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by Ron L. Deal, LMFT, LPC, Bestselling author of The Smart Stepfamily & Founder, Smart Stepfamilies, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor

Reaching out to stepfamilies is sure to be a major area of ministry for the church over the next millennium. But persons often ask, "How do we get started and how do we get our minister to put this on his agenda?" It is an important question.

It is my estimation that most current stepfamily ministry in America today started as a grassroots effort by a few stepfamily couples. Very few formal stepfamily ministries are run by a paid ministry leaders. Furthermore, no major pro-family Christian organization is putting time or resources into this aspect of family life-at least not yet-so church leaders are not being made aware of the need. So what can you do?

First, realize that your minister and church leaders are constrained by time. They have a lot on their plate and very few resources to help them take on another project. It is also good to acknowledge that most ministry leaders have little knowledge of the unique dynamics and struggles stepfamilies face. Furthermore, pastors can become hesitant to pursue stepfamily ministry due to theological issues surrounding divorce and a hidden fear that ministry to remarried couples somehow abandons God's ideal for one man and one woman for life. You must be able to help them with each of these concerns. Consider it your challenge to educate them in a number of ways. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Gather a few stepfamily ministry resources and become familiar with them. Eventually you'll meet with key ministry leaders and you'll need to make some recommendations. Read this article that details different materials you can use in a stepfamily ministry/education program: Starting Your Ministry.

  2. Develop a vision for stepfamily ministry. Grasp hold of the potential impact on your community as you divorce-proof remarried couples and equip them to serve the Lord. Stepfamily ministry is not a passing fad; it is here to stay and will impact generations over time.

  3. Get a game plan. I usually recommend that before a ministry is launched at least two couples spend some time gathering resources and studying about stepfamily life. If there is going to be a class or support group, you won't need to know all the answers, but you will need to know how to facilitate some constructive discussions. Ask for a small budget to advertise your new ministry and gain public support from the pulpit.

  4. Share your vision and your game plan with your minister. Demonstrate the ministry need and potential impact with statistics and capture his attention with how you intend to help (download the article "Ministering to Stepfamilies" from my web page). Don't ask him to run the ministry for you (unless he happens to offer), just seek his blessing and support.

  5. Start! Begin meeting with a few others and share your ideas for strengthening your homes. Using a book or study manual as the backbone to your discussions, have group members read a section before each session. Then come prepared with discussion questions to make the material come alive for your participants.

I and others are continuing to educate ministers about the needs of stepfamilies. But until those seeds begin to take root, beginning a stepfamily ministry is probably in your hands. Don't stand back and wait for someone else to do it. Why don't you make it happen!

Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.