96: Get On Board
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Would you consider joining our mission to serve blended families as a volunteer or affiliate staff with FamilyLife Blended? Listen to Ron Deal and four couples share about why and how they minister to stepcouples and the blessings they receive in return.
Rich: We were really struggling, didn't know what to do, but we found out that our church actually had a blended family group.
Stacy: It truly saved our marriage and saved our family. There's no other way to put it. We very quickly said “We are not equipped to be called leaders. We don't know what we're doing. We're in the trenches, but we will be available to walk in the trenches with others. We'll learn together and we'll figure it out together.”
Ron: Well, welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We are so glad that you are with us. This podcast exists to help blended families, and those who love and care for people in blended families. We want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm so glad that you're with us.
You know for about 30 years now, through SmartStepfamilies.com and now, the last decade of my life in conjunction with FamilyLife®, I've been challenging the church to get on board with what we call blended family ministry. I'm very pleased to say that that has happened at an increasing rate around the country and a number of places around the world. We’re seeing the church see the need for blended family ministry and begin to do that and encourage that.
But the vast majority of the time that blended family ministry is done, it is done by couples—couples who are in blended families for the most part, couples just like you—those of you that are listening right now. They don't have any professional training. They don't have a seminary degree. You're thinking “They are out of their minds.
Why in the world, would they step into that space?”
Well, today we're talking with four couples who have gotten on board. Why are they doing this? And what has been their experience? And could you possibly join them in doing something similar in your church or community? That's what we're going to be talking about.
Now, two of these couples have gone so far as to even create a formal relationship with us here at FamilyLife. I'll tell you exactly what that is and what that looks like in just a minute. But the first two couples that we're going to talk to are volunteers. They're just doing this out of the goodness of their heart because they believe in the ministry.
So let me introduce you to who these people are, and let's learn a little bit from them. Rich and Stacy Holsapple joining us from Salem, Oregon. So nice to have you guys with me.
Stacy: Thanks for having us.
Ron: Where is Salem? It's way out on the west coast.
Rich: It is. It's in the valley between Portland and Eugene.
Ron: Okay, great; nice to have you here. Tim and Cynthia Phillips are with us as well. They're from Denver, Colorado. Hi guys.
Cynthia: Hey Ron.
Tim: Hey Ron. Thanks for having us.
Cynthia: Great to be here.
Ron: Okay. So not so far west, a little bit further west than Little Rock, where I am. You guys are on the edge of the mountains. I just have to say I was in Denver and Colorado Springs just a few weeks ago and my goodness, I love the Rockies, and you guys live where you can see them all the time.
Cynthia: We live in a postcard. Yes, we do.
Tim: Great time of the year to be here also.
Ron: Do you, Tim, do you get up and ski a little bit?
Tim: Those days are past me, but we do a lot of outdoor stuff that doesn't require that much abuse on the body, I should say.
Ron: Nice. Yes. I'm with you on that. Skiing is great, but man, is it hard to do.
Okay, let's get down to this thing. So Rich, Stacy, tell us, what are your day jobs?
Rich: I'm a pharmacist and it's a little more complicated because I have worked in retail and hospital before, but I actually manage operations for a pharmacy benefit manager where we oversee operations for Medicaid agencies for multiple states.
Ron: You're talking gibberish a little bit to me. [Laughter] Pharmacist; that part I understood. Stacy.
Stacy: I work for our regional health system as the patient experience survey and coordinator.
Ron: So, both of you guys working in healthcare?
Ron: Tim, Cynthia, what do you guys do? What are your day jobs?
Tim: I work at doing BIM Revit, 3D Modeling. I'm an engineering designer working for a facility management company. So that's been my career for the last 30, 35 years.
Ron: Good. Cynthia.
Cynthia: I'm at what you call a fractional chief marketing officer. I'm currently operating as a chief marketing officer for two companies in the B2B software space. So I basically work part-time for each in that role and do marketing consulting.
Ron: Great. Clearly, neither of you guys have professional degrees in ministry.
Ron: That's not your day job, and yet here you are doing this. Tim. Cynthia, let me start with you. Why in the world would you want to lead a blended family small group?
