Divorce: Bridge Over Troubled Waters

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Forget bleak statistics about
kids of divorce. Use this blueprint from a leading expert to build
a bridge to connect to these kids.

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“Kids are resilient.” I’ve heard this said more times than I can
count. I’ve said it myself, and I’m guessing you have too. But is
this statement true when we’re talking about children of divorce?
It is…and it isn’t.

The truth is, kids of divorce can be resilient when they have a
strong support system undergirding them while the family they knew
radically changes. What better place for children of divorce to
find strong support than in God’s house, among friends and adults
who’ll love and care for them? Still, many children’s ministers are
unsure of what it takes to minister to children of divorce. And
sadly, inadvertent actions, poorly chosen words, or outright
avoidance rooted in this uncertainty can cause kids to turn away
from God rather than toward him in a time of great spiritual
need.

Children of divorce come to your ministry with unique challenges.
They may come every once in a while. Many times these kids have
out-of-control behaviors. They may not want to participate in
organized activities. They’re often angry, sad, and may even have
what we label an “attitude problem.” Add to all these issues
parents who are disconnected –a common side effect of parents
coping with the grief of divorce — and you’ve got a lot of
problems to solve.

But let me challenge you to look at children in this situation
differently, with a vision for the possibilities. Rather than
viewing these kids as problems to solve, let’s look at how we can
help improve resilience and consistency in their lives when they
need it most. Let’s look at them with the vision that you may be
the only person who can bring them into an understanding of God’s
unconditional love and a growing relationship with Jesus.

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We can intentionally build a strong bridge of support and caring
that’ll stand the test of time and connect these kids to God’s
love. Ask any engineer and he or she will tell you that
constructing a magnificent bridge that’s sound and beautiful takes
a lot of time, energy, and resources. No one brags that bridge
construction is easy. The same is true of building bridges for kids
of divorce in your ministry. It’s not easy. But it’s not that
difficult, either. Each child needs your commitment, time, energy,
and resources. Here’s a blueprint for building bridges to connect
with kids of divorce.

Help kids see God’s truth by embodying it. We know
that the perception children have of God is based on their
relationship with their earthly parents. So how do hurting children
reconcile their parents’ fickle love for one another with the
lasting love of God? How can they trust a heavenly Father they
can’t see when perhaps they can’t trust an earthly parent they
can see?

Beginning today, look at children of divorce as kids who need your
attention and support. You can become a safe haven in your actions,
your words, and the environment you create. Make your ministry a
place for these kids to connect and witness healthy relationships
and interactions between people. Sure, this requires extra effort
on your part. It takes commitment to the child. It takes commitment
to prayer. And it takes time and creativity. But your extra effort
is worth it — just ask any child of divorce who’s experienced
consistent acceptance, kindness, and care from a trusted
adult.

BRIDGE BUILDERS:

• Contact a child each time he or she doesn’t attend
class.
Resign yourself to the fact that this may be every
other week. If that’s the case, make your call friendly — not
nagging — just to give a quick update and say hi. Put this on your
to-do list. When a child misses and you know he or she was with the
other parent, ask how things went.

• Be open and available to talk to the child.
“Nancy, I understand your parents are getting a divorce. That must
be hard on you.” If you’ve had a personal experience with divorce,
share it. Use the word “divorce” rather than avoid it. But don’t
initiate a conversation about the parents’ divorce in front of the
child’s friends.

Never give up on a child. One day a pastor called
me to say he was going to ask a child to leave Sunday school–for
good. The child was from a divorced home and his behavior was out
of control. Other kids’ parents were complaining. The leaders felt
they had no option but to take the dramatic step of kicking the boy
out of church. Before they took action, though, one leader had
asked the pastor to call and visit with me about their
dilemma.

I had one question for the pastor: “If you kick this child out of
church when he’s 7, do you really think he’s going to come back
when he’s 17?”

The pastor paused, and then our real conversation began.

     

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