Have you ever done an online course?
Yes, I have. Oh, really? It was called P90X. You consider that a course? Kind of. It was. I mean, it was years ago, and I'm sort of kidding, but I'm not. I remember I became an advocate, like an evangelist for P90X because it was a new way to do workouts.
You know, you put it on your screen, you work out with this guy, and it's a great workout, and you have 90 days to see the before and after. You're right, that was kind of new then. But now, I don't think that's what you're talking about. No, I think now with COVID hitting, that is really pretty common for many people to do an online course. I mean, if COVID taught us anything, there's a whole different and new and great way to do ministry. Even we did marriage conferences from our home bedroom, which we turned into a studio, and online courses became something that people didn't go, oh, that's not as good as a live thing.
They actually went, wow, it is as good. And it's so convenient. Yeah. And so, we have Ron Deal in the studio, Family Life Today, talking about some online courses that you are a part of, Ron, who directs our blended ministry with Family Life. Ron, welcome back to Family Life Today. Thank you.
It's always good to be with you guys. So, here's a question for you. Have you done an online course? I have. I've done a bunch of them. You know, as a therapist, you need continuing education, and you need to be a part of it.
And more and more of that is available online these days, so that's pretty frequent for me. I just want to know if you could do 10 pull-ups. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Can you do it still?
Well, here's the thing. When I did P90X, the first day is just in back, and you start with pull-ups. I could not do one single pull-up, because they're a whole bunch of pull-ups. Yes, they are. And by day 90 of doing 20, it was incredible what happens.
You really do get better. So, obviously, we're talking about more blended courses. Back to the topic.
We want to help people get in shape in their relationship. Yes. Exactly.
I was setting you up for that. That's what we want to do. So, Family Life has created a number of online courses.
Guys, I mean, you know how this works. People can log on, and from day one, they can log on. And from the convenience of their own home, go through these online courses on demand.
What that means is you can go through it at your pace. You can work a little while at it, and then pause, and come back a week later, and you've chased kids and done all sorts of things in between, and just pick up where you left off. And we've got courses about money, courses about marriage, courses about manhood, and what it is to be a husband leading your family. And we've got two courses now specifically on the topic of blended families. One of them is designed for couples. It's called Well Blended, and that's going to help you build your marriage and your family. But the one we're talking about today is called our Certificate in Blended Family Ministry.
And what's really cool about this, guys, this is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, to my knowledge. It is an online course pulled from the best of the best presentations from our annual summit on Step Family Ministry. You know, that in-person two-day event we do every fall where people can come, and they can come to us. And we've pulled out some of those key, call them the 101 courses, if you will, and we've bundled them together and created this Blended Family Ministry course. It's going to help somebody understand the basics of ministering to step families in a local church, what the structure can be, the topics, things you want to address, or what you want to do.
We're going to try to help you think through how you get your ministry started. We're really excited about this because not everybody can come to our annual summit. We still want you to do that because there's things you're going to learn every year.
There's new material every fall. But this is really a great place to start. I remember, I don't know if you remember, Ron, speaking at that summit with you, and actually Dennis Rainey was there, I think in D.C.
I think it was near Washington when I spoke. That's right. And I remember as I sat in front of those couples in the room, I thought, man, they are committed, not just to their blended family, but to training and helping other, it was a room of people saying, I don't just want to do our family well, I want to help others and I want to be trained in how to do that.
It was really an equipping thing. And so now that you can do this online, perfect. Well, and I'll say too, we have a woman at church that took the course online with her new husband and they were blending a family and she was on our staff. And she started this incredible ministry at our church for blended families.
It was brand new. So many people started attending. So Ron, are you saying that this course would be for someone like her, like she's a leader and she wants to have this ministry? Or is this for everyone?
You got it. It's really for everyone. Lay leaders like this couple that you're talking about.
It's perfect for them as well as and I just got to say all the way up to senior pastors who are trying to get a vision for the audience they're speaking to every weekend. Who am I talking to? What are their lives?
What are they living day in and day out? I need to understand that better. Youth ministry leaders, children ministry leaders who are working with kids all the time who are maybe in your children's program once a month because they're moving back and forth between two households. Like how can you be sensitive to that?
That's the kind of stuff. And those are the people that this would be appropriate for. Premarital counselors, people who are just trying to get a sense of ministering to couples and families and individuals in this day and age. And you know, it occurs to me, we have to start this series with a theology of step-family ministry.