Tim: Well, having lived the blended family growing up and then entering it into an adult life after my first marriage ended, realizing the importance of blended family, thinking “Oh, I've been there. I know how to do it;” but marrying Cynthia, we realized quickly that this is not the way/right way to do it, so we somehow fell into it through our church/your Smart Stepfamily class. It was a game changer for us.
Cynthia: I think the other thing I would add is we realized—and Ron, you mentioned this in the beginning of the podcast—that a lot of churches don't have anything for blended families. The struggles that we go through are very different, but they're very real and until you're in that world, you just don't understand it. And so, we got involved in marriage ministries at our church, but there was nothing for blended families.
We got hooked up with your materials, which we’re almost like Ron Deal groupies when it comes to your materials. That, as Tim said, was a game changer for our marriage.
We knew that there was nothing in the churches for blended families and they needed it, and they were feeling isolated and the lack of community and knowing how it helped us, we wanted just to take the opportunity to help others.
Ron: Okay. I think I heard you guys imply you learned a few life lessons as you started your family, and when you looked around and couldn't find any support, how did you feel?
Tim: We felt isolated, left out, “Maybe it's just us,” “Maybe nobody else is feeling what we're feeling,” those sorts of things. And who do you turn to? Because we've turned to a few people in the past and they kind of had that deer in the headlight look. They didn't know what we were talking about.
Ron: Right, right. Okay. I imagine somebody listening to you right now going “Okay. Yes. We felt that, but no, I'm not going to try to help other people. I'm not going to try to”—like, that's a big leap, guys. Tim and Cynthia, that is a leap from, “We feel isolated and alone, can't find any support” to “We're going to do it.” How did you make that leap?
Cynthia: You know, I think we just, when we saw how much just taking the Smart Stepfamily class helped us initially, and then we found out about all of the additional resources from you and FamilyLife, we knew that we didn't have to figure this out.
We obviously didn't the first time until we found your material so if we could use the great resources that were available, to bring people into community/to basically fight the enemies battle for isolation for blended families.
You know we are for marriage and we're for families, and we know that we're in a spiritual battle and we have to fight for that. So having the resources available and having the passion to fight for our marriage and wanting to help for other families, I think God just led us into that. Then the reinforcement we've gotten from our group that we've had together now for six years is “If it wasn't for this, we wouldn’t still be married. It saved our marriage. It saved our family.”
I think the other thing—and, you know, Tim introduced me to Henri Nouwen with Wounded Healer—we continue to learn and grow as we go through this process with our couples, so we're not remotely done yet and we continue to make mistakes. I think it's all of us growing, learning, and Tim likes to talk about holding each other accountable together in a community that's centered on God.
Tim: Well, that's the biggest thing there is that holding us accountable because as we're in it constantly with other people or other groups or our own home group, it helps us stay present to it. Because if we set it on the shelf and we go a few weeks without it, then we realize we're straying away from some of the God's precepts on how to have a family and how to have a marriage and that sort of thing.
Ron: Good, good; okay, great. Let me hear from Rich and Stacy. Tell us a little bit about the ministry that you guys do for blended couples and how did you get started?
Rich: Well, we didn't actually volunteer. [Laughter] We got married eight years ago with—I had four preteen and teen daughters and Stacy was a childless stepmom. It was not long into it that we realized that we're in trouble. There were a lot of difficult things. We were really struggling, didn't know what to do, but we found out that our church actually had a blended family group that really wasn't affiliated with the church. The church just let them use the building. It wasn't an official ministry, but we started going there and realized that we weren't alone, that we weren't crazy.
That's where we really started learning about blended families and eventually got introduced to your book, The Smart Stepfamily and the other material. And then we were only couple years into it when the leaders invited us over for dinner and said, “We think you should take over.”
Rich: Yes. We said, “We're not the right people to do this. We're still a mess.” They're like, “Well, you're the perfect people to do this.” We're like, “Okay; well, we'll show up. We'll turn the lights on. We'll have a topic or something to talk about and that's all we'll do.” And that's how it started. Then we just developed our passion from there and it kind of grew.
Stacy: Our fear was that if we didn't do it, the group wouldn't continue. It had truly saved our marriage and saved our family. There's no other way to put it. We very quickly said “We are not equipped to be called leaders. We don't know what we're doing. We're in the trenches, but we will be available to walk in the trenches with others. We'll learn together and we'll figure it out together.”
