Stephen Ministry

What is Stephen Ministry?

In Stephen Ministry congregations, lay caregivers (called Stephen Ministers) provide one-to-one Christian support to those in need of a listening ear, non-judgmental presence, or encouraging word. These may include people who are bereaved, hospitalized, terminally ill, separated, divorced, unemployed, relocated, facing a crisis, or just experiencing difficult times.

Stephen Ministry helps pastors and congregations provide quality caring ministry for as long as people need it.

Who may need a Stephen Minister?

People who are dealing with:

  • Family frustrations and challenges
  • Loneliness
  • Illness
  • Family members who are ill
  • Separation or divorce
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Being home-bound
  • A new baby
  • Death and dying
  • Low self-esteem or feeling down
  • Loss of a job
  • Financial setbacks
  • Loss of faith or hope
  • Aging
  • Changes in their lives
  • And other concerns

Consider Stephen Ministry even if it’s a little problem.

A problem isn’t little if it’s yours.

 A Stephen Minister is:

  • a trained lay volunteer.
  • a good listener.
  • trained in confidentiality.
  • supervised for quality care.
  • ready to offer God’s love through a Christian caring relationship on a one-to-one basis.
  •  someone who will encourage and pray with someone in need of care.
  • some who walks beside a hurting person.
  • there to care!
Group of smiling adults of various ages, embodying friendship, posing on a staircase indoors.
Stephen Ministers led worship on June 12, 2022. Watch the recording below to learn more about this important ministry.


Interested in learning more about receiving the care of a Stephen Minister?

If you would like to receive the support of a Stephen Minister or if you know someone who could benefit from this program, please contact Hadley Kifner (or use the form below)


Interested in learning more about being a Stephen Minister?

We are adding to the legacy of UPC’s Stephen Ministry program and a new training cohort begins in October!

Stephen Ministry training resources are known for their excellence, practicality, psychological integrity, and theological depth. In-person and led by various experts in the congregation and community, training sessions last for 2.5 hours each and cover topics such as caring ministry, assertive relating, spiritual gifts discovery, grief support, spiritual growth, and more. Congregations and other organizations use these resources to strengthen and expand ministry. Individuals use them to improve their ability to relate to and care for others, grow in faith, and journey through life crises. 

With interest or any questions about the training schedule, please contact Hadley Kifner.

Stephen Ministry

Please use the form below to request the care of a Stephen Minister. Your email is confidential. All requests are sent to Hadley Kifner.

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Stephen Ministry FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What exactly is Stephen Ministry?

Stephen Ministry is a ministry in our congregation in which trained and supervised lay persons, called Stephen Ministers, provide one-to-one Christian care to individuals facing life challenges or difficulties.

Who is involved?

Stephen Leaders are trained to oversee and direct our Stephen Ministry. They recruit, select, train, organize and supervise Stephen Ministers, identify people in need of care, and match them with a Stephen Minister. We currently have six Stephen Leaders at University Presbyterian Church, including the Rev. Meg Peery McLaughlin, who is responsible for interviewing those seeking care and matching them with a Stephen Minister.

Stephen Leaders have each received leadership training at one of six courses provided across the US each year. Courses last a full week and address the administration and supervisory aspects of Stephen Ministry.

Stephen Ministers are the caregivers. They have been through 50 hours of training in Christian caregiving, including general topics such as listening, feelings, boundaries, confidentiality, assertiveness, and using Christian resources in caregiving. In addition, their training covered specialized topics such as ministering to the divorced, hospitalized, bereaved, and aging.

Care Receivers are the recipients of Stephen Ministers’ care. They are people from our church or community who are experiencing difficulty in their lives. Stephen Ministers meet with their Care Receivers once a week for about an hour for as long as the Care Receiver will benefit from the relationship

What do Stephen Ministers do?

Stephen Ministers are caring Christian friends who listen, understand, accept, encourage, and pray for and with Care Receivers who are working through a crisis or a tough time.

Are Stephen Ministers counselors?

No. Stephen Ministers are not counselors; they are trained lay caregivers.  Their role is to listen and care – not to give advice or counsel.  Stephen Ministers are also trained to recognize when a Care Receiver’s need exceeds what they can provide.  When that happens they work with Care Receivers to help them find the care they really need.

Can I trust a Stephen Minister?

Trust is essential to a caring relationship, and Stephen Ministers are people you can trust. Confidentiality is one of the most important principles of Stephen Ministry, and what a Care Receiver tells his or her Stephen Minster is kept in strictest confidence.

What's the Pastor's role?

Pastors will always be the primary caregivers for the congregation, but there is no way pastors can meet all the needs for care. God has called all of us, not only pastors, to minister to one another. Stephen Ministry multiplies ministry by turning pastors in to equippers, so they can enable lay people to provide caring ministry as well.

How much does it cost?

Stephen Ministry is a caregiving ministry available to our members and community free of charge. Likewise training to become a Stephen Minister has no financial costs.

Receptivity to care

Most people are much more open to giving care than to receiving it. When a person is giving care, he or she seems to be in a position of strength, stability and authority. When a person is receiving care, he or she seems to be acknowledging weakness, insecurity, and vulnerability.

As a result, there are countless people today who tough it out on their own, even though they could really benefit from a Christian friend who would listen and care for them. They remain the strong, silent type, or wear a smile across a face that is holding back a flood of tears.

But God did not create us to be independent. We were created to be interdependent. God’s Word is clear on this all the way back to Genesis: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The New Testament underscores this theme with more than 50 verses that contain the word “one another.” These verses include admonitions such as “love one another,” “encourage one another,” “build up one another,” and “pray for one another.”

It is most difficult for people to ask for help. Whether it is because of guilt, shame, inadequacy, or fear of rejection, many would prefer to suffer alone than ask for help. But suffering alone is not God’s intent for us. Jesus promises, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We can receive this promised rest when we turn to one another for comfort and help.

If you are facing difficulties in life, open your heart to God’s love and grace through another person. Stephen Ministry offers the gift of a confidential relationship with someone who will listen to you and provide you with the care and encouragement you need, while Christ works with you both, giving His love and peace.

How can someone become a Stephen Minister?

Begin by talking to one of our Stephen Leaders or Hadley Kifner and they can tell you more. We usually train a new class of Stephen Ministers every other year. Stephen Ministers make a two year commitment to train and serve.

Why the name Stephen?

The name Stephen comes from Saint Stephen, who was the first lay person commissioned by the apostles to provide caring ministry to those in need, as recorded in Acts 6.

What is the history of the Stephen Ministry?

Stephen Ministry has been around since 1975, when Kenneth Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, began it to multiply the caregiving in his congregation in St. Louis, Missouri.  University Presbyterian Church has had Stephen Ministry since 1992 and is one of more than 9,000 Stephen Ministry congregations from more  than 100 denominations. Stephen Ministries, St. Louis, the organization behind this international ministry, is headquartered in Missouri.  To learn more, visit

What does the Stephen Ministry logo mean?

The Stephen Series Logo consists of a cross and circle together with a broken person and a whole person. The broken person behind the cross symbolizes the brokenness in our lives.

The whole person stands in front of the cross because it is only through the cross of Jesus that we are made whole. The circle symbolizes both the wholeness we receive through Christ and God’s unending love for us.

Stephen Ministry Featured on PBS

The PBS “Religion and Ethics” news show aired an eight-minute feature on Stephen Ministry in April 2010 that vividly describes the life-changing ministry happening in thousands of congregations.

View the Stephen Ministry feature on the PBS website, where you’ll also find several bonus features–including a nine-minute interview with Stephen Ministries’ founder and executive director, Kenneth C. Haugk.