The second of the three-legged stool for a growing church was a Stephens Ministry. In 1995 I had been thinking it was time to initiate the program in our church but had not been encouraged by the staff. We got a new pastor in June and I called him the first week he was in town and offered to buy his lunch. He was Jim Dorff (Later to be Bishop Dorff) and he accepted. We had a great visit and I liked him a lot.
I suggested a Stephens Ministry program and Jim said there had been one at his previous church and it was a great program. It is a ministry where Christians walk side by side with someone who is hurting because of death in the family, diagnosis of cancer or other terminal illness or problems with family or their business. The program tries to match someone who has gone through a similar experience and they walk alongside of the hurting person for one year or less depending on the situation.
Jim said he would have one of the associate pastors partner with me and for us to “git-er done.” That was all I needed and we began to meet weekly. After receiving all the material from the Stephens headquarters in St Louis, we did a lot of reading and studying. I had us split up and visit as many of the churches that had the program running: successful or not. Both provided information we needed.
We planned our program carefully to the smallest detail regarding publicity, oversight and training of the congregation. We met for a full year before we had our grand kick off. We had a good response and we trained our first group of Ministers in the spring of that year. The program has been very successful. The church now has 60 trained ministers. About 25 of them are now actively working with people in the church in need. There is a requirement that any active Minster must rotate off after two years.
They had a Stephens’s graduation ceremony recently (2010) when we visited our old church. It was so gratifying to see all those new Ministers coming on board and knowing the program was alive and well and, so many people in the future will receive love and care that they need.
Photo of Rev. Dorff found here.