Ron: Okay, that right there. I'd love for both couples to comment on because I actually had written down another question I wanted to follow up—Rich just already hit it—is insecurities. You know, what did you do with those parts of you that were like, “Man, we're not equipped for this. We shouldn't be leading. We're not fixed. We're in the trenches trying to walk it out ourselves”? What do you do with all of those emotions and all those things that say, “Don't step into leadership if you're this, this or this”? And yet you just said, “Okay, but we will turn on the lights. We will give people a place. We will step into that.”
Rich, Stacy, would you guys comment on that? And maybe Tim and Cynthia have a thought or two?
Rich: Sure. I think it just became really apparent, and you've probably heard this before, that when you're in a blend family group, everybody who comes through the door is coming through with pain. And so, your group tends to go deep fast because people are struggling. When you're all struggling and you share that, it's easy to be in the seat to say, “You know what, we're struggling with that too. Let's learn what we can learn about it.” You really kind of approach it as you know, it's a support and a team and, and it's not a leader and attendee thing. It really is a shared group that's trying to grow in knowledge and support each other.
Stacy: I think Cynthia touched on a really good point too, a few minutes ago, in that it's also a spiritual battle. When we're willing to step in and say, “We don't know what we're doing but we're willing to figure it out with others so that God can be glorified, so that families can be strengthened, so that marriages can be healthy and children can see what a good healthy marriage looks like, Satan doesn't like any of that.
Stacy: And it's when you're stepping out in that boldness of faith that Satan's going to get in your face and throw all of the reasons why you shouldn't be doing it in your face. And you just have to very purposely say, “Not today, Satan. You're not allowed here. I'm doing this.”
Ron: Wow. That's quite an attitude. I appreciate that.
Tim, Cynthia, how about you guys? Insecurities—what do you do with those through the years?
Tim: There was a lot of that ingrained in/embodied in my family growing up. In my first marriage, there was a lot of “Well, I can't share this with anybody. What will they think of me?” That carried over into when I married Cynthia, thinking “I've been a single parent for seven years. I know what I need to do now because I've been through a lot of counseling. I've been through a lot of small groups.” But once we got married, we reverted back to our old habits.
And so doing this Smart Stepfamily stuff, it/when we had opportunity presented in our/the church, we moved across town, so we had an opportunity to—they were asking us “We have blended groups. How can you help with this?” So we offered to do The Smart Stepfamily class in the new church that we were in. People came up to us and asked, “Where do we go from here? How can we continue this on? This is great material. We need something more substantial.”
So that's when we started offering it in our own home. And that kind of built within us “Well, we are making a difference. We didn't think we were.” We just like Rich was saying “We're there to turn on the lights, start the video, start the conversation and shut the lights off. So, when we start getting affirmation from some of the other people in our group, we/that helped build our/overcome our insecurities. Cynthia, did you have anything?
Cynthia: The other thing I would say, I think we're just open and honest with, right, we're still figuring this out too and the authenticity and the transparency of sharing that really, as Rich said. I mean, we have couples who've been with us for well over six years now. They started in our very first stepfamily class and they're still with us or they've come to all the Blended and Blessed.
When we're having a rough time, we're honest with people like, “Hey, we're struggling right now and here's what we're struggling with.” I think they appreciate that. It helps them, as Rich mentioned, go deeper, and then realize that's what is going to bond us together as a community. Then it's a lot of prayer. It's a tremendous amount of prayer and asking the Spirit to be involved and guide us and protect us through this journey.
Ron: Yes, fellow strugglers. I mean, that's the posture you want to have.
I mean, sometimes people have this weird assumption about me; that because I do marriage education/because I'm a family therapist, that my life, my relationships, that everything in my family is perfect. That's the craziest thing I've ever heard in my—you just aren't close enough to me. If you just come and sit down, I'll tell you all about all the shortcomings we have. Like we're fellow strugglers too.
