St. Louis, MO—Stephen Ministries St. Louis is now training caring ministry leaders through a live, interactive online training experience called the Bridge Leader’s Training Course (BLTC). This event fully trains Stephen Leaders—the pastors, church staff, and lay leaders who begin and lead Stephen Ministry in their congregation.

The BLTC draws on newly redesigned and updated Stephen Ministry resources to equip participants with the skills and know-how to lead all aspects of their congregation’s Stephen Ministry. This includes training a team of congregation members as lay caregivers (called Stephen Ministers), matching them with hurting people in the congregation and community, and offering ongoing guidance and support to Stephen Ministers as they provide one-to-one, Christ-centered care to people experiencing a wide range of life difficulties.

Established in 1975, Stephen Ministry is a lay caring ministry being used by thousands of congregations of all types, sizes, and settings—across the US, Canada, and 30 other countries. Stephen Leaders in these congregations have equipped more than 600,000 people as Stephen Ministers, who in turn have cared for millions of people in need. The new training and resources carry this ministry into the future, preparing congregations to meet the ministry challenges of an ever-changing world.

“We’ve seen a huge increase of interest in Stephen Ministry over the past year and a half,” says Joel Bretscher, Program Director at Stephen Ministries St. Louis. “Pastors have always had an incredible caregiving load, tending to more needs than they could ever meet alone, and the pandemic has brought even more of those needs to the surface. It’s underscored the importance of having a team of well-trained caregivers, which is why so many churches have been relying on their Stephen Ministry and so many more are getting it started. The Bridge Leader’s Training Course, the new training resources, and the updated system have made it quicker and easier for congregations to begin Stephen Ministry or strengthen an existing Stephen Ministry.”

The Bridge Leader’s Training Course is delivered via Zoom to cohorts of twenty people, led by two members of Stephen Ministries’ teaching faculty. Each session uses a variety of teaching methods—presentation, small- and whole-group discussions, skill practice, video, and more. The course consists of ten sessions held twice weekly for five weeks or once weekly for ten weeks.

The Bridge Leader’s Training Course has welcomed participants from churches across the United States and Canada, as well as from other countries including Australia, China, Germany, and Switzerland. Since the initial cohort in July 2020, more than a thousand individuals representing hundreds of congregations have completed the training from the convenience of their own home or office and are now serving as Stephen Leaders.

“Our church is just getting Stephen Ministry started,” said Diane Dunham from Summerville Presbyterian Church in Summerville, South Carolina, which began its Stephen Ministry in July 2020. “The quality of the Bridge Leader’s Training Course was an amazing indicator of what Stephen Ministry offers and what it means to be involved. After finishing the course, I couldn’t wait to get this ministry going in my congregation.”

“The Bridge Leader’s Training Course was just excellent,” said Pastor David Handley, whose church, Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois, has had Stephen Ministry since 1995. “Everything—the materials, the videos, and discussions—was clearly presented and gave good insight into the many dimensions of being a Stephen Leader. I can’t think of anything that would improve on this already great training.”

To learn more about Stephen Ministry, visit or call (314) 428-2600. Additional information about the Bridge Leader’s Training Course is available at