Blended Families: A Conversation with Shanna Gregor and Bobbie Rill by Samantha Villenave
I recently had the opportunity to discuss with Women's Ministry Tools contributors Shanna Gregor and Bobbie Rill, about their upcoming book on Blended Families. Shanna reached out to me a while back and offered to provide the chapters as a resource here on the site, and we have been blessed to have them! If you are from a blended family, or perhaps ministering to blended families in your role as a leader or lay-leader in your church, you will definitely want to check the series out! I also hope you enjoy our conversation on the topic…
Samantha: It’s so nice to be able to talk with both of you, Shanna and Bobbie. Could you please tell me a bit about how this project, the book on Blended Families, came to be?
Shanna: Bobbie and I have been friends for quite some time. During some of our conversations about my experience growing up in a blended family, Bobbie shared some great insight from her more than twenty years as a counselor. Her experience gave me insight into so many things about my past. I'd always wanted to write a book about blended families and I felt like her professional background added great benefit to the book.
I had actually started writing portions of the book a few years before Bobbie and I discussed it.
Bobbie: I was delighted when Shanna approached me about writing the book together but I admit I was surprised since I had not come from a blended family myself. As Shanna shared openly about her background and I shared what I have learned through my years of counseling and helping people deal with loss, we truly believe God placed this project on our hearts to encourage families struggling with the many disappointments.
This book is unique from others on the topic. One, we want people to see how their relationship with God directly links to successfully navigating the challenges. God has a clear design laid out in Scripture that we provide as a road map for the reader. Secondly, as Grief Recovery Specialists and myself as a National Trainer for the Grief Recovery Institute, we want the parent and stepparent to not only be aware of the losses each has experienced but know what to do and not do to help each member’s recovery. As the message came into focus, the excitement grew.
Samantha: Shanna, You write in the book that you grew up in a blended family yourself. Can you tell us a little about that and how it has impacted you as an adult, and in your Christian walk?
The attempt my mom and stepdad made at a quick blend proved near disastrous. At 12 years old, my first family was the casualty of abuse. After so much loss, I was angry, not at the thought of a blended family but the way we were so quickly thrust together. There was no time to get to know anyone. I suddenly found myself elbow to elbow with an older stepsister and a younger stepbrother. I remember thinking, I do not know these people; I do not want to know these people.
While I was happy my mother had found someone who seemed to really love her and would treat her with respect, I resented my stepfather. I didn't know him or his children at all.
I had a relationship with God from my earliest memories. I know the fact that my mother and grandparents were Christians and prayed, made a difference. I held on to God, as I always had, and over time learned to love my stepdad. He became the father I needed.
As an adult, I often looked back on my teen years and wondered how it could have been easier for all of us. I believe that is what those reading the book will find - encouragement and hope - while realizing the tools they need for a successful family blend.
Bobbie, would you say from your background as a Professional Counselor that Shanna’s experience of having the new family dynamic thrust upon her with little to no preparation, is a common one?
How would the two of you suggest that women in a ministry role could use the resources in your book in order to help families that are experiencing the complications that arise with a family blend?
Women in ministry encounter disappointed and disillusioned families every day. Couples, and even children fall into the arms of understanding ministers as they struggle to understand why it didn’t work. I believe this book will arm those in ministry with many of the tools they need to approach blended families with love and understanding, and equip them with capacity to prepare family members for challenges ahead so they can meet those challenges with realistic expectations.
While many parents attempt to prepare their children for the blend by meeting the new family, providing activities to help them get acquainted and even discussing the living arrangements prior to the move, these alone do not prepare the child for the emotional impact of the realities that follow. So, yes. I do believe it is common for children to feel as through the new situation has been thrust upon them.
First, before I provide some insight on how best to use the book, I would encourage them to be a heart with ears and provide a safe place without any judgment, criticism, or analysis on their part. Learn to just listen. Then there are three main ways I believe women in ministry can use the resources in our book to help those considering a blend or even those who are in the throes of blending their families. First, inspire them to grow spiritually. In the book, we list eight character qualities that serve as our foundation. If they teach and encourage the development of these qualities, that truly could keep their women from being ineffective. That’s the promise we have in God’s Word and I don’t know of another book on blended families that takes this approach. Next, Shanna’s honest disclosure of her personal experiences provides eye-opening accounts of situations most couples might never have even considered. While we do want to open the eyes of our readers, that’s not all. Thirdly, we give practical tips on how to apply the character qualities we’re asking them to develop, which are associated with spiritual maturity, specifically to their blended family. I truly believe this book can help those in ministry increase their effectiveness in coming alongside and helping families with their blend.