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Women organize ministry at church
The main thing we do is listen'
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Forsyth County News

For more information on becoming a Stephen Minister or care receiver, call Kathy Callahan at (404) 680-0034 or go online at
Paula Gault was looking for ways to continue to giving back to the community.

Turns out Gault, who retired as Forsyth County Schools superintendent at the end of 2007, didn’t have to look far. The search ended at her church.

“I had actually been praying for something,” she said. “I have been real active in my church in the past and I was looking for some way to serve again, or serve more.

“It was just a great fit. I felt really led to do it.”

Gault, along with Kathy Callahan, helped create the Stephen Ministry at First Baptist Cumming.

Nearly two-dozen members strong, the ministry provides counseling and companionship for those in difficult situations, such as divorce, depression or the death of a loved one.

Callahan and Gault traveled to Orlando, Fla., for a weeklong training workshop in summer 2008. In January, they led their first 50-hour training session.

Trained members, called Stephen Ministers, are matched with a person seeking guidance.

“It’s for folks in need who just may be going through some bad times or a crisis in their life, any situation for which they might need a caring person to listen,” Gault said. “And that’s the main thing we do is listen. We’re not counselors.”

Gault said more than 10,000 churches across many denominations have a Stephen Ministry. But it wasn’t until Callahan’s sister talked about the one at Cumming First United Methodist Church that the idea formed.

When she first decided to start the ministry, Callahan said she sought help from Darel Robertson, the church’s minister of music. He recommended finding a reliable partner.

“He said she or he needs to be a person that people know in the community,” Callahan said. “They need to obviously serve in the church, they need to be respected and they need to be a people person.

“Paula just came to mind and I knew that she was retired, but I did not know if she was wanting to get involved with something this big. I called her and she said, ‘Funny you should ask, because I was looking to see where I could be of service at the church.’”

The two women hold Stephen Minister meetings on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Confidentiality is the focus, but by being able to talk among each other helps the group be better at what it does, Callahan said.

“It’s really a sounding board to help other Stephen Ministers to get a better relationship with the care receiver,” she said.

Gault said the meetings and the ministry have been “a really good experience for all of us.”

“We have grown as a group and it’s worked out real well,” she said.

In her own life, Gault has been through several crises, including a stroke and the death of her previous husband, Stan Gault.

“People have been very, very helpful to me over the years in going through good times, but also bad times. So I felt like with my experience, I might could be helpful to others.

“When I was traveling last summer and had the stroke, I realized then even more, how much people might need help from someone else.”