As always, I want to wish each and every one of you a very Happy and Blessed New Year! My hope and prayer is that 2019 will be a year of rich and wonderful blessings, a year filled with good things and glad tidings, a year filled with love and peace, joy and hope.

New years are always a time to at least ponder new things, if not actually plan to do new things. New years hopefully bring new opportunities and new experiences, new growth and new life.

And those hopes apply not only to our individual and family lives, but also tour congregational life, as well. Each year we plan for new things within the church, new programs and new ministries we might explore and engage in. This year, as you receive the opportunity to look at the 2019 proposed budget, you will notice a new budget line for Stephen Ministry.

I want to take a moment here to say a little bit about Stephen Ministry and how this ministry will be a blessing for St. Luke’s as we go forward together.

Stephen Ministries is a nation organization, based in St. Louis, MO, that trains and equips lay people to provide one-to-one, face-to-face care and support with individuals who are in some time of crisis. This crisis might be the loss of a loved one, or the receiving of a difficult or terminal diagnosis (for the individual or a loved one), the loss of a job, the ending of a relationship, extreme stress or anxiety, or a whole host of other situations we may find ourselves in. In all of these situations, personal support and care by a trained care-giver can be an essential tool in helping us move forward, heal, accept, cope, feel secure, feel love, and find hope.

Stephen Ministries is a way for members of our congregation to receive the training needed and be the person who provides care and support for a person in crisis. The program works like this. The congregation pays a one-time fee to become part of the Stephen Ministry organization. While this fee might seem high (it is almost $1700), it is paid only once and is good for the life of the congregation.

Once that one-time fee is paid, a small group of people, including myself, are raised up to receive extensive training by the Stephen Ministry faculty. This training takes one week, and is done at different locations around the country. These deeply trained people become trainers themselves, and upon completion of this intensive week of training, are able to train within the congregation, the volunteers who will become the actual Stephen Ministers.

The people who become Stephen Ministers receive 50 hours of specialized training within the congregation and only then are they able to be matched up with a person in need. These Stephen Ministers will meet weekly with their client for one hour, providing a listening ear, wise counsel and encouragement, and resources to help to person move forward. They are also available at any time for conversation by phone or email.

This training, and the ministry as a whole, is faith-based and prayer oriented. It provides spiritual help and prayerful support to people in the deepest need of both.

The cost of training the trainers is significant (about $1100 person), and the cost to train a Stephen Minister after that is about $50 per person. We would raise up 3 to 4 trainers and a number of ministers yet to be determined.

This will become a powerful ministry, and a source of genuine help, healing, and blessing to all who participate as a trainer, a minister, and especially as a client, and I hope we will all actively support this wonderful new ministry within our congregation. I want to stress that the number you will see in the budget is a one-time expense, and the annual cost will be low after that. But the blessings the congregation will receive from this new ministry will be well in excess of any costs we might incur to start it up.

New years bring new blessings and new hope to us all. May 2019 be a year of great blessing and hope for you all, and my 2019 be a year in which the love and grace of God overflow into your lives. See you in church!

Pr. Paul

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