GriefShare – Sharing the love of Christ

GriefShare

 

By Lynne Cobb

Communications Coordinator; English District Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

“We may see someone join our church because of this program, and that's great, but it's not the focus.”  

In February, Ascension of Christ Lutheran Church in Beverly Hills, MI, began GriefShare, a grief counseling ministry open to the community as well as members of the church.

The on-going ministry, which meets weekly, is facilitated by Sue Boyle and Leighann Suurmeyer, both who are trained Stephen Ministers. The ministry provides comfort, support, encouragement, prayer and relief for those grieving the loss of a loved one.  

“It's generally a small group, not more than six people, including Sue and me as facilitators, but the majority of participants have been non-members who found us by using the group locator tool on GriefShare's website, and we're encouraged by that.  It's a lay-driven program,” explained Leighann. “Pastors can certainly participate, and we like to introduce him to those who come to the meeting so they know he's available should they want to speak to a pastor, but beyond that, it's led by the facilitators.”

Being a trained Stephen Minister is not a requirement for being a facilitator, and there is no formal training needed.  The videos are a major portion of the session, and then the facilitator(s), after viewing, begins and guides the discussion.  A leader's guide is provided to assist with opening dialogue.

The ministry began with Sue Boyle, who is also a certified grief counselor.  She was looking for an outreach opportunity for Ascension of Christ, relating to grief counseling.  

“Two years ago, when I retired from Bloomfield Schools, I thought it would be a good idea to use my counseling degree in serving the Lord, so I took the necessary credits to become a certified grief counselor. I did an internship of sorts with New Hope Center for Grief in Northville. While it was a good program, it was expensive to implement and not really Christ-centered,” Sue said.

She found GriefShare through on-line research, and began investigating who was using it and how it was being used. Sue learned that Cross of Christ Lutheran and Faith Lutheran Church were both offering GriefShare, so she spoke with them and then spent several months familiarizing the Ascension of Christ congregation on this ministry.

“Pastor Grams lent a lot of support, and the council agreed it was a ministry we should pursue,” Sue explained.

One of the things the GriefShare leadership tells churches that are considering the program is that the two main times people come to a church – and leave a church – are during a divorce and following a death. (GriefShare also offers a similar DivorceCare program.)

“They remind us that many people these days do not come to a church through the traditional "front door," but are brought in through what they call the "side door;" via an event or class or other type of outreach that speaks to them in their daily lives.  We may see someone join our church because of this program, and that's great, but it's not the focus,” said Leighann.  “Instead, we want to share the love of Christ with those who are hurting.  Some of the people who've joined us so far already have a strong Christian faith, but as you know, that doesn't exempt us from the pain of grief.  We've had others who don't have much of a faith; for them, we pray that our aid during their suffering is a foundation on which the Holy Spirit will later build.”  

Leighann said that eventually they would like to be able to offer the DivorceCare program too.

“Grief is a journey that no one should go through alone, and with GriefShare, no one needs to go it alone,” Sue shared.

To learn more about how Ascension of Christ is facilitating this outreach program, contact Sue Boyle (smvboyle@gmail.com) or Leighann Suurmeyer, (leighann_su@yahoo.com)orleave a message at the church, (248) 644-8890. http://www.ascensionofchrist.org/

For more information on GriefShare, visit their Website at www.griefshare.org and find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/griefshare