And that's important because we always need to go to the scriptures and say, all right, what do we find here that are principles that help us move forward in how we minister to people? And so one of the messages that we really want to bring to people, we're going to start with a clip from this message from Pastor Rob Boo, who at the time was senior pastor of Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago. A little background before we roll into this clip. His first wife died of cancer. He later married Rhonda, whose first husband had also died. And then they blended a family of seven kids. So Rob and Rhonda blended family with seven kids.
Now, in the first part of Rob's presentation, he shares that they had a rough process integrating their family in their home. Like many step-families, they found it harder than they anticipated. And then he shared some of the stats that we know about step-families. 40% of parents raising kids are blended families. 62% of couples in the U.S. under age 55 have a step relationship with either a step-parent or a step-child connected to their relationship. And about a third of all weddings in the U.S. today, at least a third. I think that's a low estimate of weddings in the U.S. form blended families. So he shared all that to kind of set up what you're about to hear. And then he begins to make a case for step-family ministry. Let's listen. So why step-family ministry?
First, step-family life can be hard. Second, it's a pervasive cultural reality. And now third, it's a river of mercy that flows from the fountain of God's mercy to a world that increasingly wonders if there is any mercy. The God of the Bible is not a single person God who, like a great uncle, is distant and indifferent. No, the God of the Bible, we know from the beginning of the Bible through the end of the Bible, is a triune God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, who has eternally existed in perfection and majesty as well as compassion and love. So we ask the question, why did this triune God create the world? Was it not so the Father could share his love for the Son with others through the Spirit? So that we, as his people, might share in loving the Father as the Son loves the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells us. This infinite, this unstoppable, this unfailing love directed towards sinful, fallen human beings is what the Bible calls mercy. So the third reason we give ourselves to step-family ministry, the reason we're intentional, we're sacrificial, and step-family ministry is often tough-sledding, hard-going. And the reason we give ourselves to this ministry is because it's a tangible expression of God's mercy. There's a truth that you rarely think about.
I mean, Rob hit it. I mean, it's like, yeah, I mean, this is what, when you minister to families like that, you are a tangible expression of God's mercy. It's a beautiful point.
I was so struck by his statement. It's a river of mercy to a world that doubts if there is any mercy left over for anybody, you know. When we act with God's love and favor towards other people, we're communicating God's mercy that he's given to us. It's a little odd to me, but on rare occasions, I've had somebody say something to me, something like, you know, aren't people in blended families there because of their own sinfulness? As if to say, well, you made your bed. You're just kind of stuck in it all by yourself.
Too bad for you. I don't really get that because that's a person who on some level has received God's mercy and then is sort of refusing to pass it on to anybody else. If we have been touched by his mercy, shouldn't we want to pay it forward, to give it to others? You know, Micah 6, verse 8, act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. You're not supposed to just kind of be merciful or tolerate mercy.
You're supposed to love mercy. Love other people receiving the same gift that you have received. To me, that's what Step Family ministry is. We do this in a lot of ways in church work, in local church ministry, ministering to people who are down on their luck financially or living in hard situations or got kicked out by a spouse and left destitute or, you know, all kinds of circumstances people find themselves in. And we say, come, you are welcome here. This is the church. This is the body of Christ. This is where you belong.
Imperfect people are welcome here. Well, that's what Step Family ministry is. That's the theological foundation for it, that we start this certificate course in blended family ministry with just that foundation. That's what we stand on. That's what we're trying to do in local church.
And we go from there. I remember, you know, Ron, we have this conversation decades ago, standing on the stage at my church and apologizing to the blended families because I had sort of missed that. I was often ministering in my mind to the married families, to the one husband, one wife, to even singles and forgetting there's a hole. And it's amazing because I was in a blended family as a young boy, you know, a good part of our church is a blended family. And often I'm not speaking to their situation.
And, you know, you and I talked about that. Then as I sat there at the, you know, the summit, as you're training people how to minister to them, I'm like, I am putting my hand up, like train me because I could be easily won. And I didn't feel like I didn't want to give them mercy, but I just looked past and I felt like I needed to apologize and say, I see you because God sees you. God's mercy is extended to you. And the way you're going to feel that is when we, the people of God, extend that mercy. So what a beautiful way to start with the foundational theology. But I'm guessing you get real practical as well.
