Culture Shock: Why Ministering to Children of Divorce Isn’t Like Traditional Children’s Ministry

Culture Shock

This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

Children’s Ministry workers are a unique breed. We choose to volunteer and spend our time surrounded by kids striving to teach them about Jesus and the Bible. We enjoy noise and games and the many twists and turns that children’s ministry inevitably brings.

As a group we tend to be a little more free-spirited, but we also take ministering to children very seriously. To that end, oftentimes we get a picture in our minds about how our ministry should operate – how a certain activity should unfold or how a group of kids should act. We get our minds set on what we want to accomplish, train our leaders to move towards that vision and then move forward sometimes faster than we can even keep up. Sometimes, we even settle in and enjoy the fact that everything seems to be running smoothly…that is until “that child” shows up. We love kids, and we have a heart for kids, but “that child” is the difficult one. The one who disrupts the plan and refuses to allow the ministry to operate the way it should. Many times, in today’s day and age, “that child” is a child of divorce. The fact is ministering to a child of divorce, whether in a dedicated group setting like DC4K or in your Sunday morning children’s ministry, presents unique challenges.

Not every person who in children’s ministry is going to be equipped to work with children of divorce. If people have done children’s ministry before or are used to a more traditional children’s ministry, they may go into culture shock when it comes to ministering to children of divorce. Or they may throw up their hands when a child of divorce comes into other church classes.

I tell new Divorce Care for Kids directors and coordinators who come from a children’s ministry background that they are likely to experience what I call “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock” when running the program.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock”.

  1. In ministering to children of divorce, you will find many children who will bring the chaos that defines their everyday existence outside of church into the group or classroom.
  2. When ministering to children of divorce, it is beneficial to set up groups to accommodate mixed age grouping rather than putting all kids of the same age together.
  3. The flow of activities in a divorce ministry will likely need to be different from that in a weekly children’s ministry.
  4. Allowing children to make choices is a much-needed technique and the name of the game so to speak when getting children of divorce involved in a group.
  5. How you deal with disruptive children may look different in a divorce ministry than it will in a weekly children’s ministry.

Over the next several weeks, we will examine each of these major differences between more traditional ministry and ministry to children of divorce in more depth. We will dive into why these differences exist and what they mean. I (Linda) will explain how we developed DC4K in such a way to account for these differences. And, I (Wayne) will explore how you can use this knowledge to adjust how you minister to children in a weekly children’s ministry setting.

Join us next time as we explore the issue of dealing with the chaos inherent in the lives of children of divorce and what that means when it comes to 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 August 03, 2012.

Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne started I Am A Child of Divorce to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. You can reach Wayne at wayne@hope4hurtingkids.com.