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Stephen Ministry Report

Stephen Ministry Report, by Cindy Fuglsby:   Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 Stephen Ministry is one part of Grace Lutheran’s pastoral care ministry. Pastor Tim oversees all the care ministries with support, encouragement and guidance. He truly is a support and teacher, but does not dictate the details of our ministries. He is the primary person offering pastoral care to our members; we support his ministry. Stephen Ministers receive intensive training, participate in twice monthly peer support group meetings and participate in continuing education opportunities. We currently have four dedicated Stephen Ministers serving five members with various concerns and challenges. Prayer and Scriptures are part of our caring visits. Prayer and study of the Scriptures are part of each of our peer support group meetings as well as part of our continuing education opportunities. Stephen Ministry at Grace follows the guidelines of the Stephen Ministry program. They have created this ministry to serve those experiencing challenging situations, not to replace the role of the pastor, but to support the pastor during the long-term visit needs. The creators of this ministry believe the regular connection with the care receivers as well as regular peer support group participation are vital. Stephen Ministry is not a ministry where you are trained and then sent out on your own. There is consistent supports and guidance from Pastor Tim and the Stephen Ministry group. One of the lessons during our initial training emphasizes the importance of each Stephen Minister to stay connected to Jesus. The article follows: “Your central concern as a Stephen Minister is to pay constant attention to your relationship with Jesus Christ. You do this always trusting that Jesus created that relationship and will maintain it. The clear and central focus of your energies and efforts must be upon Jesus. As long as you keep in constant touch with Jesus, the Holy Spirit will be able to use your training, knowledge, faith, love, and skills to God’s glory and to accomplish what is best in the life of your care receiver. “If you take your eyes off Jesus, however, your caring will not be ministry that God can use. Even if everything that you do in your caregiving is technically right, Jesus’ power will not flow through it. Without a close, continuous connection with Jesus, the caring relationship can sink into trouble as Peter sank when he took his eyes off Jesus and began to look at the size of the waves around him. “Keeping your concentration on Jesus is important, because if God does not dominate your life and your caregiving, other forces jostle one another in their eagerness to occupy first place in your life. Once Peter took his eyes off Jesus, for example, his fear took over. If God does not rule your life, then your human concerns may dominate, and empathy can too easily degenerate into sympathy or escalate into over identification. If you are not leaning on God, then the weight of responsibility you carry can overburden or even crush you. If God’s Spirit doesn’t control you, you will be driven by other thoughts, desires, and feelings that can easily enslave you and rob you of your glorious freedom as God’s child. If you do not delight in God, you will try to please yourself or your care receiver, and in the end you will fall into the trap of shortsighted, results-oriented caregiving. If you attempt this ministry by relying on your own strength and wisdom, these will ultimately fail you, and your ministry will seem empty and worthless. You will eventually lose proper perspective, feel drained and even become depressed or resentful ~ burned out, in short. “Your most important need as a caregiver, therefore, is to maintain your focus on Jesus, that is, to “be with Jesus”, to “abide in Jesus”, the true vine, through prayer and Scriptures.” This article clearly points out the difference from well-meaning friends and family members walking alongside you, and a Christian trained to listen, show up and share God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ. This is only possible as we all stay intimately connected with Jesus Christ. “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”


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