We do. The course gets real practical from there. And one of the things that we talk about is understanding the basic underlying dynamics of step family living, of being a blended family. And so here's a little clip from a presentation that I often do at our summits called Understanding Step Families 101. It basically gives leaders the basics in understanding step family living and how it's different from biological families. And it helps people check their assumptions at the door and learn what they need to understand about working with blended families.
Let's listen. So now what I want to do is I want to spend a little time talking about how step family living is different. Again, I'm trying to show you different points of view about complexity. That's the whole point of this, is understanding complexity. So let's talk a little bit about biological families, traditional families that you're probably more familiar with and how step families can be different from that just to give you another snapshot.
We'll do a number of these. Dripilator and percolator, what's that all about? Have you ever heard that phrase, as goes the marriage, so goes the family?
Right? That makes a lot of sense. And that's a dripilator observation, right? As goes the marriage, it drips down onto the kids and the parenting and the process of being a family and doing family life. Because you as the couple are the leaders, the guides to the family. And so if your marriage is struggling and you're fighting and they're at odds with one another, not cooperating, then it drips down onto everybody. In step families, that is true, but it is also true, the percolator, as goes the kids and the children and the parenting, so goes the marriage.
It can go up. Wish I had a nickel for every time a couple has said to me, Ron, we get along great in our marriage, but when the kids come back from the other home, we fall apart. That's percolator. Because the kids bring stress, the kids bring something, they're feeling whatever it is. Moms in the other home said so and so, and now this kid's coming back and now they're being mean to the stepmom. And the stepmom goes to the husband and says, what do I do? And the husband says, I don't know, why are you bothering me with this? Well, you're my husband, why are you not on my side? Could you talk to your daughter? No, I'm not going to talk to my daughter. That's an issue between she and her mother.
No, now it's an issue between you and me. And it can just go like that. It starts in the other home, ripples through a kid, into the step-parent relationship, next thing you know, it's the marriage. I would even say there's another dynamic and go side to side.
So top down, bottom up, and between homes. Stress just can ripple in a lot of different directions. It always ends up in the couple's marriage because they're the ones who carry the responsibility to figure things out. And that's hard on them.
It's just hard on them. So anything we do to come along and help make sense out of that, to support them, encourage them, embolden their relationship, keep them secure with one another, even if they can't fix anything going on in the other home, but at least that marriage is holding on, then there is a stabilizing force in the midst of all of that stress. Here's another assumption that we often have about family life, and that's that putting the marriage first provides stability and security for the kids. The way we like to say this, if you ever heard, the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. That's based in a systemic understanding of relationships. Very true, very insightful. When a father loves the kid's mother, their marriage sets a climate environment for him to love his children and for the children to grow up in a healthy environment where they feel safe and secure because mom and dad are together and they're safe in their relationship and they are the leaders and backbone of our home. And so everything just flows very nicely. But let me ask you this question. Would it be also true to say that the best thing a stepfather can do for his stepchildren is to love their mother?
That's a really good question, and I want to know the answer. Me too. That's David Ann Wilson with Ron Deal on family life today. We'll hear Ron's answer in just a minute. But if this conversation about blended families is resonating with you or it's something that's personal for you, coming up on October 13th through 14th, we'll be having this year's summit on step family ministry. This year, the focus is on helping ministry leaders better understand loss and grief in blended families.
If you want to learn how to come alongside blended families in your church and community, you can find out more at familylifetoday.com. All right, now back to David Ann's conversation with Ron Deal and whether the best way a stepdad can love his stepchildren is by loving their mother. And the answer would be eventually, yes, the best thing a stepfather can do for his stepchildren is to love their mother.
Eventually, that's a long term outcome. In the beginning, his love for her is potentially a threat to children. Wait a minute, wait a minute, that's my mom. I now have to share my mom with you. I really don't mind sharing mom with my dad because that's all as it should be. There's a unison there in us being a family. But because mom and dad are now divorced, I'm now having to share my mom with somebody whom I like but I don't necessarily love. I don't really know where you fit in my heart and I really don't understand our new family. And so it's a threat for you to love my mom.
What a totally different dynamic. And that's a foundational difference between blended families and first families. This is why guys, those of us in marriage ministry, like Family Life is all about, we got to be careful about the advice that we give and to whom we give it. You know, that standard go date your spouse thing, your kids will be thrilled when you come home happy, works in biological families and it can work in blended families. But in some blended families, especially new ones where relationships are fresh and fragile, a happy couple is a threat to me as a kid. It has a completely different impact on children. And so that's why we talk about these unique differences in blended families. And I'm so glad you are as I listened to that.
