Sunday Morning Strategies- Dealing with Parents [The Warring Parents]

warring parentsWelcome 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. Last week we looked at specific legal issues you need to be aware of when it comes to divorce. Over the course of the next few weeks, we are going to look at parent issues that you need to be prepared to deal with if the kids in your ministry have parents who are separated or divorced.

In a more traditional children’s ministry setting, our interactions with parents are generally driven by the idea of equipping them to disciple their own children on a daily basis. The ultimate goal with divorced or separated parents, but the methods sometimes need to be a little different. In this series, we will look at three different “types” of divorced parents that you are likely to deal with in your ministry and how you as a children’s pastor and a church need to address them.

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

1. The Warring Parents

Warring parents are engaged in a no-holds-barred winner take all battle against one another and can be blind to the casualties along the way. They’ve both decided that they’re not giving in, and they don’t care about the consequences. The “church” has become a hallowed battle ground, and neither is going to give the other the satisfaction of retaining “my church.” They would rather both come each Sunday morning and glare at one another from across the room while the preacher talks about forgiveness and grace. In this circumstance, you are likely to find yourself in one of two positions: either caught in the cross-fire or recruited to join one side or another.

In a battle of jilted ex-partners, there are bound to be innocent casualties, and you and/or your church can find yourself in the crosshairs. Unfortunately, otherwise responsible parents sometimes throw common sense to the wind and use their children as pawns – particularly in a nasty divorce situation. As someone entrusted weekly (or more often) with the care of those children, you can find yourself in situations ranging from uncomfortable to downright confrontational. The key to dealing with these types of parents is to remember that they are hurting as well. You might not care for how they are expressing that anger, but we are called by Christ to turn the other cheek. Let the personal stuff go, and set your heart on ministering to the family and the kids. There is nothing to be gained by entering the war other than some nasty battle scars.

Divorced parents, and particularly parents who are newly separated or going through a divorce, look to “rally the troops” and find people to “be on their side.” These parents are adverse to one another, but it might not be all out war (at least not against you). In other words, they are just interested in gathering together a colossal support group to remind them that they did nothing wrong and their ex is a bad person who only ever took advantage of their kind nature anyhow. Don’t play into those games. Never – ever – criticize the “other” parent. You are on the side of the kids in this messy situation, and they need to feel free to love and admire both of their parents. When you, as someone they look up to, start to take sides it makes it harder on the children you are trying to protect.

Come back next week as we discuss “The Absent Parents”

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on September 03, 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.