This is all of us. There's nobody who's got life figured out and then everybody else just has to suck it up. When we take that posture as Christ invites us to do as a part of his fellowship to just say, “No, I don't have all the answers,” or “I don't know.” I still say, “I don't know” to people when they ask me certain questions, because I don't know, but let's pray about it. Let's try to figure this out. Let's walk together and maybe we'll make a little progress.
Okay. I’ve got to ask both of you. You both mentioned The Smart Stepfamily. I know the Phillips have used our Blended and Blessed events. You use them at different times of the year and turn them into a small group study, that sort of thing. That's very creative. I've had people for 30 years ask me, “Do I have to get certified to teach The Smart Stepfamily video series? Do I have to go through any sort? Do I have to get permission written down, a contract that says I can teach?” And my answer is “No, absolutely not. Just get it and go.”
What would you guys say to somebody who's thinking about “Yes, maybe we could do that. Maybe we could get a couple of couples together and just watch the video series”? Is that what you would say? Just start.
Cynthia: Absolutely; just do it. That's what we did. With one church, we just started by offering the class and we had seven couples attend. They asked us “Now what?” They didn't have anywhere to go so that's how we started our home group. And so, yes, we took the class; it impacted us. We're like, “Well, why not? Let's give it a shot.” We’ve facilitated it three or four times now, in addition to the Blended and Blessed and the other marriage and parenting materials that we've used from FamilyLife.
Tim: Well, the very first one, the class that we held, we were surprised that of the 12 or 13 couples, 75 percent of them weren't married. They were thinking about engaging in marriage. It was neat to after the few years after that, turning it into a home group, that we were invited to attend their weddings and we are still in relationships with them. We had lunch just a few weeks ago with one of the couples.
I think the authenticity thing is really key because we allow people in our small group an opportunity to open up by sharing. The first couple of minutes of each group we all take turns “Where are you at in your season of your life?” “What are you struggling with?” “What are your challenges?” so that we get to demonstrate that amongst the group with all of us.
Cynthia: I think the last thing I'll add is we have couples that will come in and out of the group. They'll come for a year or two, and then we don't see them and then they come back. Tim and I have always taken the stance, if we can help one family or one couple, and save a family in a marriage, then it's worth the time that we put into it. So that's why we would encourage people, just do it. You never know who you're going to impact or what you're going to start. Even if it's one, it's another win for the kingdom.
Stacy: I was just going to say the content drives the conversation. You don't have to be a skilled leader or be prepared with a list of questions. Watching the video and just being in a room with a couple of other blended family couples or 15 other blended family couples, the conversation just naturally starts. The videos are so relatable that people can't wait to start talking and sharing their experiences and how it applies to them and what they're learning and what they want to do different in the next week to try to put into practice what the session has talked about.
You can get the participants guide if you'd like to make sure you have some questions to keep the conversation going, but blended families are so starved for community that it just, it leads itself.
Tim: I would agree that the thing with the small group is what we have is of the topic of the material that's presented, there's always an example you can share of something similar. One thing that they realize is this is an open opportunity to share where if they don't have a/an example to share, there's somebody else in the group that can. The thing that they think they realize is they're unique in their blendedness, but yet there's a lot of similarities but there's a lot of differences and they embrace both sides of that.
Ron: That's really good. Rich, what kind of experiences have you had in terms of seeing lives changed in your group?
Rich: We've seen other couples that kind of like us, after coming to the group and then being there and being involved in learning look back and say, “We wouldn't have survived if we hadn’t this group.” We're like, “Yes, we understand that.”
One thing I was going to add to the material thing is: be creative. We've had to do a lot of different things because parenting plans. They really mess up the schedule. You know, some people, if you have a weekly meeting, people come every other week or every third week and so sometimes it's hard to do series and things.
We've done things like do all eight videos on a Friday night, Saturday morning, right; just plow through it, firehose style. Sometimes you just take one little tidbit and go with it each week and you can just be creative with it. It doesn't even matter what the subject is, it always helps somebody. There's going to be someone, no matter what subject you're talking through that is going to be impacted by it, and it's going to make a difference in their week.
Stacy: And every single series that we have led, at least one person at some point in the series has said, “I don't feel so alone. I don't feel like I'm going crazy.” Giving them the confidence that while it's different than a nuclear family, it's totally doable and it's able to do it well. And having them feel strengthened and encouraged, it's huge.
