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Stepfamily Teens Straddling Different Homes: Ron Deal, Gayla Grace & Kara Powell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
August 28, 2023 5:15 am

Stepfamily Teens Straddling Different Homes: Ron Deal, Gayla Grace & Kara Powell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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August 28, 2023 5:15 am

Identity, belonging: They're burning questions in any teen. How can you feed these in your teen, so their transitions between vastly different stepfamily homes mean they grow stronger, more resilient, and grounded in Jesus Christ? Author Kara Powell discusses the needs of teens in stepfamilies with Gayla Grace and Ron Deal.

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

There's 50 different answers, at least, that we can glean from Scripture about who God says we are. But one that we think is really important for young people to know today is that Jesus makes them enough. In the midst of trying to satisfy all these expectations and feeling like they don't cross that bar, the single word, enough. That Jesus makes you enough.

In fact, Jesus makes you more than enough. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. I am excited for our listeners to hear an interview that Ron Deal did on his blended family podcast today.

It's going to be a great one. And most of you know Ron is our director for our blended family initiative. But before we get into the interview, we have something that's pretty exciting. Yeah, the summit on Step Family Ministry this year is virtual.

What is the summit? I mean, it's an equipping time for leaders in churches and especially leaders with blended family situations. But it's really an equipping time for all kinds of leaders. And we've been there. I've spoken at it. It isn't always virtual. This time it's virtual, which means you don't have to be at a specific location.

You can watch it from anywhere and it's going to be a powerful time. Well, today, Ron sat down with Dr. Cara Powell. She's at the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. I heard her years ago at an Orange conference and she's dynamic. Her book, The Three Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, is fabulous. And today we're going to listen.

This is episode number 86. Ron sat down with Gayla Grace, who serves on the team as well. And they interviewed Dr. Powell about these three big questions teens are asking. Do you know what those are? No.

We're going to find out. Gayla, have you ever preached a sermon your kids weren't listening to? Oh my goodness. And the older they got, the more that seemed to happen. Man, been there, done that. Son, I got answers that you don't have questions for, but I'm going to tell you the answers anyway. Right. You know, I think that's part of parenting.

Isn't that part of the touch and go sort of, is this something that's helpful for my kid or is it not? Like, you know, we have lots of questions too, I think. Well, and then I found as I just got closer to leaving for college, you start going through this, you know, thing in your head of, have I told them everything I need to tell them? And then you just start, you know, downloading whether they're ready to hear it or not. Oh yeah. Gayla, I created a list because especially for each of our kids, our two elders have hit 12th grade. Like, yeah, all the things I wanted to make sure I talked to them about. So for sure.

And it's going to be her next book as a matter of fact. Quite possibly. Quite possibly. Okay. So what are the three big questions?

Yeah. So we think they boil down to identity, belonging, and purpose. So let's unpack those questions a bit. Identity, who am I? Belonging, where do I fit?

And purpose, what difference can I make? Those of us who are over 30, we're certainly wrestling with those questions too. I mean, I would say identity, belonging, and purpose are just the three big questions of what it means to be human. But for those of us over 30, those questions are more at a low simmer. For teenagers and young adults, those questions are at a rolling boil.

And I will say, as a parent myself, one of the big gifts of this research has been that if one of my kids is doing something that just seems a little off for them, like a little strange, something that just seems a little out of character, if I step back and ask, okay, you know, why are they so insistent on getting this time with their friends this weekend? Why are they resisting whatever they might be resisting because they're hungry to make sure they get to church or whatever it is? If I ask, okay, what are they after? Are they after identity? Are they after belonging? Are they after a sense of purpose?

It's like the penny drops for me as a parent. And I all of a sudden understand, oh, that's what's motivating them. That's why they're doing what they're doing, and it helps me empathize and know how to respond to them. Now, I don't say to my kids, you know what you're really after is a sense of belonging. Like, I don't say that aloud to them, although we do talk about identity, belonging, purpose, and I can share some of that. Internally, I use it as kind of a diagnostic for me to understand. But in the heat of the moment, I don't generally share that aloud with my kids.

Okay, I'm a little curious about the simmer versus the rolling boil. Yeah. So is it a simmer for us that are over 30 because we've sort of figured a few things out?

Or is it somehow society is not pushing that at us as hard? Well, I'd say it's probably both. You know, if you look at what developmental psychologists have said over the decades, they would say that, you know, identity, for instance, is kind of a quintessential question for young people. I think what's interesting, Ron, is I think times of transition are when these questions heat up. So, you know, I have a friend who's actually unemployed, was laid off from his job.

