Confidentiality, as you may have read or heard before, is a cornerstone of Stephen Ministry. What a care receiver says to his or her Stephen Minister is kept in strictest confidence. Even the identity of a care receiver is kept secret (unless the care receiver chooses to tell someone).
Confidentiality gives care receivers the reassurance they need so that they can risk revealing to their Stephen Ministers their deepest thoughts and feelings, details they might not be able to discuss with anyone else. It is through the sharing of innermost feelings that God can work the miracle of healing, restoring faith and hope to care receivers’ lives. Without the assurance of confidentiality, most care receivers would have a difficult time opening up, which would impede the healing process. How does this relate to you, as a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church? Even if you are not a Stephen Minister, think about the importance of confidentiality in your day-to-day relationships. Consider how you can improve relationships and help people’s personal healing by maintaining confidentiality when something is told to you.
When someone shares a personal feeling, a thought that is troubling him or her, or something for which he or she might feel guilty, it can be very tempting to pass that information along to someone. Even when motives are noble (for instance, wanting to pass the information along as a prayer request), it could be damaging or painful to the person who first shared the information.
If you really believe it is something that needs to be passed along—to a prayer chain, pastor, Stephen Leader, or someone else who could help—tell that to the person who shared it. Explain why you believe others should know, and encourage him or her to pass it along to the appropriate person(s). or get permission from the individual for you to share the information yourself.
You also can play a part in helping our Stephen Ministry remain confidential. If you hear through the grapevine who a particular Stephen Minister’s care receiver might be (because a care receiver has revealed this, for example), remember the Stephen Minister’s pledge to confidentiality and the important reasons for it. Refrain from asking a Stephen Minister about the caring relationship or from making comments or observations (however helpful they might appear) about someone you suspect is a care receiver. It puts a Stephen Minister in a very difficult spot when someone asks about a care receiver (whether or not it even is the Stephen Minister’s care receiver). If you have questions about how a possible care receiver might be doing, ask that person him- or herself. A personal expression of concern from you probably would make that person feel good because it would show that someone else really cared.
Confidentiality is a standard of conduct all of us need to live by—not just those involved in our Stephen Ministry. Confidentiality promotes trust, builds one another up, and encourages healing in a Christian community. As Solomon says in Proverbs 12:18, ‘Reckless words pierce life a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.’
For more information on Stephen Ministry, please contact Pastor Steve, Trish Tangman or Laberta Otte.