Lay Ministry

This past weekend we celebrated the commissioning of eight new Stephen ministers. Stephen ministers are lay people who are trained to provide spiritual care for people who are going through life’s challenges. They are not ordained ministers. They don’t preach, teach or give advice. They are not trained to answer questions about doctrine. They don’t perform rites or sacraments. Mostly, they listen and give emotional support. If you ask, they will pray or read from the Word with you.
In the beginning of the Christian church the Apostles were busy with teaching the Word, and did not have time to make sure that all the people were fed and cared for, so they chose Stephen and six other lay people to provide the care. (Acts 6:1-6). This instance of lay people caring for lay people inspired the name of Stephen Ministries.

When Moses was leading people through the wilderness he was burdened by many people bringing their troubles to him. “The people stood before Moses from morning until evening.”(Exodus 18:13) Jethro’s advice he appointed leaders of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens to help. Jethro said, “Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.” (Exodus 18:22)
Much later, Israel fought against the Amalekites, and as long as Moses held up his hands and rod, Israel would win the battle. But his arms became tired, and then the Amalekites began winning. So Moses got help from Aaron (a priest) and Hur (a lay person) to hold up his hands till the battle was won. Each of us is at times in the position of Moses, needing support from others in our difficult times. Think how you can draw on support from both priests and lay people. They can’t fight your battles for you, but they can stand beside you and offer support. (Exodus 17:12)

Most of the ministry in our church is done by lay people—teachers, board members, committee members, BATS volunteers, refreshment providers, musicians, and many other services that lay people provide to support each other. Stephen Ministry is just one of many ways that lay people can support each other. For us, it is an expression of the Lord’s love for all people: “God loves each and every human being; and because He cannot do good to them directly, but only indirectly by means of other people, He therefore breathes into people His love.” (True Christianity 457)