A Disney Approach to Ministering to Children of Divorce
Recently the Children’s Pastor’s Conference was held at the Disney World Conference Center in Orlando, FL. I’ve been to other conferences at this location, and something I’ve notice every time is the way Disney treats children. This got me to thinking about how our churches treat children. Today, I want to explore some concepts and ideas that sparked my imagination when it comes to ministering to the child of divorce in our churches.
1. No matter who is checking in or walking through the gates of Disney World the children are noticed first.
Do your teachers or greeters notice the children first?
2. Disney staff people are pleasant and accommodating to everyone. Most smile when talking to a child or an adult.
When a new child of divorce comes to church are you too busy getting information from the parent to take time to make eye contact with the child and smile?
Are you accommodating to the hassled single parent, or are you rushed and thinking they should automatically understand the “church-eese” language you are speaking. If they haven’t attended church before, they may not understand your denominational terms and abbreviations. Many non-churched adults reach out during the crisis of divorce and just as many are turned off by the treatment they get at church because they simply don’t understand what you are talking about.
3. Disney people bend down to shake the hands of the children.
Do you take time to get on the child’s level and offer them a greeting? Perhaps you give them some options of how they want to be greeted. A handshake? A fist bump? A high five? A hug?
4. Disney characters make a big deal of welcoming the child by asking them questions that are relevant to the child.
It is okay to ask the child about whom they live with or who brought them to church. Tell them you are glad they came to church today. Don’t tell them about your attendance competition and if they come every Sunday they will get a certificate because the child already knows it is out of their control to be there every Sunday.
5. Disney staff does not talk over the child’s head, but even when talking to the adults, they still keep eye contact with the child.
Many times it is important to get information from the parent, but think about making eye contact or periodically looking over at the child. You can even ask the child a question or two so they feel like they are contributing and not being talked about.
6. Many times they continue to smile at the child while talking to the adults.
Disney people are savvy because they know who is going pull the strings attached to mom or dad’s credit cards.
7. Disney staff always step aside for the customers.
Disney staff waits for you to enter a door or walk down a sidewalk or hallway. They hold open doors for children. They say, “Excuse me” when they have bumped or walked in front of someone. In other words they are very polite to everyone including the children.
Volunteers might need to be trained in developing Disney like manners when working with the child of divorce.
Can you begin to imagine how these children would feel honored and accepted into the loving folds of your church? Research shows that for many children the treatment they receive at church after the divorce of their parent’s hurts almost as much as the divorce itself. Many children feel the loss of a church deeply and for years to come.
This next week imagine Mickey Mouse, Goofy or Donald Duck standing at the door welcoming the child of divorce into your church. That in itself should bring an automatic smile to your face and get you started on your way to ministering to children of divorce in a fun and relaxed manner. It could be the beginning of relationship building with a hurting child who needs Christ in their life and needs to connect with a loving church family.
This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on February 01, 2013.