Dave, did you feel this? Like, man, as leaders at our church, we missed it often by not being able to address these issues and as leaders knowing how to address them. Makes all the difference whether it's from the pulpit or in a marriage class or a parenting class.
Yeah, so as you are training through this online course, how do you help? I'm laughing because I'm like, couples like Ann and I that missed it, how do you help them see the blended families that they're around every day and maybe haven't seen? And now that maybe they get to see and have a heart for it, they need to know, okay, how do I minister to them? So we're going to, in this course, turn the corner. So we're going to start with theology, like we talked about. We're going to talk a little bit about the unique dynamics of blended families.
And then we're going to say, okay, practically, what can you do? And we're going to turn that corner and say, all right, in this case about saying, date your spouse and come home happy. We're going to say, and if you're in a blended family, recognize that that might actually bring a different response from children. So don't be surprised when you come home happy if one of them is feeling a little envious or a little jealous or a little put out and they act up a little bit.
Don't be surprised by that. You didn't do the wrong thing by going out on a date. See, when you just add that little part, all of a sudden this couple is going, okay, yes, it's still the right thing to do. We might see a different response from our children. It shouldn't keep us from dating. It shouldn't keep us from loving each other and the kids being aware of that. But we do have to step into that space with children and help them process their emotions.
So it's advice plus, if I could say it that way, to help people. One of the big things we want to help church leaders do is just see blended families in their church, recognize that they're there. For years, I've suggested that churches on Mother's Day use the word stepmom. You know, hey, if you're a mom or a stepmom or a grandmother or a foster mom, if you're just volunteering and helping in our children's ministry program and you're loving on somebody else's kid, we want to thank you for the stuff that you do.
Like just use a word like that in a public setting at church goes a long way towards affirming the stepmothers in the room. All of a sudden they feel like, wow, it's okay to be me and to be here. I'm feeling weird about the day because my stepchildren, I'm not their mother. They wish they were with their mother. They're here with me. And they asked all the moms to stand and I don't know if I should stand.
You know, do I earn that position on this? It's an awkward day for a lot of people. And so when you say something from the pulpit, it helps adults, it helps kids. It's affirming. It says to them, you belong here. Little things like that are a part of the big picture of doing stepfamily ministry.
Yeah, and it's great. I mean, even as you say that, I'm thinking of at least 30 years of Mother's Days that I did as a pastor. And I always had in my mind, obviously, the moms. But I always made sure and I told all our other teaching pastors, hey, make sure, you know, for some people this is a hard day. Their mom has died. So mention that.
I don't know if I ever said and mentioned stepmoms. That little thing that you just said is such a little thing, but it's huge. I can tell you stories about people that cried sitting in their church just hearing that from the pulpit for the very first time. Just a passing remark. But it affirms, all right, we're in the right place and God is with us and our church is for us.
That is a great, great feeling. Well, that's just the beginning of sort of the practical things that we unpack in this course to help people think about ministry. Of course, people can have classes or small groups or an annual weekend retreat for couples. We do blended and blessed here at Family Life, which is a livestream event every spring that gives your church a weekend thing to do for your couples where you don't have to put it all together. We put the content together. You just get to borrow it, if you will, and use it as an opportunity to minister to couples. So very much a partnership. We at Family Life want to help to empower you and equip you. We have coaches that can come alongside you for free. As I mentioned earlier, our annual Fall Summit on Step Family Ministry is all about helping you get networked and find the latest resources, what's new in research, and just connecting with other people who are also in this space doing ministry.
We're all about supporting the local church as you love and support step families. Yeah, I would just add, way to go. I mean, like you said at the beginning, I don't know if there's anything in the world like this.
You would often get on a plane or car and get to a summit, which is awesome and still something I would encourage people to do. But if you can't, you can do the next best thing, which is almost the best thing. Do it right in the family room of your home. You could even bring some people over to your house and be trained together through this online course. Way to go.
I think it's great. Thanks. And if you're listening today and it's not you, but it's someone you know and love, tell your pastor, tell your children's ministry leader about this online course.
Get them interested in it. Thanks, Ron. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today.
You can learn to better minister to blended families and get the certificate in blended family ministry at familylifetoday.com. And while you're there, don't forget, we've got a great discount on all small group kits, including the Smart Step Family. Again, that's at familylifetoday.com. Now tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson meet with Rob Singleton to chat about why social media is a culprit to a loss of our own authenticity. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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