Dave and I have a good friend. And, you know, he, in his early 40s, he's wrestling, you know, the heat's being turned up on these questions for him about identity, belonging, and purpose because of being in the season of unemployment. And if you think about teenagers and young adults, they're kind of in constant transition. So that's why there's so much heat about these issues for the young people we care about most is because they're in the middle of so many liminal or transitional seasons. And even more so in blended families. You think about the constant transition that these kids are going through. And so this has magnified what she is saying. Yeah, that's right.

I mean, I'm processing that thought. I think that's very insightful. There's so many changes and transitions, almost all of them unwanted.

Right. And so it leaves you in a very different place and you start asking a whole new set of questions again in light of what's going on. What's a good example, Cara, of like that whole identity or belonging thing being a fresh question for a kid who's just gone through a parent's marriage, for example? Well, I'm glad you mentioned belonging.

I have some wonderful psychology faculty colleagues at Fuller Seminary. Many of them, not all of them, but many of them would say that belonging is actually kind of the tip of the arrow of the three questions for the typical young person. That belonging kind of leads the way and has a unique influence on identity and purpose. I think about that 12 year old, that 15 year old, that 17 year old who is moving from one family situation to another family situation, whether their parents are going through a divorce or whether, as you've said, you know, there's a new parent, step parent, and maybe even some new step siblings that are coming into the family system, coming into the home.

I think it brings certainly new stressors when it comes to belonging, but also new opportunities to create a new sense of family and a new sense of belonging in which everyone really feels at home. So again, these transition seasons are unique opportunities for us as adults to make sure that we're attentive to kids' needs and that we're helping them get what they need in terms of whether it's belonging or that sense of identity or that sense of purpose. So that was really good because I was about to turn the corner and go, okay, so parents listening right now, and they're just becoming very mindful of something going on in one of their child's lives, and so they're thinking, you know, what do I do?

How do I be helpful in this moment? So how would they check in with a child around this type of thing? I mean, we talk a lot on this podcast about stepping into children's grief and bringing it up, not just sitting on it and expecting them to bring it up, but we sort of step into that space first to show them that we're willing to go there.

I'm wondering how a parent would step into the belonging question. Well, if we're talking about, say, you know, a teenager, I think there's something about the parent's own self-disclosure that's really powerful. In fact, just last night with my husband and our two daughters, because our college daughter is home, I was talking about my own struggles with identity and how I struggle with feeling insecure. And, like, my girl's eyes kind of lit up, like, what, Mom?

You struggle with feeling insecure? And I said, oh, yeah, and here's how your dad helps me because it was in the context that we were talking about who's helping us grow. And so I said, you know, your dad's helping me grow, and I shared a little bit about how when I feel insecure, their dad, my husband, reminds me of who I am in Christ, and that's where their eyes kind of got big. And literally one of them said, Mom, you get insecure?

And I said, yeah, absolutely. It was my opportunity over leftover hamburgers last night at home to talk about my own journey with identity. And so, you know, I would say the same as a family is being reformed for us as adults, parents, step-parents, to volunteer, to be the first one to go in the deep end metaphorically with our kids and say, you know what? Sometimes in the midst of this new situation, we're all trying to figure out where we belong, and here's when I tend to feel like I most belong in our newly formed, reforming family. But here's when I sometimes struggle and, you know, let that be an open door to see if your young person is open to sharing about any struggles they might be having with feeling like they belong in this new form of family. This discussion is so helpful.

Yes, it is. You're listening to Family Life Today, and we're listening to a portion of the Family Life Blended podcast with Ron Deal, Gayla Grace, and guest Kara Powell. And it only gets better, so let's go back. I went immediately to being a step-parent because there's so many times you don't feel that you belong, and just to express that, not to do it in a way that you're trying to put guilt on the kids or anything negative, but just to say the feeling of belonging or not belonging is huge, and we need to wrestle with that. And so that's an easy conversation to bring up because so many in blended families are feeling it, not just the kids. Well, you know, Gayla, as you were talking, I had a memory. I was probably 11. My younger brother was probably nine.

