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.
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.
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.
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.