FamilyScholars Featured Symposium Piece: “Children of Divorce Deserve Better Treatment in Our Churches” by Linda Ranson Jacobs

01.17.2013, 2:00 PM

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.


10 Responses to “FamilyScholars Featured Symposium Piece: “Children of Divorce Deserve Better Treatment in Our Churches” by Linda Ranson Jacobs”

  1. kathy Fallon says:

    I wish DC4K had been created when my children were hurting from my divorce in the late 80′s. I can see first hand how it has affected their lives, now that they are married and in their interpersonal relationships.

    We have a God who heard this mom’s prayer and the Holy Spirit showed up during my single -mom time. With the changing family of single parents showing up in every church, the kids need to have a ministry spot light. I am so with you Linda. Churches need to accept the challenge they are already painfully aware of and minister to those God sends their way.

    We all need to be a catalyst in our own church first for this change to happen. I’m with you! Let’s make a change in our own neighborhood churches now- for the kids and our family heritage.

  2. Kathy, you are a lot like me. I too wish there had been a DC4K for my own children. However, now we know that DC4K is available and is helping thousands of children and churches are stepping up to minister.

    Linda

  3. Hi Linda–Being in conversation with amazing people like you over the years has given me a lot of hope that we can make things better for the next generation. You have paid close attention to the children of divorce and brought the strengths of your tradition to bear on how to reach and welcome them. My hope is that leaders of all kinds can and will do this.

  4. Ed Miller says:

    Hi Linda! This is another great article. You are providing such a wonderful service for parents, children and the church. I hope that the church heads the challenge that you are proclaiming. This message needs to be spread far and wide. Keep up the good work. We’re with you all the way! I’m sorry I’m not at CPC to say hi!

  5. The tragedy of divorce and its after-effects have impacted our country severely. The fatherless home has become the norm and churches have long shied away from the issues. Kudos to you, Linda, and your team for shedding further light to a much-needed, body-of-Christ, discussion!

  6. Hi Elizabeth. I agree with you in the hope that leaders of all kinds will reach out to minister to our kids. Let’s not lose another generation to divorce in our faith communities.

  7. Linda, I have not found anyone who is more strategic and wise when it comes to empowering the church to reach out to Single and Blended families. Keep up the good work. I hear you have a new book coming out soon. I’ll be watching for that as well. We need you. Thanks.

  8. Scott and Ed, thanks for the support you’ve provided for me over the years. You’ve always been upbeat and positive in the ministry to children of divorce, single parents and divorcing adults.

  9. Jennifer, I should be thanking you for all the hard work you do with single moms nationwide. You have brought in fresh ideas and youthfulness that is much needed when ministering to single moms.

    Linda

  10. Linda, I am from the traditional church and I also have a deep love for children. I was not divorced, nor did I have parents who divorced, yet God called me to lead a single parent family ministry for 12 years. I learned all I know about kids from divorce from you over those years. DC4K was a brilliant resource for our church and is still a part of our ministry. Like, Scott, I too am looking forward to your book. Our church is living proof that a church who opens their minds, hearts and the arms of Jesus to single parent families can be mightily effective in ministering to them.