Ron: Rich, Stacy, I know you guys have led some virtual groups.
Stacy: We have.
Ron: Everybody's beginning to walk down that road and we're trying to figure out what it looks like to do small group, you know, environments. What's been your experience leading virtual group?
Rich: We didn't do virtual groups until COVID came along. God used COVID to introduce us to virtual groups, because that was the only way we could meet with our group at church anymore. That's why we could do church, or anything was through virtual. Then we found out that boy, that broadens your geographical area really quick when—
Ron: So you guys have had people from all over the country in your group.
Rich: Yes, from different states. It really wides it up and we've done different groups with different kind of people in different stages. We have a group with Kirk and Laurie, who we're going to talk to later, with couples with adult teens or late teens/early adulthood that are trying to launch their kids out, which is an issue with blended families when you have bio parents that are willing to hang onto them a little bit longer and stepparents willing to push them out the door a little fast. [Laughter]
Ron: That's right. It's funny how that works, isn't it?
Well, I know our listener is going “Virtual groups; how do we get tied in with that?” Well, I've/we'll say it again on this podcast. We have a searchable map, FamilyLife.com/blended, just click, attend and you will find our map where you can learn about all our events and the churches and small groups around the country like you're hearing about today that are available. Some of them are virtual groups. You do have to look and see if they're virtual. They may be designated as in Salem, Oregon, but it's accessible to you so be sure and check that out.
Well, listen, guys, I just want to thank you so much for being with me today and thank you for being faithful with the opportunity that God has given you to reach out and minister to other people.
To the listener, maybe there's some things you could relate to. You know, the insecurity thinking “Why? We shouldn't be able to do this. We're not qualified.” But then potentially discovering that “Yes, you are.” Getting people together is half the battle. Sitting down, letting the material teach people and just facilitating the conversation with folks, who knows, you could do that. Just like they've learned that they could do that, and lives can be blessed for the sake of the kingdom.
Well, I want to bring in two other couples at this point, Kirk and Lori McGregor and Steve and Jan Matthews. They're doing similar sorts of things in their local communities. We'll let you hear a little bit about what they're doing and also how they have increased their level of commitment and their relationship with FamilyLife.
Kirk and Lori McGregor are in Dallas, Texas. Kirk, Lori. Welcome. Thanks for being here.
Kirk: Thanks for having us, Ron.
Lori: Thanks, Ron. It's great to be here.
Ron: We were talking about The Smart Stepfamily video series a little while ago, and you guys, and your family is actually featured in that. Which session is it that you guys are in? I can't remember.
Kirk: We're in session six. We call it the “What not to do in blended families” [Laughter]
Lori: Yes, the pitfalls, but yes, we say what not to do.
Ron: Well, it's nice to have you with me today. Steve and Jan Matthews are up in my hometown, Des Moines, Iowa. Great to have you guys here.
Steve: We're glad to be here.
Ron: How long have you guys been involved in stepfamily ministry? And how did you get into that? Steve, Jan, why don't you go first?
Steve: Well, we got married, realized we needed help, and we recruited people and started nine years ago. I was pastoring in Illinois and that's where we started and we saw marriages saved and lives changed, and it's just been exciting.
Ron: Now you were in ministry then, but you're not anymore; isn't that right?
Steve: That is correct. I stopped pastoring probably five years ago. Is that right? And turned our attention to doing more ministry before we came, and that's when we started our relationship with FamilyLife—when we became affiliate staff.
Ron: So not pastoring for a local church but doing ministry through local ministry to blended families and in conjunction with FamilyLife.
Jan, you have a background working with people facing death situations.
Jan: That's right. I worked for hospice for a number of years and doing grief support groups for a long time. I officiate funerals a lot; worked with a lot of loss types of things not realizing that it was probably preparing me for this ministry because there is a lot of loss in stepfamily life.
Ron: Yes. That's exactly right. Okay, Kirk, Lori, since we're talking about qualifications, what are your day jobs?
Lori: Well, my day job, I'm an obstetrician gynecologist here in Dallas, so I see women at all walks of life and deliver babies on a regular basis.
Ron: Yes; Kirk.
