SM – Confidentiality

Confidentiality of Stephen Ministry relationships

Confidentiality is key to almost any care relationship. Stephen Ministers are trained to never divulge the identity of the care receiver or any details that come up during meetings. You can think of it as being similar to an attorney-client privilege where nothing leaves the room. Over the course of a caring relationship we will not even tell our spouses where we are going.

Sometimes it comes as some kind of shock to care receivers that we Stephen Ministers meet once a month for peer review after our continuing education session. Rest assured that this is only meant to help each other with care ideas. Never will a name be dropped or revealing details be shared. For example, it is not at all necessary to say “My care receiver has ovarian cancer”, it suffices to say “My care receiver is very ill”. This reduces the chance that others might get a hunch of who it could be, especially in a small congregation. Should anyone have a hunch they are trained not to dwell on that but to move on with important discussions.

In extremely delicate situations it might be necessary to assign a Stephen Minister from another congregation. They all receive the same training and are just as qualified in providing a caring relationship.

It will take a while to achieve what we call “a house of trust” where a care receiver fully trusts that everything remains confidential. This is normal and care givers will never push for more information when they feel that a care receiver isn’t quite ready to share or maybe never will be about a particular detail. In the first place Stephen Minister are listeners anyhow.

Confidentiality is one of the main pillars of Stephen Ministry. It will only be broken if the care giver sees imminent danger, for example if serious suicidal thoughts are brought up, and then only on a strict need-to-know basis.

Occasionally you see care relationships being disclosed including the names of assigned Stephen Ministers, such as in several videos in this Stephen Ministry section or at church. That is always initiated by the care receiver. Only he or she can decide that. Everything else remains between the care receiver, the care giver and Jesus.


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