3 ways to minister to stepmoms on Mother’s Day and beyond

May 8, 2015

For many women, Mother’s Day is a happy time—a time to be recognized and praised by husbands and a day when “her children rise and called her blessed.” It’s a day of reflection and gratitude for the woman who basks in the gift of motherhood.

Yet, for other women, Mother’s Day is painful. It’s a day that serves as a reminder of what never was or never will be. Most of these women walk through the valley of infertility or have suffered at the hands of miscarriage.

For others that fall into this category, this day is painful because they haven’t had the chance to become a mother—simply because they would like to have married years ago, and there is no suitor in sight.

Thankfully, the church is having conversations that breed sensitivity toward the women who fall into these categories. And that is great news.

But there is another group of women who find Mother’s Day to be particularly difficult, or at the very least, awkward. They are a relatively silent, yet growing number of women.

They are stepmothers.

My friend and stepfamily expert Laura Petherbridge explains this quite plainly: “Mother’s Day can be such a painful day for a stepmother, because she has all of the hard work associated with the mother role—helping with homework, cooking, carpooling, financial strain—but doesn’t have the ‘perks,’ like love, loyalty and devotion that come along with being a biological mom.”

In my seven-year experience as a stepmom, Mother’s Day isn’t as much painful as it is awkward. For example, when someone wishes me a happy Mother’s Day, I am torn between offering a simple “thank you” and going into a full blown explanation of my situation.

After all, there is nothing simple about being a stepmom.

The Mother’s Day church service can get particularly awkward for those of us stepmoms who do not have any children of our own. On that particular morning, well meaning pastors ask all mothers to stand and be recognized.

Moments like this put us in a quandary: If we stand, we feel like frauds because we are not real moms. If we stay seated, we feel guilty because it may send the message to our husbands—and to others in the congregation—that we don’t want to claim our stepchildren.

I am thankful to have positives in my situation that are not present in other stepfamilies. I have a good relationship with my teenaged stepsons. And their mother and I don’t just get along; we have developed a friendship over the years. I am grateful for such blessings.

However, stepfamily life—even mine—is still complicated. Here are some ways the church can minister to stepmoms (and stepfamilies, in general) on Mother’s Day—and beyond.

1. Acknowledge our roles

This can vary from church to church, but I have found that there are people who are afraid of saying “stepmom” or “stepdad.” They just don’t know what to do with us. But we live in a fallen world where people divorce and people die. Don’t be afraid to use honest language, as long as it doesn’t tear down or destroy.

Also, please understand that you may get a complicated answer when you ask, “How many kids do you have?” When I get that question, my answer is, “I have two stepsons.” Most stepmoms don’t have an answer that tidy, as many of them brought children of their own into the marriage. And some of those have had additional children with their current spouse.

In acknowledging their role, there must be understanding as you learn about the stepfamilies in your church. There are no simple answers, because—again—there is nothing simple about stepfamily dynamics.

2. Sympathize with our struggles

As you grow to understand the stepfamilies in your church, you can minister to them by sympathizing with their struggles.

Stepfamilies have unique challenges. One example of this is holidays. Holidays are often the most stressful times in the life of a stepfamily. For the biological parent, this is especially difficult because they are without their children, depending on the sharing arrangements. And if the blended family couple does not have other family in their lives, or nearby, these times can prove especially lonely.

By getting to know the stepfamilies in your church, you have a window into struggles like this one. And in doing so, the opportunity to minister presents itself. Perhaps there is a lonely blended family couple in your church without their kids at the holidays that could benefit from an invitation to your home this Thanksgiving or Christmas.

3. Include us, don’t single us out

Those of us who are in Christ, and who are also stepparents, possess spiritual gifts just like married couples in a traditional family.

The tendency is to segregate according to life stage. When it comes to church life, I have observed that stepparents get similar treatment as singles. Singles are often relegated to their own exclusive singles ministry, but they have so much to bring to the table when it comes to ministry and serving alongside married adults, children, seniors and students.

While I believe that there should be targeted ministry to stepfamilies within the church, we should not be singled out when it comes to serving. We are members of the Body of Christ, and we have a role to play.

Along the way, we will probably stumble upon someone else who is struggling through stepfamily life, and through our experiences, “we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

Joy Allmond

Joy Allmond is the managing editor of Facts & Trends, and has also written for Crosswalk.com, LifeWay, WORLD magazine, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Greg. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24