Two years ago, the pandemic put the Stephen Ministry program at the Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland community Carroll Lutheran Village (CLV) in Westminster, Maryland, on hold for safety reasons. Now, a team of four residents and an associate chaplain has returned to manage the program and resume its work with CLV residents on depression, loneliness, family loss, loss of faith, health, end-of-life and other challenging issues and are grateful to be providing caregiving again.
Stephen Ministry trains lay people to provide one-to-one Christian care to those experiencing grief, illness, hospitalization, life transitions, or another life challenge. Bob Nicoll, the program’s class administrator, provides oversight with two other CLV Stephen leaders: Connie Kidder and Jay King. CLV’s associate chaplain Charles Marshall and Spiritual Life Committee chair James Boesler round out the leadership team. Each team member received 50 hours of specialized training to be a Stephen minister before working with residents.
While the reasons for volunteering vary for each, they all share an understanding of the program’s importance and necessity. Kidder became interested in caring ministries early in life. As a young adult, she received support from her church, family and others. Since then, she has had a passion for helping others.
King’s interest in assisting older adults came from his interactions with a pastor while in high school. He stated, “Now I am one,” yet he still enjoys befriending residents who are close in age. He saw an ad about Stephen Ministries at CLV and immediately applied. He feels lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. Stephen Ministries allows him to do what he loves—empowering others.
Boesler faced many challenges and at one time thought, “God can’t love me.” It took time, but he now believes, despite everything, God loves him. He wants others going through a difficult time to know God is with them all the time. This desire led Boesler to complete the Stephen Ministry training so he can support CLV residents.
After a long career in management where Nicoll spent most of his time with lots of people and organizations, he said, “I wanted to find something different—something to experience one-on-one relationships.” As a Stephen minister, he’s been able to experience those relationships.
Nicholl said, “We routinely remind our team that we are caregivers, not cure givers—the latter is in God’s hands.” CLV’s eight Stephen Ministers are careful to remember they are not therapists and avoid trying to fix care receivers’ problems. If care receivers need more support than a minister can offer, a referral is made to an outside professional or mental health specialist.
The leadership team plans to expand the program to include reaching those who may need support but do not require the full program. For example, some residents may benefit from simply having a conversation with a Minister rather than meeting for multiple sessions.
Considering the challenges many are facing since the pandemic started, CLV’s residents and team members are happy to have Stephen Ministers and Leaders in the community to provide caring support.
Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that reaches one in 50 people in America each year. Carroll Lutheran Village, a community of Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland, is an accredited, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community that supports nearly 700 residents in 397 homes and apartments, 50 assisted living suites and 103 skilled care beds.
Learn more about Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland.