The Mission of Stephen Ministry at Portage Chapel Hill is to equip and empower members of our congregation to be skilled, compassionate, trustworthy and faith filled Christian care givers. Recruiting for our next training will begin in January.
With God’s help we will train a sufficient number of Stephen Ministers equipped for spiritual growth and Christian care to meet the needs of our congregation and community.
About Stephen Ministry
Fellowship desires to be a place where no one has to hurt alone.
Stephen Ministers are lay people trained to give Christian care to Chapel Hill congregants and congregational friends who are going through a period of crisis, e.g., loss of a loved one, chronic illness, unemployment, divorce and other life difficulties. A Stephen Minister’s care consists of reflective listening and the use of Christian resources. A Stephen Minister is not a counselor and s/he is trained to listen and empathize, not tell people what to do.
Stephen Ministers normally meet with their care receivers for about an hour a week. They work under the direction of trained Stephen Leaders with the support of the pastor. Stephen Ministers and Stephen Leaders meet twice monthly for peer supervision in which they support and encourage one another and hold one another accountable for their ministry.
Stephen Ministry is a confidential ministry: those receiving care can be sure that their identity and what goes on in the caring relationship will remain private.
Become a Stephen Minister
“Hurts don’t go away because you wish them away or reason them away. In fact, nothing you as a caregiver can do will miraculously remove the pain. That’s God’s terrain. So don’t expect that you will be able to provide just what the person needs to make it all better. You have been called to fulfill a role that is much more attainable–walking with the person, sharing and being Christ’s love and compassion. When you do that, you will be making a significant difference in the suffering person’s life.”
Kenneth C. Haugk, PH.D.
Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart
Because Stephen Ministry requires individuals to meet with others, precautions are taken in the selection process. First, interested volunteers must complete a written application, which can be obtained from the church office and returned to the church office once they are completed. Three references are required, and a Stephen Leader will contact each one for a telephone interview. Once this step is finished, a Pastor and a Leader will interview the applicant. As with other workers in the church, each trainee must have background check.
Stephen Leaders tell every person being interviewed for involvement in this Chapel Hill ministry that it requires time. The Stephen Ministers complete a 50-hour course that begins with an all day retreat and continues each Tuesday night for several months. When the training is complete, each minister is commissioned and is ready for assignment. Whether or not s/he begins to work with a care receiver, s/he is expected to attend bi-weekly continuing education and peer supervision sessions. Each commissioned Stephen Minister agrees to at least a two-year commitment to this ministry.
Description of training and supervision:
After an applicant is accepted, s/he is expected to attend an all day Saturday retreat. During that time, several training sessions will be presented. Just as important as learning the material is the fellowship and bonding time offered the group by spending uninterrupted time together. Participation in these activities gives Stephen Ministers a level of companionship that will be central to trust as the group moves into ministry and requires accountability.
For 4-5 months the trainees will meet each Tuesday night for a two and a half hour training session. These sessions cover such topics as active listening, assertiveness training, boundaries, dealing with divorce, helping those facing death, and many other topics. Role-play is an important part of the learning process. Two training manuals (purchased before the retreat) will be used throughout the course of the training. Some reading is required between class sessions.
When training is completed, the new group of Stephen Ministers will be commissioned. Commissioning does not mean that each new minister will immediately be assigned a care receiver. Each commissioned Stephen Minister is expected to participate in continuing Education each quarter and Peer Supervision on the first and third Tuesday nights of each month. Those who do not have care receivers need to be available for assisting with supervision for those who are currently serving. This is key to the effectiveness of each individual Stephen Minister.
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Dealing with Death & Grief
Sooner or later, each of us will experience that dagger in the heart called grief — and dealing with grief is a challenge like no other. How can you pick up the pieces, heal the wounds and move on with the rest of your life without feeling like you’re betraying the memory of your loved one? Although there are no quick fixes for the anguish after a loved one’s death, you can take steps to make the coping easier.
- Actively grieve and mourn. Grief is an inner sense of loss, sadness and emptiness. Mourning is how you express those feelings. You might plan a funeral or memorial service, wear black, and carry a somber demeanor. Both grief and mourning are natural and necessary parts of the healing process after a loss.
- Acknowledge your pain. If you don’t face your grief, your wounds might never quite go away. Accept that the pain you’re feeling is part of dealing with grief and moving toward a state of healing and acceptance.
- Look to loved ones and others for support. Spending some time alone is fine, but isolation isn’t a healthy way to deal with grief. A friend, a confidant, a Stephen Minister all can help you along the journey of healing. Allow loved ones and other close contacts to share in your sorrow or simply be there when you cry.
