Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS) is a Recognized Service Organization that includes Stephen Ministry as a vital component in its three children’s therapeutic treatment centers, emergency shelter and senior retirement communities throughout Texas.
Stephen ministers give one-to-one, lay Christian care. They are not counselors or therapists, but trained, caring Christian friends who can offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on, providing emotional and spiritual care during life’s tough times. LSS and children’s center staff realized that the young victims of abuse and neglect in residential treatment needed intentional spiritual care in addition to treatment, education and a safe, structured place to live.
A major grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries seeded the implementation of the Stephen Ministers program at LSS children’s centers, marking the first time that the Stephen Ministry model of lay care giving was used at facilities for troubled youth. This was a departure from other Stephen Ministries because of the multi-site application and because the recipients are under 18 years old.
Grant funds were leveraged with agency funds and donations to train and equip volunteers and LSS staff members as the lay ministry became established at residential programs. Each residential center now has an onsite director of spiritual care. In 2006, LCMS World Relief and Human Care provided a $30,000 seed grant for deaconesses to serve as spiritual care directors at the treatment centers. While participation in spiritual care activities must be voluntary, about 95 percent of the 500-plus school-age youth at LSS’s three centers and emergency shelters choose to take part in at least one spiritual care activity each week.
Spiritual Nurturing at New Life
New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake, Texas, is home to troubled girls, ages 13-17. For these sometimes “forgotten” girls, need-focused spiritual mentoring from trained Stephen ministers can provide answers to their questions about God and turn them to their Bible or other resources when they are hurting, sad or just seeking solace.
Most of these girls come from abusive homes where Jesus is never mentioned. Some have been in so many placements that they have never had any consistent religious training. Stephen ministers frequently remark how well the ministry coincides with the girls’ therapeutic training and treatment. Said one New Life resident: “This is the only placement I’ve been in where I could learn that God does love and care for me.”
Lutheran Social Services of the South is a multifaceted social services agency based in Austin that serves more than 46,000 people throughout Texas and Louisiana each year.
Find out more about LCMS Recognized Service Organizations and how you can get involved.