Kirk: I currently work with local churches, specifically our hometown church of Watermark Community Church to help develop and connect blended family ministries in the area.
Ron: Yes, let's go with that for a minute. So, Kirk, Lori, you guys are actually what's called affiliate status with FamilyLife. What does that mean? And what did it take for you to become on affiliate status?
Lori: Well, it was pretty straightforward process. I would say when Kirk left the private sector and we started doing more blended family ministry work through our church and just independently, then we really felt a calling to partner with FamilyLife and the FamilyLife Blended team.
There were several opportunities to be able to do that, but the easiest one for us with my full-time position was to come on as affiliate. So, we're dedicated to the FamilyLife Blended team in a volunteer position where we're able to raise funds to help with ministry expenses.
Ron: Okay, Kirk, say a little bit more about that. Ministry—raise funds for a ministry expenses. Somebody’s ears just perked up when they heard that. What does that look like?
Kirk: Well, for us, especially with FamilyLife, having the exposure and the reputation it's allowed us to be Joe Schmo or John Smith to somebody with “Oh, okay, we understand who you're working with and partnering with to develop your ministry.” So as far as raising funds, it does allow us to speak at churches and/or have small groups and allow them to understand the mission/the ministry of building the kingdom. And as such, if they feel compelled and encouraged, they’re welcome to partner prayerfully and financially.
Ron: I just want to be clear for our listener. Affiliate staff don't raise funds for income, but they raise funds that becomes an expense account for them for the ministry related activities that they do. And people get to donate into your expense account through FamilyLife or Cru—the mothership for FamilyLife—and people get a tax deduction for that.
Lori: That's correct; we don't draw a salary. All the time and effort we put in is all on a volunteer basis, but people can contribute money and as a tax deduction to help us with our expenses.
Ron: But if you take somebody to lunch or you sponsor a weekend conference or seminar, or you do a small group and you buy coffee, all those expenses can be paid for out of that account so you're not out any personal funds.
Kirk: That's correct.
Ron: Let me just say, I enjoy—Kirk, you're a part of our weekly team meetings on a regular basis, and you guys get to join us at our big events: Blended and Blessed and The Summit. And again, those are all paid for out of that expense account. So, it's a real advantage for somebody to consider stepping up their, their level of commitment to be able to have those options available to them.
Kirk: Yes, absolutely.
Lori: Yes. It's really been a great resource for us.
Ron: Okay, Steve and Jan, let's come back to you guys. Now you are affiliate staff currently, but you're raising funds to actually come on part-time and to make this the focus of your work. Now, that sounds—I don't know, maybe somebody listening, maybe it sounds a little intimidating. I'm wondering why you guys chose to take that step and why somebody should consider doing that themselves?
Jan: Well, we were affiliates for probably three years or so. We are actually part-time staff now because we are paid now. We have a little bit of our support yet to raise, but we're closing in.
You know, Ron, I think when we got to the point where we realized how big this mission is, and so many stepfamily couples began to just find us from everywhere, God just spoke to us. We felt like, if not us then who? And if not now, then when.
When FamilyLife came to us and said, “Would you guys consider just coming on staff?” we just decided that we don't know how many years we have left to do this, but we want to see a movement for future generations. We want to see, continue to see marriages saved and lives changed.
There are so many people out there that have no resources. We hear all the time. We didn't know there was any help for us. We hear that from so many couples. We just decided—Steve was running his own business for a while so that we could do this ministry, but it was taking so much energy that we didn't have anything left. And so, we just decided to put our effort completely into this at this point. And it continues to grow.
Ron: And just to be clear, again, I want our listener to realize you guys still live where you live/where you always have. You don't have to physically move and come to Little Rock or Orlando where some of the FamilyLife staff work out of. You're able to just remain where you are. I think that's a real advantage.
Steve, one of the things you guys do is influence pastors and leaders—
Ron: —within your personal denomination that you guys are a part of, but also, within other churches in the area. What's that like? Somebody listening going, “Man, I'm supposed to help them understand blended family ministry. That sounds a little intimidating.” What would you say to that?
