“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
The St. Stephen’s Shepherd’s ministry celebrated 30 years of supporting the church in 2019. The Shepherd’s Ministry, one of the St Stephen’s caring ministries, helps individuals and families stay connected with the church by maintaining personal and supportive relationships.
When social distancing is not a factor, Shepherd’s Ministry volunteers can provide in-person support, such as a ride to a doctor’s office or a warm meal during a difficult time. Over the program’s three decades, its volunteers have been enduring friends, staying “in touch” with their neighborhoods and lending empathetic ears and helping hands to those in need.
Then the pandemic happened, closing the church building and the impacting all of church’s in-person work. St. Stephen’s senior Pastor Rob Robertson and Lauri Snider, the Shepherd’s Ministry’s coordinator for the past six years, recognized that the program could be the core of a new effort to help people stay connected throughout the pandemic.
The Shepherd’s Ministry, a congregational care lay ministry, sometimes an extension of pastoral care, serves as a way for members to take care of each other, according to Lauri, “It can be tool to help the pastors care for the congregation,” she says. “It is also neighbors caring for neighbors.”
“The Shepherd’s Ministry provides a way for people associated with St. Stephen’s to support each other during normal times or times of special needs,“ Lauri says. “Volunteers offer help, friendship and prayers, and in our current times, phone calls.”
Initially, the goal of the calling effort was to contact every member and constituent at St. Stephen’s, requiring additional volunteers. Longtime St. Stephen’s member Roger Hartman was one of the ministry’s new members who took up “the call” this spring.
The ministry’s work is divided up into about 36 groups, all based around specific geographical areas. Roger, a member of the Long Branch community, received a list of 18 families in his neighborhood. “It was really eye opening just to see the Long Branch connection to St. Stephen’s,” Roger says.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with the St. Stephen’s Shepherd’s Ministry should call Pastor Rob at the church office at 703-978-8724, ext. 104 or visit our Connect Page and filling out our online contact form.
“Without exception, everyone I talked with really appreciated getting a call,” Roger says. “They really appreciate that the church was keeping them connected.” He began reaching out to his new his flock after a short online training session on Zoom with Pastor Rob and Lauri Snider.
To ensure the 18 people on his call list would expect his call, Roger methodically emailed them ahead of time, explaining the goal of the expanded phone ministry. He says that being organized and keeping a schedule is a big help.
In addition to his Shepherd’s Ministry work, Roger coordinates the church’s INOVA blood drives and also runs Long Branch’s Neighborhood Watch program.
Roger says his objective with each call is to touch bases with members and see if there is anything they need. Volunteers should be good listeners and be able to build rapport with the people they are speaking with.
Roger and Lauri stress the phone calls are confidential. The only time volunteers pass information on to the pastors is if the person being called specifically has a question or is asking for assistance from the church.
Why does Roger enjoy volunteering with the St. Stephen’s Shepherd’s Ministry?
“It (volunteering) completely reinforces your personal connection to the church,” Roger says. “You are also helping to spread the word, the big word of course- ‘God’s word,’ and St. Stephen’s Church’s word.”
Lauri agrees. “When you connect with someone and have a good conversation, you feel good about it,” Lauri says. “ It’s inspiring and you brighten each other’s day.” She adds that sometimes the people getting called will tell you “this is the best thing that’s happened all week.” “I have gotten as much out of volunteering as I have given,” she says.