I remember my mom and my stepdad, all four of my parents growing up, my biological parents and my stepmom and stepdad, phenomenal people, all loved Jesus. And I remember Mom and Jim sitting, Matt and my brother and I down, and talking to us about how some of the joking that we were doing toward Jim was actually kind of hurting his feelings and making him feel like, you know, he wasn't really part of the family. And I think my brother and I, you know, we were being sarcastic nine and 11 or 10 and 12-year-olds, and I think in some ways it was our attempt to make Jim feel like part of our family, and yet it was having the opposite effect.

It was really hurtful to my stepdad. And so I'm really glad that my mom and stepdad sat us down. I'm also glad they did it together because it was, you know, both the mom who we've known our whole lives as well as this new adult who we're learning to love sharing about belonging in our family and how what I was doing and my brother and I were doing was actually hurting my stepdad's sense of belonging. So I do think, you know, we as parents, step-parents, there are those opportunities to share ways that our family, our new family is creating a sense of identity, belonging and purpose, or maybe where there are some struggles or points of tension.

That's a good story. And I know you're capitalizing, Kayla, on the whole boundary setting there, and we've talked about that a lot in that illustration. And I also want to just jump in and say, I know it seems sort of weird to go vulnerable if you're the step-parent because it feels like I'm sort of setting myself up and isn't that risky.

And yes, it is. And at the same time, when you say this is who I'm going to be and I'm going to share this part of me with you, I think more often than not, it does facilitate bonding. I think what the child perceives is that, oh, I can trust you. You're not trying to be, you know, all that in a bag of chips.

You're just a regular person like me. That actually helps a child, I think, open up towards, and it certainly did for you, it sounds like. Yeah, absolutely. And as you were talking, Ron, I was thinking about a principle that I use in general when it comes to conversations that could be tricky with a young person. It's a phrase that actually comes from fruit tree picking, which you can tell just by the way I said that that I don't know a lot about what's involved in fruit tree picking. But I do know this, you know, we happen to have an orange tree in our backyard and, you know, when the oranges are starting to get ripe, we give a gentle tug. That's the phrase, gentle tug. And if that orange is ripe when we give that gentle tug, then the orange comes into our hands freely.

Now, if the orange is not yet ripe, then it's more of a battle. And I think the same is true probably in relationships in general and certainly in relationships with our children or our stepchildren. You know, if there's a tough conversation that we want to have, then maybe we ask a first question, we share vulnerably and see how our child or our stepchild responds.

Do they walk with us as we're sharing vulnerably or are they not yet ready for that? So, you know, I think my mom and stepdad, they gave a gentle tug by sharing how Jim was feeling a little left out by the joking my brother and I were doing. And at least my recollection is we responded and said, wow, OK, thanks for telling us, sorry, in a 10 and 12 year old type way. And so I think, you know, that was us being open.

I'm sure there were other circumstances where we wouldn't have been open or maybe weren't open to that gentle tug. So I think there's ways to, you know, ask a first question, put her toe in the water and see how that young person responds. OK, so I'm pulling back from this conversation and I'm going, OK, if you're listening right now, the point is your kids are asking some big questions. And any time you can step into the middle of that and offer some guidance or just connect with them around those questions, I think you're moving your heart closer to them. And maybe you're the biological parent, maybe you're the step parent, but we're helping them wrestle with the questions and begin to.

How would you say it, Carol? We're helping them move further down the road to finding their own answers. Yeah, and finding Jesus's answers. And that's what was so fascinating in our research, especially when we spent time with these 27 diverse teenagers, many of whom were from blended families. And we identified what are they currently using to answer those questions. Would that be Google? Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Mechanistically, yes, absolutely. But I mean, what are what are the internal narratives they're currently using to find a sense of identity, belonging and purpose? And what would be better Jesus centered narratives that we can point young people to that ultimately satisfy? Because I believe Jesus's answers are the answers that ultimately satisfy. Actually, I think a lot of discipleship is more fully embracing Jesus's best answers to our identity, belonging and purpose questions. And as parents and step parents, caregivers, grandparents, you know, we have the opportunity to accompany young people and try to nudge them toward those better answers. OK, so give us a quick contrast, finding my own answers or finding Jesus's answers.

What does that look like? And again, you know, how might a parent just play a role in helping a child with that? Well, let's we've been talking about belonging. So let's move to a different one of the questions.

Let's move to identity. Who am I? What we saw as we spent time with young people is there's two primary dominant answers right now that they use currently. First off, they define themselves based on other people's expectations. So who am I? I am what my family expects, my teachers expect, my friends expect, my boss expects, my church expects, etc.

