“If you think your life is hectic during the holidays, you ought to try coordinating schedules, dinner plans, and Christmas gifts with the parents of three households – most of whom don’t care for each other very much.” That’s how stepmother Sheree explained holiday stress to a family member.
As pastors and leaders of churches, whether small or large, it is very important that we take into account those in our church and community who are in blended families. It’s important in every season, but in particular during the holiday season. Author and speaker Ron Deal from FamilyLife Blended says that as many as 40% of those in our local churches are in blended families. Sometimes it is because a spouse has passed away, but more often it is the result of a divorce – in many cases, a divorce that one party didn’t ask for or want.
40%. Let that sink in for a moment. If you have 100 people in your church, as many as 40 of them could be part of blended families. If there are 10,000 people in the community that surrounds your local church, several thousand of those likely are in the same situation. While most of us don’t like divorce and we teach that God’s plan for marriage is “until death do us part”, the reality of our world today is that it is broken. The result is blended families.
Consider the ideal Christmastime in America. We have time off work, so we slow down and enjoy time with family. We celebrate family traditions, attend a special church service, and then open gifts around the tree. On Christmas Day, we have a big meal around the table with the whole family, perhaps including extended family members.
For most of us, the reality of Christmas is far from the ideal. Christmas is stressful and filled with too many obligations. And that’s without the complications of a blended family.
At Christmas and other holidays, children in blended families have to repeat the “family” process several times with different sets of parents, step-parents, grandparents, and step-grandparents. And divorced parents often celebrate a holiday, or at least part of it, at home alone because the other parent has the kids. Not so splendid, huh?
During the holidays, we should be sensitive to the needs and stress levels of those in our church and community who are parts of blended families. When planning holiday events and preparing and presenting holiday-related sermons, we should remember the added dynamics of these families.
In fact, we should do this not just around Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter, but year-round. The challenges that blended families face are 365 days a year. I hope that you will consider starting a blended family ministry in your church and/or community to offer support and hope to these families in the coming year. FamilyLife and Ron Deal have developed a great set of resources called “Smart Stepfamily” that, among other things, contains a small group video study that has eight sessions.
Feel free to connect with me (via the contact page) so we can talk more about how to provide help and encouragement to those in your church and community who are part of a blended family.