Monday, August 11, 2014
During the past four decades, more than 600,000 people from all walks of life have received special training to care for others in crisis through the Stephen Ministry program. While the program typically works through churches, a small number of hospital systems have adapted its principles to help offer short-term spiritual care to patients and their families. Trident Health was one of the first to use Stephen Ministers to assist hospital chaplain staff and now is in its 20th year with the program. This month, the Rev. Darrell Bare, Trident Health's chaplain and Stephen Ministry leader, will start interviewing for new volunteers. While candidates should be “spiritually and emotionally mature,” with an endorsement from a leader within the candidate's faith community, volunteers are typically lay people and are not required to have counseling or ministry experience. They may simply be good listeners who naturally provide support to those around them. Bare says the interview process allows time for discernment so candidates can learn about what's involved and consider if they can commit. Those selected will attend classes from 7-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays from Oct. 7 through April. “The training is basic,” says Bare. “It's designed for people who don't have a background in this kind of work at all.” Following the 60 hours of training, Stephen ministers are expected to volunteer three hours a week, for two years, as assigned at Trident Medical Center or Summerville Medical Center. Stephen Ministers do not work with critically ill patients or those in emergency situations but do reach out to others who have been in the hospital for more than five days. “The patients are very appreciative of those visits,” says Bare. The program takes its name from the early Christian leader Stephen, whose story of caring ministry is told in the Biblical book of Acts. When offered through churches, Stephen Ministry typically pairs a volunteer for an extended period with someone within the same congregation who is going through a difficult time in life – such as divorce, job loss or illness. In contrast, Stephen ministers serving in the hospital setting provide short-term care and are trained to care for people of different faiths. The volunteers' experiences may be as meaningful to them personally as to those they help. “One of my new volunteers at our last meeting was talking about just how much joy and fun she was having through these interactions,” says Bare. In fact, she wanted to make sure she was doing it right. “I think she expected it to be more heavy kind of stuff.” To learn more about applying for Trident Health's Stephen Ministry program, contact the Rev. Darrell Bare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-847-4968. Callout: “One of my new volunteers at our last meeting was talking about just how much joy and fun she was having through these interactions.” -Rev. Darrell Bare, Trident Health's chaplain and Stephen Ministry leader
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