Bill: Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and this is Doogie, my assistant minister. I have two special guests today: Melanie Flynn, I’ll tell you in a minute why we’re talking to her, and this is Ziggy, who belongs to Melanie’s daughter. Melanie is sort of dog-sitting an extended time, right?
Melanie: An extended time, yes.
Bill: So Melanie, I want to hear about your family and how you got involved at Kenilworth Union, but let’s cut to the chase because we’ll see if we have time. I am inviting you because you are the head Stephen Leader, is that the right vocabulary?
Melanie: I am a Stephen Leader.
Bill: A Stephen leader, of the Stephen Ministry. So tell us what Stephen Ministry is and why, how did you get involved and why it’s so important to you?
Melanie: I became a Stephen Minister thirteen years ago, and I absolutely love it. We joined the church, I joined the church, about 25 years ago, and my kids were small, and I did different things, but I was really looking for something that would provide really one-to-one care and really meaningful, close relationships.
Stephen Ministry just seemed like a natural fit to me. At the time, the program was fairly new. I think I was in the second or third class of people who went through the training.
Stephen Ministry is one-to-one Christian caregiving. It’s not counseling. We are not pastors, you are. We really provide confidential care and companionship. Sometimes people want to pray, sometimes people just want to talk. Sometimes there’s very little talking, and just an abundance of listening. And it’s one of the brightest spots in my life and I love it.
Bill: That’s great. So tell us first about the training you got as a Stephen Minister, and then also as a Stephen Leader, two different levels, right?
Melanie: Yes. So first, every Stephen Minister receives 50 hours of training. I actually facilitated our most recent training program for our most recent class of Stephen Ministers two years ago.
The training for Stephen Leaders is just kind of another level of training. It’s a weeklong program, nine hours a day, and in different locations all over the country.
I was first asked to be a Stephen Leader about eight years ago and my life was really busy at that time and I wasn’t able to commit to being away for a week. About three years ago, the time was right, and I did it, and I absolutely love it.
Bill: Thank you so much for responding to that invitation, Melanie. You’re doing such a wonderful job. We so appreciate all of that commitment. Give us some examples of situations in which a parishioner might request a Stephen Minister without revealing any details or privacies.
Melanie: Well, all kinds of reasons, Bill. Sometimes people are looking for someone to walk with them through a difficult divorce. Sometimes it’s loss of a spouse. Loss of a job. A serious illness. Really, any number of things.
And the thing that we always have to keep in mind is what is really tough and traumatic for one person isn’t necessarily for another. So we’re very, very cognizant of how different life situations affect each individual. When people need a listening ear, they need someone to pray with, they need someone just to walk with them. We are there to do that, completely confidential.
Bill: So last week, I talked to Marion Hanold, our trustee in charge of Congregational Care, and you’re in her kind of situation as well right now without Jo Forrest. You, Melanie, and Marion stepped up to help the pastors care for the congregation. We are so appreciative of that. So nice to know that the three of us have trained a little army to help us care for our flock. If someone would like to become a Stephen Minister, or if someone would like to request a Stephen Minister for themselves or for a friend, how would they go about doing that?
Melanie: They are welcome to call any of the Stephen Leaders. They can call me, Diane Hart, Bill Steinmetz, Don Farnsworth, any of us. And we’re just so happy to talk to whomever is in need of a Stephen Minister, or anybody who is interested in becoming a Stephen Minister.
Bill: Great. So thank you for inviting Matt, my videographer, and me to your beautiful home, here we are in the backyard. It’s 28 degrees but we’re very comfortable because of your fire. So how many kids do you have, Melanie?
Bill: You’re married, right? Tell us about your family.
Melanie: Well, I have five children; twin sons who are 32, and live in Evanston, and a 28-year-old daughter, who just had her second child. She’s married and lives in Phoenix, and then a 27-year-old daughter who is engaged and lives in Denver and is an ICU nurse, and then my fifth daughter is also 27 and lives in New York City.
Bill: Who’s Ziggy’s mom?
Melanie: My youngest, Katie. My New York girl.
Bill: Before we went on air, Melanie was telling me that—what was her name, your daughter?
Bill: Katie was enrolled at Miami University of Ohio with seven other girls, and they snuck this Ziggy into the fraternity house or whatever it was, and hid her for two years. But she needs grass, so now Melanie and Kevin have inherited her.
Melanie: And we are very, very happy to have Ziggy with us.
Bill: Thanks for having us, Melanie. It’s so wonderful to be here with you. Thanks, Matt, and God bless you all.