Children of Divorce Deserve Better Treatment in Our Churches

01.17.2013, 8:15 AM

Linda Ranson Jacobs is the Creator and Ambassador of DivorceCare4Kids.  DC4K is a 13-week program that provides an opportunity for your church to encompass the child of divorce with the loving arms of a church family and demonstrate God’s love.  Ms. Jacobs has also created resources for divorced or single parents available at the ParentZone.

 

How does a church, which focuses on traditional family ministry, minister to the child of divorce? This seems to be the question many churches are wrestling with as they try to define exactly what family ministry looks like. Divorcing families have indeed changed the landscape of what families look like within the church.

In 43 years of ministering to children of divorce, I have personally observed many of the issues researched in the report, Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith? I’m beginning to think it is not so much the “shape” of family, while that has a lot to do with influencing children’s faith, but it is the shape of the church surrounding the family.

In my observation, many divorcing parents who are emotionally absent, in shock, or spend hours working to support their family, may not have the physical energy to take their children to church. If they take them to church they may not have the spiritual stamina to disciple their children in the home.

One component that needs to be addressed in this discussion is how children’s ministry leaders and volunteers need to be educated and trained to work with and accommodate the child of divorce. Ministering to children of divorce isn’t like traditional children’s ministry. In a series of articles on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids (www.divorceministry4kids.com) Wayne Stocks, who is a children’s minister, and I have written about the culture shock children’s ministers have when working with the child of divorce. These kids bring many issues with them; the biggest one being the chaos that follows them to church classes. Addressing behavior issues, helping the child fit in, and knowing how to work with the single parent are critical if we want to keep the kids coming to church.

Churches and understanding leaders can bridge the gap between the child and their relationship with a heavenly Father by coming alongside the child. A church can replicate a loving family who can step up to the plate to assist and co-partner with the single parent to provide spiritual teaching and training to the children.

For almost ten years we have watched a shift in how many children are processing the divorce of their parents divorce through a program called DivorceCare for Kids. (www.dc4k.org) This program, which was released in the summer of 2004, is designed specifically for churches. It is non denominational in nature and reaches across a wide spectrum of issues.

Currently almost 70,000 elementary age children from kindergarten through fifth grade have been equipped with the DC4K materials. Over 3,000 churches worldwide have been supplied with the DC4K kit which includes children’s DVD dramas, music CDs, hand held feelings puppet, storybook, and many other tools to help children process their parent’s divorce. The kit also equips leaders with training DVDs, extensive lesson plans and a Leader’s Guide educating leaders about how to successfully minister to the child of divorce.

In these small groups relationships have been formed, scriptures have been introduced and Christian principals have been set forth. While most of us don’t like to think of young children being in a support group, that is exactly what they need and what churches can provide for them through DC4K.

We have children who were twelve and thirteen years of age when they first went through DC4K and are now young adults. While they aren’t fully into their adult years with families of their own, we are seeing how they are staying connected to the Lord in their faith walk. We are seeing sixteen- and seventeen-year-old teenagers come back to DC4K as teen leaders. They want to reach out to the younger children and help them as they themselves have been helped. And we’ve had countless adult children of divorce share with us how much they have grown in their faith walk and relationship with a heavenly Father by leading DC4K.

We don’t know yet but believe that the majority of the children who experience DC4K will have better outcomes overall. We do know that the door has been opened wider than ever before for these kids to stay connected to a religious community.

After having worked in a Southern California school system; run my own therapeutic childcare for over 20 years in Oklahoma; trained as well as educated thousands of teachers, childcare staff and church leaders about the child of divorce; created the DC4K curriculum and raised my own two children in a divorced family; I know first hand how important the church is in shaping children’s faith. Churches must accept the challenge to confront the issue of divorce and they must do it head on and do it now before we lose another generation to divorce.


8 Responses to “Children of Divorce Deserve Better Treatment in Our Churches”

  1. Wayne Stocks says:

    I’m beginning to think it is not so much the “shape” of family, while that has a lot to do with influencing children’s faith, but it is the shape of the church surrounding the family.

    Well said Linda! It is a pleasure to work with someone as passionate about children of divorce as you are.

    For others, I just want to second what you had to say about DC4K. I’ve taught the DC4K class and seen the impact first hand that it has on a child’s life. We are all indebted to you for having put it together. I hope that more churches will get on-board in light of this most recent report showing how divorce impacts a child’s faith. Keep up the great work!

  2. Wayne, thanks for responding. My prayer and hope is that many more churches will realize through this report that all churches must step up. Let’s keep working on educating churches. We make a great team.

    Linda

  3. I have learned the majority of what I know about children of divorce through you and your expertise, Linda. I lead DC4K for a few years and then led The Big D for teens. From seeing the immense hurt and then the healing in those 2 programs, the Lord led me to write Chained No More…A Journey of Healing for the Adult Children of Divorce.

    I believe the more churches implement these resources, the better they will understand how to minister to them and bring them into their church families. They will see marriages and families flourish, no matter what “shape” they are.

  4. Thanks Robin. Much appreciated. You know since you are hearing from so many adult children of divorce through Chained No More.

    Linda

  5. Sherry Wright says:

    In regards to the article Children of Divorce Deserve Better Treatment in Our Churches, my response is absolutely yes, they deserve better.

    For instance, I believe children should not wonder where they ‘fit’ into the body of Christ, the church, but know that they DO fit significantly. Why? Because they are God’s child. The church can provide a safe place on many levels for the child of divorce, as well as their single parent. It can be a place where healing can begin within an environment of stability, security, and affirmation which I find is necessary for the child whose world has been shattered by divorce. It will take time for the pain and shock to settle within the soul of the child, but with the consistent love and ministry of a good church, then this child can begin to feel hope again and that they will be okay.

    So the church has a wonderful opportunity to provide support to this child where they can receive the love of Christ in such a way that their heart would be teachable and receptive to receiving Christ as their Savior. That is a worthwhile investment!

    What a blessing it would be these children and their parents.

  6. Sherry, love your perspective on children of divorce. Spot on. Thanks.

  7. This is a very insightful article and very encouraging. I know that when I divorced, it was a hopeless feeling. People didn’t know what to say to you, so they said nothing. At first, I felt like I walked around with a big sign on my chest and trying to muddle thru everything is truly overwhelming. I first went thru DC class, after meeting Linda at a Singles Retreat. Was truly a freeing experience. After that, I realized my son needed help in processing everything, that I was not equipped to do, since I was one of the sources of his anguish. He was seeing a family counselor at the same time he went thru the DC4K program, and I will have to say, that God worked a miracle thru that class. My son realized he was not alone and there were other kids “like” him. I truly feel the church today is still not equipped to deal with us divorced people, but hopefully as the church looks to do things differently to minister to different walks of life, that we will all realize that we are all sinners and that there is hope for all of us and that is thru Christ and that we need each other to make it in this world. We don’t need to feel like we have to solve the problems, we just need to show people we care and will love them thru whatever they are dealing with!!!We also need to realize that the children are in the cross-fire and have to feel that they are a part of something and not made to feel different, because their family looks “different”.

  8. Carrie, I’ve watched you from afar and I’ve watched you heal, get stronger and become a better mom. It was good your son was able to get into a DC4K group.

    Your comment about the kids being in the cross-fire and needing to feel a part of something rings true for almost every child of divorce that I have worked with down through the years. Thanks for your heart felt response.