I’ve spent the last couple of weeks introducing you to the ministry of Divorce Ministry 4 Kids. I’ve touched a little on who I am, but it seemed appropriate with our official launch coming up next Monday, August 1, 2011 to spend a little more time telling you who I am.
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 (18), Jacob (10), Lyndsey (8) and Nathan (4). God has worked through my relationships with my wife and kids to teach more about Him than possibly any other method.
Now, a little bit about me and my background! I did not grow up in church – far from it. When I was a child, we used to attend a Catholic Mass once a year at Christmastime, but that was about the extent of my exposure to God. After my daughter (my third child) was born some friends invited me to their church. They had actually invited me previously, but that was when I finally 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 read. I started to read the Bible and I started to read anything I could get my hands on about the Bible. Through that and the church I was attending at the time, God drew me into his kingdom when I was 30 years old.
A year or so 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 head-over-heals 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 almost 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 in my life, my family and I changed churches, and 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 be happier about that calling! Since that time, I have 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. A couple of years ago, 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 blogging. That blog, called Kidmin1124, is 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 about 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 with introducing herself by starting with 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 prior to this endeavor, I have not been involved specifically in ministry to divorced children. For those reasons, it was a bit of a surprise to me when God laid this ministry on my heart almost two years ago, and I largely ignored his call for about a year-and-a-half. Let me explain.
Almost two years ago, or so, 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) what I should do 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 hand on related to 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 a finding in several places 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 I as try 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. At Kidmin1124, we have a bi-weekly radio show. A couple of months ago we dedicated one of the shows to helping volunteers minister to children of divorce. That show was so impactful to myself and some of our other guests that we decided to continue to topic on the next program. All of
that really just served to flame the fire that God had lit in my heart. It was then that 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 currently going through the divorce of their
parents who really don’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. I work with people in children’s ministry every weekend and talk to scores more online who are are good hearted passionate people about ministering to children. My goal is not to tell them that they are doing anything wrong, but to equip them to serve the children of divorce who are already in their ministries better.
That’s “a little” more about me. Probably more than you wanted to know. Stay tuned later this week for a special announcement about a regular guest writer for the site that you will not want to miss!