Steve: Well, I'd say that, you know, we're here to be partnering with you to help you to understand how it can work. We can share stories of what God has done, and we can say that really the curriculum that we use, The Smart Stepfamily, you don't have to be an expert because Ron Deal is the expert. [Laughter] So we listen and just say that it really is easy to facilitate rather than trying to start up something or build a ministry. The pastors, many of them just may say, “Well, I don't have very many people.” But we say we could still help them as well.
We just want to come alongside them and say, “How can we encourage you as you encourage these marriages and families?” Even with the Preparing to Blend book, that has been a good resource that we've given to pastors and say, “This is a great thing when you have a couple that is getting remarried, to help them to understand some things before they get married.”
Ron: You mentioned the stories of what God has done. Let me just ask both couples: do you guys have any stories? Have you seen any lives changed through the work that you're doing?
Kirk: We actually had a couple that jumped in. We did a Smart Stepfamily Marriage, another one of your curriculums. They were literally at divorce’s doorstep and just about to file. It was through partnering in the small group setting and just getting to know other people, realizing they're not isolated, they're not alone, people do care about them and their marriage and are for them in their marriage. And once those walls came down, they really started to open up, not just to ourselves, but more importantly to each other. They were starting to hear one another as opposed to fighting and defending as they had been for so long.
Ron: That's good. Jan, Steve.
Jan: We had a couple who contacted us because they heard us on the radio talking about blended family ministry. They said, “I don't know if you can help us. We are at the end of our rope. We're ready to quit. This is too hard.” And we said, “Can you get on a Zoom® call right now?” We did a Zoom meeting with them, which lasted a couple of hours. And really, all we did was normalize some of what they were going through are the same things we hear from lots of stepfamilies.
They ended up coming to our group. They had a whole new hope. They came to our group, went through all of the sessions, and she's connecting now with other stepmoms. But the real kicker is she is also a therapist, and she is now certified through FamilyLife Blended to council blended families. I mean, that was just a great story.
Ron: That's very cool stuff. You know, that's really all of our stories, right? God helps us. We turn around and help people with the help that we've been given. That's neat.
Jan: Amen; that's right.
Ron: That’s good stuff.
Hey, so last thing, time commitment. Steve and Jan, you're going to be part-time when this thing is all said and done. So how/what? Twenty hours a week; is that sort of what you're shooting for?
Steve: Well, we both work 25 hours each, and so that's the time commitment. We chose that because we felt like that was really what God was asking us to do. There was offering full-time or for 15 hours a week. You can do like 15 hours a week, 25 or full commitment. And that's the one we went with because we felt like that we would be able to do what we wanted to. And it's been really cool. It's so exciting. We really enjoy it, and my love gets to see me all the time. So that's exciting. [Laughter]
Ron: That is really great. I realize I should clarify. We do have full-time jobs.
People can raise their funds to come on FamilyLife full-time, so it doesn't just have to be part-time.
Now, Kirk and Lori, affiliate status; if somebody's thinking about that, what does that mean? How much time should they be committed to?
Kirk: Well, the beauty of that is the flexibility. I mean, we're still considered part of the staff and the team. We're able to jump into meetings, learn more about the ministry, but then we also have the flexibility—at least I do. Lori's still got her full-time job—to jump in whenever and wherever we can. It's just been a wonderful opportunity to use the gifts that we have in any way possible.
Lori: We try to average 10 hours a week is usually the ask for affiliate status. Some weeks is more, some weeks are less, but overall, about 10 hours a week.
Ron: Averages out to be about that. Well, last thing; this episode happens to release just a few days before our next Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. I know both of you have attended this event in the past. It's different every year—has a new theme, different emphasis. Why should somebody listening consider going to The Summit?
Lori: The Summit really has been I feel like life changing for us. That sounds like an exaggeration, but we have made connections with people across the country, with other people doing ministry. We've visited them in different states. It has just provided us more opportunities to spread the gospel, to share God's word, to help other blended families know they're not alone in their struggles. And really, it's encouraging for us individually as a couple as well. When we have struggles, we have people to reach out to also.
