Sunday Morning Strategies – Forming Relationships [The Difficulty]

forming relationshipsWelcome back as we continue our “Sunday Morning Strategies” series designed to help you to accommodate children of divorce and children from single parent homes in your Sunday morning children’s ministry. For the last several installments, we have looked at different strategies for dealing with parents from divorced homes. In the coming weeks, we are going to look at developing relationships with children of divorce.  This week, we will examine some of the difficulties inherent in forming such relationships, and in the coming weeks we will look at some strategies you can employ to develop these relationships.

The Importance of Relationships

Relationships are key to any type of ministry. Ultimately, our goal is that the kids in our ministry will form a relationship with Jesus Christ. Toward that end, we endeavor to form relationships with these kids and to afford them opportunities to form relationships with one another. The relationships we develop with the children in our ministries allow us to speak into their lives and to model Christian living for them.

The Difficulty of Forming Relationships With Children of Divorce

As children’s ministers, we are used to forming relationships with kids. For many of us, it just comes naturally and that’s one of the things that drew us to children’s ministry in the first place. We just have a knack for getting along with kids and knowing the right time to say the right thing. We’ve dealt with the crying child who doesn’t want mom or dad to drop them off for children’s church. But, forming a relationship with a child of divorce is different, and oftentimes much more difficult. In this article, we will look at why relationships with children of divorce are different than other relationships and what you can do to begin the process of nourishing those relationships.

When it comes to children from divorced or separated homes, you are likely to find that forming a relationship with them is harder than you’re used to. This can be for various reasons:

Trust Issues. Children of divorce are likely to have trust issues. After all, the two people they have trusted the most in their life (mom and dad) have violated their trust in breaking apart the only family they have ever known. You have likely never done anything to violate their trust, but you will be forced to overcome their trust issues if you want to build a relationship.

Anticipated Let Down. Children from divorced or separated homes assume that adults will let them down Perhaps it is a result of underlying trust issues. Maybe it is because of the pattern that the adults in their lives have modeled for them. Whatever the cause, you can assume that when you start to build a relationship with these kids that they will assume that you will let them down eventually too.

Guarded Emotions. One of the biggest problems faced by many children of divorce is the inability to express their emotions. Sometimes they don’t even recognize the emotions that they are feelings. Often times, this results in children of divorce who are guarded in the emotions that they are willing to express. After all, they surmise, “if I don’t share my emotions, I can’t be hurt.”

Deep thinkers. Children of divorce face deep questions about their lives and their faith. Many times they aren’t interested in many of the more fun-loving or frivolous things that many kids engage in. This can make building a relationship with them even more difficult.

Jaded/Cynical. These kids have been dealt a rough hand early in life, and many times it leaves them a bit jaded and cynical about life in general. Breaking through those walls can be a significant barrier to forming a relationship.

But, just because forming relationships with children of divorce poses some unique challenges doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. With enough planning and by being strategic, you can form relationships with children of divorce that will allow you to speak into their lives and help them through this time in their lives.  Come back next week for some specific ideas.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on September 30, 2013.

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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 previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents’ relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families.

Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids’ other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son’s soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship).

You can reach Wayne at wayne@hope4hurtingkids.com.