And so they have all these different theaters of action. And then the second answer that they tend to use, and it's closely related to the first, because of all these different sets of expectations, they end up feeling inadequate. They end up feeling like they're not enough. You know, the typical young person is walking around feeling like they're not smart enough. They're not pretty enough.

They're not popular enough. We spent quite a bit of time with young people of color. And those young people often don't feel Latino enough, black enough, Asian enough as they're navigating multiple worlds.

And so that creates just an ongoing sense of inadequacy, stress, anxiety for young people. And so then let's contrast that with what I think is Jesus's best answer to who we are. And I mean, there's 50 different answers, at least, that we can glean from scripture about who God says we are. But one that we think is really important for young people to know today is that Jesus makes them enough. In the midst of trying to satisfy all these expectations and feeling like they don't cross that bar, the single word enough, that Jesus makes you enough. In fact, Jesus makes you more than enough.

Ron, that's so good. How would you say we convince our kids of that? We can say it, but how do they capture it in their hearts? You know, in some ways, Anne, I would say we can do things to help our children feel like they're enough in Jesus. And in other ways, we can't do that for them. It's something they have to find within themselves.

So, for example, anytime you compliment a child, validate a child, speak about their giftings, help them get good at something, all of that helps them feel better about who they are. When we couch all of that into their worth because of Jesus, that's what transcends any performance that we do in life, right? If it's just on your skill set, well, if you have a bad day, then you're not worth much. But if your worth and value ultimately comes from Jesus.

But here's the hard part about that. I know I struggle with, am I good enough? I mean, there's a lot of us as adults that are competent, capable people. We still wrestle with inadequacy. Absolutely.

Well, what's that about? Ultimately, it's about coming back over and over again to, it's not about me, it is about what Jesus is doing in me. And I think we have to even share that struggle out loud with our children so they see us wrestle with it, so they get some perspective about their own struggle to find their worth and rest in Jesus.

When we do that in collaboration or in front of our children, I think it makes it easier for them to see that they too are on this journey with Jesus and striving to rest in Him. And it's just part of the human condition. And in some ways, Ron, is it even more critical in a blended situation? Because I know that when my dad walked out, those three questions became critical to me.

I had lost sort of my identity and belonging and I felt less than. That's right. I think that's part of the blended situation, right?

Unwanted grief and sadness and transition that takes place in a child's life makes it harder for some of these things to come into fruition in their life. Which is why the Summit on Step Family Ministry is our annual equipping event for lay couples who want to lead small groups in their church, pastors, children's ministry leaders, on and on. We help leaders understand blended families. And this year, the event is virtual, Thursday, October 12th.

And here's the cool thing. You can register as an individual or as a couple and you can watch from your home, but you can also encourage leaders from your church to join. And with a church registration, you can have somebody else say, yeah, I'll come to that the day before the event. And they're just jumping in with your group and you're going to experience the day together. It's a great way to develop momentum towards step family ministry in your church, whether you've already started doing some things or you have no idea where to begin. Our theme this year, guys, is merge. How do you merge blended family ministry into your existing church structure, your ministries for adult ed, for marriage ministry or children, students? You don't have to create a whole new blended ministry.

But how do you integrate some basic principles into what you're already doing? That's going to be our focus. And when is it, Ron? Thursday, October 12th.

It's a one day all day event. Again, virtual comfort of your own home. Come join us. You know, I come from a blended family personally, and I know how vital it is to have specific biblical help that's relevant to my family's needs, and that's exactly what we're doing with Family Life Blended. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. And Ron and Dave and Ann have been listening to a Family Life Blended episode with Gayla Grace and Kara Powell.

If you want to find the full episode of that conversation, you can search for Episode 86 on Family Life Blended podcast, and you can find that wherever you get your podcasts. If you're listening to this conversation and wondering, how can I help kids in my church or in my community who live in blended families? Well, you may be interested in this year's Summit on Step Family Ministry.

This year's summit is a one day virtual event, no travel involved at all. So if you haven't been able to attend in the past, this is the perfect time to do so to learn more about how you and your church can minister to blended families in your community. You can learn more about the October 12th virtual event and register by going to That's, or you can find the link in today's show notes. And coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by Sean McDowell and John Marriott to talk about deconstruction, having an open dialogue about embracing people's questions and doubts within the Christian community. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-28 12:20:42 / 2023-08-28 12:30:40 / 10

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