one of the pastors, Louise Gruppen or Marian Ijzerman at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to find out how a Stephen Minister could be helpful to you.
Stephen Ministry Testimonies
1. For the last year of her life our mom was homebound due to the after effects of a stroke. She looked forward to the weekly visits of her Stephen’s Minister who often surprised her with small treats for them to enjoy. Together they frequently played her favorite game or sang songs from the hymnal. Mom was a great storyteller and her SM was an effective listener. Prayer was central to mom’s life and she was always encouraged and blessed when her SM prayed with her. As her family, we, too, were blessed by this ministry to mom.
2. As I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, I was blessed by a Stephen’s Ministry person each week. She listened to me talk through what I was going through, prayed with me, prayed for me between meeting times, texted encouraging notes, and would talk me through really tough moments over the phone when needed. She had gone through a similar situation, so she was able to truly empathize with me, give hope and offer perspective that was genuine. At a time when things didn’t seem very stable, there was stability in her support. My life is far from being problem-free, but we went through a valley together and have come up on the other side. God was with us and in our relationship, there have been several answered prayers and we are thankful together.
3. Stephen Ministry has truly been a Godsend for me. I had a very troubled time in my life a couple of years ago and it was very difficult to talk to my spouse or our mutual friends. I felt very alone, but at the same time I was bursting with the need to talk to someone and to not be dealing with the issues on my own. I knew there was a Stephen Ministry at church, and even though I didn’t know much about it and I was nervous, I felt like this might be the right thing for me.
My first meeting with my Stephen Minister was the hardest. I had fears of being rejected for some of the things that I was struggling with. I had to make a conscious decision to let down all my walls, but God had been working to teach me about allowing vulnerability into my life and the blessings that it can bring. So I decided to embrace what I was learning and talked freely with my Stephen Minister, not knowing what would come of it.
As it turns out (and this is God led for sure), we have been a great match. My Stephen Minister has been a wonderful listener and I have been able to share many things that were weighing me down. I found a stable place of acceptance and love. It’s a place where I don’t have to face my issues alone. This has been extremely healing and strengthening for me. In addition, I have gained a good friend! I am so thankful for our time together and praise God for the wonderful and unexpected ways that he has worked in my life!
4. Dear Stephen Ministers,
I want to say thank you very much for your dedication and service to God and people. Without your help, I wouldn’t have survived the hardest time in my life.
I suffered from my problem, but I couldn’t tell anyone because I thought it was shameful to talk about it. I pretended to be happy at church, but the issue consumed me. I was depressed and thought that I was the most miserable person in the world.
I shared my burden with close friends in the church. They listened and prayed for me. That was comforting and peaceful. However, I needed help on a regular basis. I hesitated to ask them to spend their time with me all the time. Then, I found the brochure of Stephen Ministry at church.
Since I knew one of the women listed in the brochure, I contacted her. She set up the meeting and introduced me to a Stephen Minister caregiver. Although I had never met this lady, her gentle smile made me feel very comfortable and open my heart. We began meeting every other week. One day, I had a very sad experience. I emailed her right away and she comforted and prayed for me. Her quick response and prayer gave me peace. The thing I am most thankful for is that she was always with me even though she had a family emergency. I was always encouraged by her dedication.
Because of my first caregiver’s family emergency, I started meeting with another Stephen Minister caregiver. She is very patient just as the first caregiver was. She never judges and listens to me very carefully. She always prints out the Bible verse and gives it to me. The verse always matches my needs.
I’m thankful for both of my caregivers. The time spent with them has always given me peace and made me focus on God although they never force me to do so. They are both very compassionate and filled with God’s love. I trust them and am able to open my heart. .
I also appreciate this ministry. Although there are many wonderful friends at church, it is very difficult to find someone whom you can open your heart and also don’t worry about their schedule or willingness to listen to us. I sincerely hope that this ministry will be continued. One small request from me is that you could consider making more people know about this ministry. I didn’t know this ministry existed for two years! (I know you’re modest.)
In the end, I would like to send this Bible passage to you. I think that it represents Stephen Ministry.
“Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”