Sunday Morning Strategies – Dealing with Parents [The Other Parent]

other parentWelcome 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. Two weeks ago we started a series on issues related to dealing with parents and we identified three different types of divorced parents you are likely to deal with:

  • The Warring Parents
  • The Absent Parents
  • The Other Parent

This week we conclude our series by looking at the Other Parent.

3. The Other Parent

Divorce often leads to both parents eventually leaving the church, but for many (I would guess the majority) of those who attend church at the time of the divorce, it likely leads to a situation where one parent continues coming to the church (at least for a time) and one parent who does not. Additionally, as new parents with children join your church, you will have kids who are at your church every-other-weekend for whom you will likely have no regular contact with the “Other Parent.”

In these cases, it is essential that you find ways to get the other parent involved if at all possible. If our goal as children ministry workers is to teach children about God and equip parents to disciple their children, then we fail at our mission when we fail to engage one of the child’s parents simply because they do not attend our church. Yes, it is more difficult, but it is not impossible to engage the other parent. Here are some ideas.

  • Talk to the parent who does bring the child to church and gather information about the other parent. Explain to the parent that does attend your church that your main objective is the spiritual nurture of the child and ask for their help by giving you the information to work with the other parent. At the same time, encourage the parent who does attend to keep the other parent informed about what the child is doing at church the same way they might keep them informed about school activities. Especially where the divorce is more “civil” this might be the most effective way of getting the other parent involved.
  • In cases where the parents do not get along or are adverse to dealing with one another, you can reach out to the other parent. You should let the parent who brings the child to church know that you intend to contact the other parents and ensure that there are no legal reasons not to (restraining orders, etc), but make a point to reach out. Let the other parent know that you are the children’s pastor, children’s ministry directory, a child’s small group leader, or whatever the situation may be. Explain that you want to set up a system that works for them to keep them up to date on what their child is doing at church and their spiritual development.
  • After you’ve reached out to the absent parent, take the time to get to know them. Never lose sight of the fact that your primary role is as an advocate for the child, but trying to get to know both of their parents can only help you to minister to the kids more effectively.
  • Provide multiple copies of take home pages and crafts for children with parents who are no longer together. Consider mailing, or e-mailing, a copy of any take home papers, newsletters, etc. to parents who don’t attend your church. For special events (like Christmas programs, VBS parent nights, etc.), go out of your way to make sure that both parents are invited. One word of advice – make sure you have a plan for when both parents DO show up. Tensions may still be high, and you’ll want to take steps to make sure those tensions don’t ruin the event for the kids. You’ll also want to make sure that you have specially designated volunteers whose job it will be to make parents who don’t generally attend your church feel welcome. The last thing you want is these parents to show up and feel like outsiders.
  • If you have made contact with the absent parent, and that parent is attending church somewhere else with the child (perhaps on alternating weekends), reach out to the other church to discuss a joint plan for the spiritual nurture of the child.
  • Consider special programs, single-parent seminars and other events specifically geared to establishing a connection with the other parent.

Dealing with parents is one of the greatest difficulties and greatest pleasures of working in children’s ministry. Week in and week out, we are afforded the privileged of partnering with parents in the spiritual nurturing of their kids. We spend time figuring out how to connect with parents, how to help parents and how to come alongside side them and work with them. When it comes to families fractured by separation or divorce…when it comes to single-parent families….when it comes to all types of modern families, we are presented with unique challenges when it comes to dealing with parents. In today’s day and age where divorce and single-parent families abound, you need to make sure that you are prepared to deal with the various types of parents that might cross your path.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on September 16, 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.