Are You Afraid of Children of Divorce?
In the article “Leading and Managing Kidmin Change,” Greg Baird wrote:
Fear – people are naturally afraid of change. Change is unknown, and we’re usually afraid of the unknown.
The reason this caught my attention is because it opened a door in my mind about why children’s ministers might be reluctant to want to minister to children of divorce. It is a change from the “normal” kids that usually come to our churches.
It makes sense that fear of the unknown, aka divorce, logical.
Some of these fears might include,
- Divorcing families are messy.
- Supporting divorce goes against my moral standards.
- I don’t know much about divorce except there are lawyers and angry people involved.
- How would I comfort the kids?
- How could I fit them into our kid’s ministry when they might not come on a regular basis?
I’m sure there are many other fears that keep churches from purposely reaching out to the child of divorce. Let’s look at each of these and see if we can lessen the fear for you.
Divorcing families are messy
All of us that work with children are acquainted with messy. We do messy things all the time. Silly string is messy. Art projects can be messy. Serving snacks to two-year olds is messy. When we do these kinds of things, we prepare our environment and ourselves. We are aware we will need to do some cleaning up afterwards so we move forward.
The same kinds of thoughts can hold true when starting to purposefully minister to children of divorce. Prepare yourself, and just know that there might be some cleaning up to do afterwards. Besides, not every divorcing family is messy. If a church can host a support group like DivorceCare for the adults and Divorce Care 4 Kids [DC4K] for the kids, it makes life not quite so messy for the kids after all.
Just like you wouldn’t do a messy art project with a group of kids alone, don’t do ministry to children of divorce alone. Find some kindred hearts to walk alongside you. This might be a person that you can vent to or share your thoughts with. Sometimes, we find clarity when we can talk through a situation. It would need to be someone you can trust to keep things confidential.
Supporting divorce goes against my moral standards
There is a funny thing about this thought process. Divorce goes against God’s directives and His standards too, but He still loves the divorced person. Don’t think of it as supporting the act of divorce but as loving the divorced person. What can you do to make these kids lives easier? How can you be someone who shows them the love of Christ?
It is okay to tell a child that the bible says divorce is wrong. We do that in DC4K. We tell the child that everyone makes mistakes. We explain that God created each of us to have a free will. Sometimes when we exercise this free will we sin against God but God still loves us. God still loves their parents. What a beautiful picture we can create for the child of divorce by using what the bible says about it. What a gift we can give to them if we teach them that divorce is wrong. Maybe we can prevent one child from growing up and divorcing their spouse also.
I don’t know much about divorce except there are lawyers and angry people involved
News flash – divorce isn’t so much about lawyers any more. Most states require a divorcing couple to go to mediation first. Many times things such as child support, etc. can be hammered out in mediation making divorce less expensive, shorter in duration and less stressful on the divorcing couple.
It is true that sometimes there is a lot of anger. But, there is a lot of anger in almost any family crisis and we deal with other family crisis, so why not divorce?
How would I comfort the kids?
You comfort the children of divorce just like you would any child experiencing a crisis or a trauma – you love on them. You begin by being you. Be honest and truthful. Allow the child to talk and share things with you. Ask the child how last weekend went with his dad. Give them hugs. Give them attention. Maybe you ask them to bring in their spelling test so you can see how they are doing or ask them to report each week about how they did at that soccer game.
While it is important to be up front about the divorce, don’t make divorce the main thing all the time. Give kids a break from the divorce by being normal and relational.
How could I fit them into our kid’s ministry when they might not come on a regular basis?
You accommodate them. You acknowledge their presence when they are there, and you don’t make a big deal out of it when they are not there. Remember this is their life – living in two separate homes, dealing with two separate sets of rules and people. While you might not think every other week is a regular routine, to the kids in the middle it becomes their regular routine.
Reading articles and blogs like the ones here at Hope4HurtingKids will help you educate yourself. They help take the fear out of the unknown. They acquaint you with that frightening word, “divorce.” Divorce is no longer the unknown; no longer something to fear. Ministering to children of divorce and making that change to minister to them will open doors and hearts that you can’t believe. You will be amazed and blessed as you enter this change in ministry.
For more resources and information on divorce, family disruption and modern families please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Divorce and Modern Family Help Center.
This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on October 19, 2012.