Introducing Wayne Stocks (Executive Director)
When Divorce Ministry 4 Kids launched in 2011, I took the time to introduce myself as the founder of that ministry. I have neglected to do that here on Hope 4 Hurting Kids. The following is an introduction that I wrote back in 2011 for Divorce Ministry 4 Kids which I have now been updated to include the last six years.
I am, first and foremost, a sinner saved by grace. I will save that testimony for another time, but if you are really interested you can find it here.
I am married to Tricia and the father of four kids: Joshua (23), Jacob (15), Lyndsey (13) and Nathan (9). God has worked through my relationships with my wife and kids to teach more about Him than He has through any other method, and that is just one of the reasons that I am eternally grateful for all of them.
I did not grow up in church – far from it. As a child, we used to attend Catholic Mass once a year at Christmas time, but that was the extent of my exposure to God. After my third child (Lyndsey) was born, some friends invited us to their church. They had actually invited me previously, but that was the first time I actually took them up on the offer. I felt like I owed it to my kids to check out this whole “God thing.” So, I accepted their invitation, and I started to research. I read the Bible, and I started to read anything I could get my hands on about the Bible. Through that process, and through the church I was attending at the time, God drew me into his kingdom when I was 30 years old.
A few months later there was a need to fill a spot in the two-year-old room, and I had a nagging small group leader, so I “volunteered.” That year, I fell in love with working with God’s kids. The following year, the need was in the 2nd grade room, so I moved up and agreed to start doing some of the large group teaching. What started as a once-a-month commitment quickly became an every week schedule and a daily pursuit, and God showed me the joy of teaching His Kids about Him.
After that, due to some other circumstances, my family and I changed churches. I was out of Children’s Ministry for about a year-and-a-half. It was during that time that I really felt God’s tug on my life and realized that working in children’s ministry was not just something that I was doing to fill a need but something that He had called me to do. I couldn’t have been happier about that calling! I immersed myself in the world of children’s ministry.
In addition to the call to teach children about God, I felt like God was calling me to encourage and equip others who work with children so I started blogging about my family and my work in children’s ministry at a blog called Dad in the Middle. I started the blog to collect my thoughts and write about the things I am passionate about in my life – those being God, My family and children’s ministry. I won’t go into details on the name of the blog, but you can find more about it on the About page of the website.
In the summer of 2010, I felt called by God to start another blog whose aim was to provide a new voice in the world of children’s ministry. That blog, called Kidmin1124, was a children’s ministry blog written entirely from the perspective of volunteer and bi-vocational children’s ministers. Kidmin1124 was born out of a vision for a community that would equip volunteers and those who lead them to more effectively serve the kids in their ministries. As I began to interact more and more online with people in children’s ministry, I learned something about them that really shocked me. There were a ton of them out there just like me – people who hold down a regular job and then volunteer in the children’s ministry of their local church. As a group, these people are no less passionate about reaching kids with the Gospel of Christ than those who work in full-time ministry, and I wanted to give them an outlet.
So, you ask (or don’t – I’m still going to answer), how do you get from volunteering in children’s ministry and running a couple of blog to equip children’s ministry workers to starting a ministry for children who are hurting? It all started with children of divorce.
I once went to a presentation done by a friend of mine named Amy Fenton Lee who is a leader in the world of special needs ministry. She began that presentation by introducing herself by listing what she was not. That seems appropriate for me in this context as well.
I am not a child of divorce. I have not been divorced, and I was not involved specifically in ministry to divorced children. Frankly, it was a bit of a surprise to me when God laid the idea of ministering to children of divorce on my heart sometime during 1999. So much so that I largely ignored his call for about a year-and-a-half. Let me explain.
I was listening to a radio broadcast about the health of marriages in America. I was struck both by the extent of the issues and the general failure of the church to do anything about it (evidenced by the fact that the divorce rate amongst Christians is about the same as the rest of the country). I didn’t think a whole lot about it for a while, but I continued to have this nagging feeling (it is clear to me in retrospect that it was God). I decided what I should do was some more research into the issue. I did a little reading online, but I largely ignored that feeling for a while and went about my other business.
One thought continued to nag at me the whole time. It had to do with what I have come to call “The Myth of Divorce.” That is the popularly held notion that kids will be better off with divorced parents than with married parents who don’t get along. Last December, I was doing my daily Bible reading, and I was struck by several verses in Malachi. I’m sure you are familiar with them, but what struck me was not that God hates divorce (something most people point to in these verses), but that right there in Malachi God gives us a glimpse as to why divorce is so harmful. I wrote an article about it on Dad in the Middle. If you’ll indulge me, here was my conclusion:
“When we get divorced, we are essentially telling God that his plan is insufficient for our lives. It was the next statement that really struck me though as a Dad and as someone who works with kids. Why did God create marriage as a covenant between himself a man and a woman? Why does God meld them into one? What is the ultimate outcome that God desires? What does God seek in the marriage covenant? He seeks Godly offspring. God has ordained marriage as a union in which a man and a woman pass along spiritual truth to their children. Verses like Deuteronomy 6 make that clear. So, when we divorce we interfere with God’s plan for transmitting his truth from generation to generation. Despite all the cultural pressure that lies to us and says “kids will be better off with two happy parents who aren’t fighting than two married parents who fight,” it is clear that God says the best place for a child is with both of his parents. When it comes to issues like marriage and divorce, it is high time that we started to listen to the truth of scripture rather than the lies of the enemy.”