Kirk: And from a ministry standpoint, it really does help to know there are other people struggling with some of the things that you're struggling with. “Hey, we had 20 people signed up, but only two people showed up.” Just to encourage, you know, what we're doing is making a difference and we're called to in the Bible, shepherd the flock among you. And if that's one couple, that's one couple. If that's one person, it's one person. But do your best for the glory of God and not for man and that's what we try to do. As Lori said, we've made such deep, deep relationships and connections. It's been beneficial. We've had people literally drive hours. The Holsapples, who were on before, drove three hours to visit us in Seattle. We'd only met them over a virtual class and delightful people—just so, so loving, kind and just great to know that there are other people willing to do that sort of sacrifice to connect with others.
Ron: Steve, Jan, why should somebody go to The Summit?
Jan: I have to say we were reading earlier in 1 Peter 5:9, where it talks about, you know, there are brothers and sisters all around the world who have the same struggles as we have. Going to The Summit was liberating for us.
This will be our seventh Summit this year. And meeting the, just like you guys said, meeting all the friends, hearing the wonderful speakers and—you know, last year at The Summit, we just, at the end of the day on Thursday, anybody we saw, we said, “Hey, we're going to this restaurant for dinner tonight.” I think 15 of us showed up and none of us knew each other and now we're all really great friends. [Laughter]
Making friends and realizing you're not alone; it's just been great. Also, we're part of the local leaders’ team so we have meetings every week with the other local leaders who are/they have other things they focus on. It's not blended. We also have a voice at the table with all of those people who have specialties all around the country.
FamilyLife has given us a whole family life.
Ron: Wow. Well, Steve, Jan, Kirk, Lori, thank you so much for being with me today. Appreciate you guys sharing your stories.
Steve: Thanks for having us.
Jan: Thank you, Ron.
Kirk: Thanks, Ron.
Lori: Thank you.
Ron: You know, I hope we've given you a vision today for how you might get involved in this kingdom ministry. It might just be a couple of hours a week leading a small group, just volunteering some time, or maybe you've been inspired to talk to somebody here at FamilyLife about how you could become an affiliate staff member. Stay at your home, keep your day job, but find some support and funding for your ministry. If you're interested in that, let us know. We actually have a whole team of people that can help guide you through some decision making and that process. The show notes can get you linked, or you can always just email us here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And yes, our Summit on Stepfamily Ministry is just around the corner, October 13 and 14, 2022 in the Phoenix area. Loss and grace; how the grace of God meets us in our loss and the impact that loss has on blended families. That's going to be the area of emphasis for this year's Summit. We always have workshops and opportunities for those that are just beginning to step into stepfamily ministry—don't even know where to start. You're welcome to be a part of the Summit, as well as people that may have been working in this area for some time.
And if you're listening to this right now and you're going, “Man, I missed it. I didn't know it was happening and we missed that event,” it's okay. Make plans, right now, to be with us next year. Every fall, we do The Summit somewhere in the United States. And please also know that we do have an All-Access Digital Pass option. The show notes will tell you how you can get connected to that. You can get access to some of the content from this year's Summit and previous years through that All-Access Digital Pass.
We also have what we call our Certificate in Blended Family Ministry. That is an online course that you can look into. You can stay at home and study at your own pace at your own time. We'd love for you to look into that. It does not necessarily certify you to become a blended family ministry leader because you don't need to be certified. Remember we talked about that earlier. All it does is tells you the basics, the essentials of a local ministry to blended families. You can check that out online as well. The show notes will tell you how.
And remember all local blended ministry, all it needs is someone who is willing to serve. That's it. We'll provide the content. We'll provide the expertise. We'll support you along the way. You just have to say, “Lord, I'm willing and I'm available.” That's it.
Well, next time, on FamilyLife Blended, I'm going to be having a very important conversation with Gayla Grace and my friend, Brian Goins, about protecting your family from pornography. And we're also going to tell you about a free video resource that I think is a game changer for families and for kids. It's designed for parents to watch with their children to ignite a conversation. It's going to educate both of you and them about the dangers of pornography and what you can do about it. That's next time on FamilyLife Blended.
I'm Ron Deal; thanks for being a part of this podcast. I hope it's been a blessing to you. If you want to join those who donate to support this podcast, you certainly can. The show notes will give you a link where you can participate in that if you would like to.
Our producer is Marcus Holt; our mastering engineer is Jarrett Roskey; our project coordinator is Ann Ancarrow, and our theme music is composed and performed by Braden Deal.
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