- Don’t make major decisions while grieving. Grief clouds the ability to make sound decisions. If possible, postpone big decisions — such as moving, taking a new job or making major financial changes. If you must make decisions right away, seek the input or guidance of trusted loved ones or other close contacts.
- Take care of yourself. Grief consumes a significant amount of energy. Your will to live and ability to follow normal routines might quickly erode. To combat these problems, try to get adequate sleep, eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Consider a medical checkup to make sure your grief isn’t adversely affecting your health — especially if you have any existing health conditions.
- Remember that time helps, but it might not cure. Time has the ability to make that acute, searing pain of loss less intense and to make your red-hot emotions less painful — but your feelings of loss and emptiness might never completely go away. Accepting and embracing your new “normal” might help you reconcile your losses.
Losing a loved one is devastating. Someday, however, the sun will shine again. The day will seem brighter and your life will go on — even if it’ll never be quite the same.
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For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why. Depression affects each person in different ways, so symptoms caused by depression vary from person to person.
Depression symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
- Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Reduced sex drive
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
- Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Crying spells for no apparent reason
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
A breakup or divorce launches you into uncharted territory. Everything is disrupted: your routine and responsibilities, your home, your relationships with extended family and friends, and even your identity. A breakup brings uncertainty about the future. What will life be like without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone? These unknowns often seem worse than an unhappy relationship.
Recovering from a breakup or divorce is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. Healing takes time.
Coping with separation and divorce
- Recognize that it’s OK to have different feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You also may feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time. Even if the marriage was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.
- Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman; take time to heal, regroup, and re-energize.
- Don’t go through this alone. Sharing your feelings with a Stephen Minister can help you get through this period. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations. Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships, and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it.
Taking care of yourself after a divorce or relationship breakup
Learning to take care of yourself can be one of the most valuable lessons you learn following a divorce or breakup. As you feel the emotions of your loss and begin learning from your experience, you can resolve to take better care of yourself and make positive choices going forward.
- Make time each day to nurture yourself. Help yourself heal by scheduling daily time for activities you find calming and soothing. Go for a walk in nature, listen to music, enjoy a hot bath, get a massage, read a favorite book, take a yoga class, or savor a warm cup of tea.
- Pay attention to what you need in any given moment and speak up to express your needs. Honor what you believe to be right and best for you even though it may be different from what your ex or others want. Say “no” without guilt or angst as a way of honoring what is right for you.
- Stick to a routine. A divorce or relationship breakup can disrupt almost every area of your life, amplifying feelings of stress, uncertainty, and chaos. Getting back to a regular routine can provide a comforting sense of structure and normalcy.
- Take a time out. Try not to make any major decisions in the first few months after a separation or divorce, like starting a new job or moving to a new city. If you can, wait until you’re feeling less emotional so that you can make better decisions.
- Explore new interests. A divorce or breakup is a beginning as well as an end. Take the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. Pursuing fun, new activities gives you a chance to enjoy life in the here-and-now, rather than dwelling on the past.
After a miscarriage or stillbirth, your grief may be so overwhelming that you wonder if you will ever be happy again. You may never truly “get over” your loss, but know that your grief will become more manageable over time especially if you recognize your feelings as valid and accept that you may need time to work through them.
Facing Daily Life After a Miscarriage
You may feel like you see babies and pregnancy everywhere you look after a loss. TV commercials, baby shower invitations, and even walking past the diaper aisle in the grocery store may begin to bother you. You may feel jealous of pregnant women and mothers of new babies, especially those who seem to get pregnant easily. If so, your feelings are normal and valid, but knowing that may not make you feel better.
You do need to give yourself space to grieve. Expect to have to deal with the five stages of grief that you have probably heard about, with denial through to anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Friends and family may provide comfort, additional stress, or both. People who have never experienced a loss may be unable to relate to your feelings and may say unintentionally hurtful things to you, even if they’re trying to help. A Stephen Minister can help you through this difficult time.
These tips may also be helpful in coping with your grief:
- Honor your baby: Sometimes it helps to memorialize your baby in a manner that is meaningful to you. Some women like to keep a statue of an angel or a pendant). Others may plant a tree or special garden.
- Keep a journal: Writing down your feelings can be surprisingly cathartic, particularly if you do not have anyone to talk to in person.
- Find a support group: It can help to be around others who are going through the same thing as you are. Sometimes local hospitals offer a support group or other service for people coping with pregnancy loss, but if nothing is available in person, numerous online support groups exist.