Writing that article really sparked a renewed interest in me regarding this whole issue of divorce, and I finally understood why God had laid this issue on my heart. He was talking to me about the kids. It really focused my research, and I began to read anything I could get my hands on related to the effects of divorce on children. I started to compile statistics and articles and testimonials all of which supported the notion that divorce impacts every child and can have long lasting negative impacts. In short, these kids need help, and why shouldn’t the church step up to help them? We are commanded in scripture numerous times to take care of the widows and the fatherless. I believe that these kids (some literally, others figuratively) fall into that category.
Something else struck me as I was reading about the impact of divorce on children. I came across an article that stated that children of divorce experience worse grief than those who lose a parent. God, as he often does, clarified things for me once again. When I was six, my mother died. I know first-hand what it is like to lose a parent. To understand that over 1,000,000 children a year experience worse grief than I did when my mother died brought me to tears. Quite honestly, I can’t ever remember having a deeper and more profound grief for something I never personally experienced than I did in that moment. So, while I didn’t grow up in a divorced home, I do know what it is like to grow up in a single-parent home. I do know what it is like to have a step-parent and deal with the issues that entails. I lived that part first hand. God slapped me upside the head with what should have been obvious to me in the first place, he laid this on my heart because:
- He cares for these kids.
- I love working with kids.
- I do have some personal experiences which, while not identical, can help me to understand and empathize with these kids.
That moment of clarity led to more fogginess though as I tried to sort out exactly what it is that God wanted me to do with this newfound burden He had given me. I spent more months researching and talking to people about the issue. I’ve read more articles and books than I can count, started reading a number of books on the topic, compiled statistics and quotes and links to articles and an outline of notes. I started to read up on programs like Divorce Care for Kids and other avenues for ministering to children of divorce.
About that same time, I set up a short survey for people who experienced the divorce of their parents as a child to fill out so I could get a first-hand glimpse into their world. That is when the reality of it all really hit home for me. Instead of statistics and findings and advice, I was reading first-hand accounts of the effect that the divorce of their parents had on people’s lives. As I read those accounts from people now grown as they shared the wounds of their childhood as though they were still fresh, God broke my heart all over again, not only for them but also for kids who were currently going through the divorce of their parents who really didn’t have a voice.
From there, God made it clear to me that my mission was not only to minister to the children of divorce in my own life, but to help others do the same and to call the church to minister to this segment of their congregations. My goal was to equip people who already loved and worked with kids to serve the children of divorce who were already in their ministries better.
That is when Divorce Ministry 4 Kids was born. In the summer of 2011 a ministry designed to teach people about the needs of children of divorce, equip those who work with kids, call the church to action and serve children of divorce was born. With people like Linda Ranson Jacobs (an expert in the field) lined up to help, we set up an online presence and got the ball rolling. I also started working directly with children of divorce in local Divorce Care 4 Kids support groups and talking to children’s ministers from all over the country through the blog on through appearances on a variety of podcasts about how to serve these kids better.
Shortly into my work and ministry in this area, I was invited to speak at conferences about the impact of family disruption on kids, and I jumped at the opportunity to teach more people about the need and ways to minister to these kids. In early 2013, we launched I Am A Child of Divorce as a kind of sister site to Divorce Ministry 4 Kids. I Am A Child of Divorce was (and is) intended as a site for children suffering through a family disruption who don’t have a person they can turn to for help or understanding. It offers advice, support, people to talk to and a community who can help kids reeling from what is going on in their family. Whereas Divorce Ministry 4 Kids was aimed at people and churches working with kids, I Am A Child of Divorce was aimed directly at the impacted kids.
As I continued to work with kids from disrupted homes of all sorts (divorced, single-parent, step, cohabiting, gay parent led, grandparent led, etc.), two things became clear:
- A child doesn’t have to experience divorce to experience family disruption and all the negative consequences related to that; and
- Much of what I was using, learning and talking and writing about related to children from disrupted homes could also be applied to help kids dealing with other traumas and other circumstances in their lives.
In late 2013, I launched this website (Hope 4 Hurting Kids) in response to the realization that the needs we were then ministering to extended to a far greater crowd than just children of divorce. For about three years, I maintained Hope 4 Hurting Kids as a kind of holding vehicle for the work of both Divorce Ministry 4 Kids and I Am A Child of Divorce. As I write this, it is exactly three years from the date of the creation of Hope 4 Hurting Kids and things are about to change for this website and this ministry. The big announcement regarding those changes is a couple of weeks away, and the details will have to wait for the next update to my ministry story. But, if you’ve made it this far you deserve some sort of clue. The key to the announcement coming in the next couple of weeks lies in the links contained in this article.
This article updated and adapted from an article original published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on July 27, 2011