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August 28, 2015

When the apostles of the early Christian Church became overwhelmed with the pastoral demands upon them, they selected seven deacons to assist in the care of the believers. Stephen was one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles. He was also the first Christian martyr.
As a young pastor The Reverend Doctor Kenneth Haugk encountered a similar problem, one that troubles many pastors.
Ken recalls, “It was 1974. I had high hopes for providing pastoral care to people in my congregation and community. But reality quickly set in. There were so many needs and only one of me. I had a church full of needs, but also a church full of people.”
Ken found his answer in the scriptures and the solution was obvious: “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” (Ephesians 4:12). From that Stephen Ministry was born.
Ken reports, “I trained nine lay caregivers in that first class….They were ordinary church people, but I was impressed by the seriousness they put into their training and the enthusiasm they showed at the opportunity to be involved in hands-on ministry.”
The first Stephen Ministers were commissioned on March 16, 1975.
On November 3, 1975, Dr. Haugk and his wife Joan, a registered nurse and clinical social worker, founded the Stephen Ministries organization.
For the next few years, the Haugks travelled to congregations throughout the Midwest and trained Stephen Ministers. This quickly proved to be inefficient, since they could visit only a limited number of congregations. So in 1978, Stephen Ministries held the first Stephen Series Leaders’ Training Course and trained the first Stephen Leaders—fourteen ministry leaders within a congregation, who then returned home to recruit, train, and supervise their own Stephen Ministers.
Today, more than 12,000 congregations have enrolled in the Stephen Series. They represent more than 170 Christian denominations and come from all fifty United States, ten Canadian provinces, and twenty-seven other countries. More than 70,000 pastors, other staff, and lay leaders have been trained as Stephen Leaders. They, in turn, have trained more than 600,000 laypersons as Stephen Ministers. These Stephen Ministers have provided one-to-one Christian care and support to more than a million care receivers in Stephen Ministry caring relationships—and ministered to millions more in less formal ways.
On Saturday, September 12, 2015, from 9:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. a Stephen Ministry Introductory Workshop is to be offered at First Presbyterian Church, 393 E. Main Street, Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302, Registration begins in the Family Life Center at 8:00 A.M.
The half-day workshop consists of three sessions designed both to enhance participants’ caregiving skills and to help congregations explore ways to expand their caring ministry.
“The needs for care in our congregation and community were much more than the pastors could handle alone,” said Reverend Joanne Hull, Associate Pastor for Congregational Care who oversees First Presbyterian Church’s Stephen Ministry. “So we enrolled in the Stephen Series over 21 years ago and are now equipping our members to provide quality one-to-one Christian care.”
Over the past twenty-one years, 188 members of First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, have undertaken fifty hours of training to become Stephen Minsters. These ministers care for someone who is experiencing a life crisis, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, hospitalization, the loss of a job, loneliness, or relocation.
In the first session of the workshop, “Ministering to Those Experiencing Grief,” participants learn about the grief process – the stages of bereavement and how to minister to people in each of those stages. They’ll gain the skills and confidence to better care for individuals who are grieving.
The second session provides an introduction to the Stephen Series, a system of lay caring ministry through which congregation leaders can equip members to provide one-to-one Christian care to people in need.
The final session of the workshop explains “How to Care in a Distinctively Christian Way.” Participants learn what makes Christian caregiving unique and how they can use resources like prayer, blessings, and Scripture in their caring for others.
The cost of the workshop is $15 per person or $50 for a group of four or more from the same congregation. For more information, or to register to attend the Stephen Ministry Introductory Workshop at First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, please contact Stephen Ministries at: (314) 428-2600. You can also register on line
As a pastor for nearly fifty years I can personally recommend Stephen Ministry to pastors and church leaders of all denominations. This workshop will be well worth your time. It will be a blessing to you and to your congregation. Don’t miss this opportunity.

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