Friday, January 8, 2016

Your Role as Educator in the Church

While the church is all about families, my limited experience has shown me that not many members are as familiar with blended families and their nontraditional functionalities. That’s why I believe that if you’re in a blended family you have the opportunity to act as an educator, teaching members about your family’s unique dynamic, sometimes including how your family operates.

As Deliah mentioned in our first post, 46% of US weddings create stepfamilies, and while I think we’d like to believe the church is immune, more and more of these weddings impact members of the church. So it makes sense that, when appropriate, we take the time to teach people how our families work so that they are better equipped to handle some of the unique situations blended families present.

A few months ago, my daughter’s YW advisor taught a touching lesson where she bore her testimony of the power of a father’s blessing, challenging all the girls to go home that day and ask their fathers for one. My daughter burst into tears
because her dad’s no longer an active member and she felt excluded from those blessings her teacher had testified so strongly about. Luckily I’m the YW president and was able to take time after class to console my daughter while explaining her response to the advisor, who had just taught a room full of girls from nontraditional families. I think this type of thing happens frequently. And while unintentional, it can be hurtful. That’s why it’s important that we turn them into teaching moments.

Last month a member of the primary presidency asked my stepdaughter if she could give a prayer the following Sunday. When she told the counselor that she would not be there, the woman replied, “Well, you need to try.”

This individual is someone I have attended ward councils with. She sees us at church every Sunday and knows we’re an active family. I had assumed she understood our unique situation and how visitation impacts our stepchildren’s church attendance in the ward. I mean, for more than a year, they had been in primary every other Sunday. There’s little variance to that.

So it bothered me a bit that she would say something to my stepdaughter that might make her feel uncomfortable. When this same woman sent me an email encouraging me to bring her to activity days (during the week when we don’t have them), I saw it as a teaching opportunity. Well, I saw it as a teaching opportunity after I fumed a bit about what I perceived as her insensitivity.

I sent an email explaining visitation—when my stepkids are here, where they’re not. And I also explained that while their mother lives relatively close to us, it’s still quite the trek during a busy work week to bring her to our activity days when she attends them in her mom’s ward.

She sent an apologetic reply saying she had forgotten that I wasn’t her biological mother. Which—that’s a compliment, right?

It’s easy to become frustrated and hurt by some of the things people may do as they try to fulfill their voluntary callings. But really, we’re all learning, and it’s Christ’s way to teach in love and humility. Most of the people who act insensitively don’t understand what life is like in a blended family. So who better than you to teach them?

What experiences have you had as your blended family has tried to navigate within the church? Please share how you’ve addressed some of these situations.

1 comment:

  1. I know this phenomenon well. Too well. One time a well meaning YW leader made a special call to see that my step daughter would get a letter at girls camp from me or her dad because she was worried she wouldn't receive one. This of course was after the instruction to mom's to write a letter to their daughters. After getting over the sting of that, I kindly reminded her that Of course I'd write a letter to BOTH of my daughter's.