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7 Steps to Beginning a Stepfamily Ministry

Sometimes lighting a fire is a good thing.
By Ron L. Deal

Roger wrote with great enthusiasm about the ministry he and his wife helped to ignite.  “I’m not a pastor or trained minister,” he said.  “But you were right.  With a little direction we could start a ministry—and we have!  For the past six months a small group has been meeting in our home.  Lives are being changed, including our own.  We are so excited to see God at work.” 

In hundreds of churches throughout this country, a simple grassroots formula has ignited stepfamily ministries time and time again: Ordinary couples in stepfamilies are taking the initiative to launch a ministry in their church. 

When I first started specializing in stepfamily education and ministry, I focused my time on getting pastoral leadership to take the initiative to launch local stepfamily ministries.  But reality quickly taught me that this rarely occurs. The vast majority of churches that have a stepfamily ministry today (which is a very small percentage) do so because one or two couples from within the church made it happen. 

“But you don’t understand, Ron, we don’t know what we’re doing.  And we certainly don’t have all the answers for those who will attend,” you might object.  “Perfect,” I say. “God’s strength is always perfected in your weakness.”  In God’s economy, being the wrong people makes you the right people!

So where do you start?

First, realize that your pastor and church leaders are hard-pressed for time.  They have a lot on their plates.  Their hesitation in launching a ministry is more often about time constraints than about not caring. 

Second, realize that most ministry leaders have little knowledge of the unique dynamics and struggles stepfamilies face.  They can be educated, but don’t expect them to anticipate well what your family needs are.  Therefore, share your ministry vision with them and make it clear that all you desire is their blessing and guidelines for how to manage your ministry. 

Here’s your plan of action:

1. Pray for an open door to light this ministry fire in your church and community.

2. Educate yourself in the goals, objectives, and strategies of stepfamily ministry.  Resources are available to help you here.

  • Specifically, the Ministering to Stepfamilies DVD can be shared with others to develop a shared vision.

3. Be able to articulate your vision.  Eventually you’ll meet with your pastor or key ministry leaders and you’ll need to make some recommendations.

4. Gather a small team.  Find at least two other couples who are willing to help you orchestrate the ministry.  Spend some time together 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. 

5. Share your vision with the church leadership.  Demonstrate the ministry need and potential impact with statistics and capture their attention with how you intend to help prevent divorce in your church.  Don’t ask your pastor to run the ministry for you (unless he happens to offer); do seek his blessing and support.  Ask for a small budget to advertise your new ministry and also gain public support from the pulpit.

6. Strike the match!  The core method of stepfamily ministry is starting a class or small group of couples who come together to study and support one another.  Stepfamilies need to know that they’re not alone and that practical guidance is available.  Rely on a book or small group video resource to “teach” participants; your role is to facilitate the discussion, not be the expert. Eventually your ministry might grow to include pre-stepfamily counseling, marriage mentoring, entire stepfamily retreats, and other methods. These two curriculums are a great way to start:

 7. Consider hosting a stepfamily conference.  This will draw community attention to your ministry and eventually funnel participants to your class or group.  Various speakers are available from around the country. 

  • Learn more about hosting Ron Deal’s stepfamily conference.

Can it be this simple?  For hundreds of churches it already is.  Your church could be next.  

Copyright © 2009 by Ron Deal.  All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Meet the Author: Ron L. Deal

Ron Deal

Ron Deal is a marriage and family author, conference speaker, and therapist. He is founder and president of Smart Stepfamilies™ and director of FamilyLife Blended™, the ministry initiative of FamilyLife® to stepfamilies (for more visit and 

Ron is author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family (and DVD series), The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family (with Dr. David Olson). A highly sought-after, recognized expert in marriage and blended families, Ron is a member of the Stepfamily Expert Council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor with over 25 years experience in local church ministry and family ministry consulting. He is a featured expert on the video curriculum Single and Parenting (2011, Church Initiative) and his material is widely distributed by a variety of family education initiatives

Ron served as a member of the Couple Checkup Research Team (headed by Dr. David Olson, PREPARE-ENRICH) which conducted the two largest studies of marital strength ever accomplished. They surveyed over 100,000 marriages and remarriages (over 200,000 people) and examined the qualitative differences between highly satisfied marriages and low-quality marriages. The results of their groundbreaking research for couples are published in the books The Couple Checkup (Olson, Larson, & Olson-Sigg, 2008) and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage (Deal & Olson, 2015), and are featured in Ron’s newest seminar for dating, engaged, married, and remarried couples, the Couple Checkup Conference.

Ron is a popular conference speaker and has appeared in dozens of national radio and TV broadcasts both in the U.S. and Canada. His daily 60-second radio feature, FamilyLife Blended, is heard by thousands each week around the country and online. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, ABC’s Nightline, WGN-News, The Mike Huckabee Show, FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, HomeWord with Jim Burns, Celebration, and The 700 Club, and his work has been referenced online (e.g.,,, in magazines (e.g., Essence), and in newspapers throughout the world (e.g., USA Today, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal, and Minnesota Star Tribune). The May 2012 issue of Ladies' Home Journal featured Ron's therapy work with a blended family couple in their popular feature column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Ron has written feature family articles addressing a variety of family matters for a variety of publications and online magazines including Focus on the Family magazine, ParentLife, The Family Room, Gospel Today, Christianity Today, and HomeLife magazine. On a regular basis Ron trains therapists, marriage educators, and ministry professionals at conferences around the country and has spoken at the National Stepfamily Conference, and the Utah and Arkansas Governors' conferences on the family.

Ron and his wife, Nan, have three boys. Their middle son, Connor, died unexpectedly in February 2009 at the age of 12. In his memory, the Deal's have partnered with Touch a Life Foundation to rescue and rehabilitate children in Ghana, West Africa, from trafficking. They would be honored if you would help them sing Connor's song. Visit Connor's Song to learn more about this ministry and to hear Connor sing.

In addition to FamilyLife sponsored events Ron is available to present his Couple Checkup Conference or Building A Successful Stepfamily conference in your church or community. Learn more here.



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