I think remarried couples—and especially those with children—swim in a different ocean than first-marriage couples. The water temperature can be a little cooler—trusting a spouse can be a challenge after you've been hurt in a previous relationship. There are unique under-currents—most everyone in the stepfamily has experienced a loss that is always just under the surface, influencing everyday interactions. They run into a few more sharks—think of loyalty conflicts and ex-spouses.
And the water is murky—stepfamily life can be confusing, especially in the beginning: What role does a stepparent play? Do we combine our assets or leave them separate to provide for our children? How do we combine traditions and holidays? Do we take the kids to the ex-in-laws for Christmas or don't we?
Many of you swim in the blended family ocean—or at least you try to. Many of you grew up in a blended family. And the rest of you know stepfamilies who are struggling to stay above the surface. Chances are at least 30-40 percent of the couples in your church fall into the "stepcouple" category.
Yet it's easy for many stepfamilies to feel like second-class citizens in our churches today.Some truly feel like they are "the church's dirty little problem" because of guilt over decisions or actions that contributed to a divorce. Others are treated as though they live in a "less than whole" family situation" by those who have not experienced divorce themselves.
That's why FamilyLife is passionate about helping stepfamilies succeed, and that's why we've established an outreach called FamilyLife Blended™. We offer books, DVDs, events, and articles that focus on helping remarriages and stepparents, and we train churches and professionals to work with blended families. If you're looking for help in your remarriage or stepfamily, or if you're interested in reaching out to blended families, you can learn more at www.familylife.com/blended.
Recently we hosted the first national summit on stepfamily ministry for 150 leaders from around the United States, Canada, and South Korea. Titled "Blended and Blessed," the event in Dallas (see photo below) sought to identify best practices of local church ministries and synergize the efforts of lay couples, church staff, and parachurch ministries like FamilyLife, Focus on the Family, and New Life Ministries.
Many assume that typical marriage and family ministries are adequate for blended families as well. They aren't. In fact, I contend that a traditional marriage ministry teaches only half of what it takes to strengthen a stepfamily marriage given the unique dynamics of stepfamily living that beat against the couple's relationship.
Those who recognize this—and are helping those who swim in the stepfamily ocean—often feel like they are alone in blended family ministry. One benefit of the summit in Dallas was bringing these like-minded people together to connect and share ideas. The atmosphere was encouraging and even electric, and our hope is that the event will prove to be a catalyst to a huge movement in the church to help blended families.
Many attending the summit heard for the very first time that new research confirms what I have believed for years: Preventing redivorce and strengthening the stepfamily environment in which a child grows helps to break the generational cycle of divorce. Children from healthy stepfamilies have healthier attitudes about marriage, make better choices, and are more likely to remain in one marriage for life. All it takes is one generation and we can break the generational cycle of divorce and redeem a family legacy.
Just think, you could make a difference in both this generation and the one to come. Learn more about healthy stepfamilies and encourage your church to begin a stepfamily ministry so families can be blended and blessed.
Copyright © 2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.