Culture Shock: Why Ministering to Children of Divorce Isn’t Like Traditional Children’s Ministry

Wayne Stocks & Linda Ranson Jacobs —  In Challenges August 3, 2012

imageThis series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

Children’s Ministry workers are a unique breed. We choose to volunteer and spend our time surrounded by kids striving to teach them about Jesus and the Bible. We enjoy noise and games and the many twists and turns that children’s ministry inevitably brings.

As a group we tend to be a little more free spirited, but we also take ministering to children very seriously. To that end, oftentimes we get a picture in our minds about how our ministry should operate – how a certain activity should unfold or how a group of kids should act. We get our minds set on what we want to accomplish, train our leaders to move towards that vision and then move forward sometimes faster than we can even keep up. Sometimes, we even settle in and enjoy the fact that everything seems to be running smoothly…that is until “that child” shows up. We love kids, and we have a heart for kids, but “that child” is the difficult one. The one who disrupts the plan and refuses to allow the ministry to operate the way it should. Many times, in today’s day and age, “that child” is a child of divorce. The fact is ministering to a child of divorce, whether in a dedicated group setting like DC4K or in your Sunday morning children’s ministry, presents unique challenges.

pdf to share leftNot every person who in children’s ministry is going to be equipped to work with children of divorce. If people have done children’s ministry before or are used to a more traditional children’s ministry, they may go into culture shock when it comes to ministering to children of divorce. Or they may throw up their hands when a child of divorce comes into other church classes.

I tell new Divorce Care for Kids directors and coordinators who come from a children’s ministry background that they are likely to experience what I call “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock” when running the program.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock”.

  1. In ministering to children of divorce, you will find many children who will bring the chaos that defines their everyday existence outside of church into the group or classroom.
  2. When ministering to children of divorce, it is beneficial to set up groups to accommodate mixed age grouping rather than putting all kids of the same age together.
  3. The flow of activities in a divorce ministry will likely need to be different than that in a weekly children’s ministry.
  4. Allowing children to make choices is a much-needed technique and the name of the game so to speak when getting children of divorce involved in a group.
  5. How you deal with disruptive children may look different in a divorce ministry than it will in a weekly children’s ministry.

Over the next several weeks, we will examine each of these major differences between more traditional ministry and ministry to children of divorce in more depth. We will dive into why these differences exist and what they mean. I (Linda) will explain how we developed DC4K in such a way to account for these differences. And, I (Wayne) will explore how you can use this knowledge to adjust how you minister to children in a weekly children’s ministry setting.

Join us next week as we explore the issue of dealing with the chaos inherent in the lives of children of divorce and what that means when it comes to ministry.


Linda Ranson Jacobs is one of the forefront leaders in the area of children and divorce. She developed and created the DivorceCare for Kids programs. DC4K is an international program for churches to use to help children of divorced parents find healing within the arms of a loving church family. As a speaker, author, trainer, program developer and child care center owner, Linda has assisted countless families by modeling and acting on the healing love she has found in Jesus Christ. More great articles about how to successfully minister to the child of divorce in your church can be found at Linda’s website Healthy Loving Partnerships for Our Kids (HLP4) []. Linda also offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help single parents and those working with single parent children. She can be reached by e-mail at

Wayne Stocks is married to a wonderful woman (whom he calls Tricia) and has four kids (who call her “Mom”). They are Joshua (19), Jacob (11), Lyndsey (9) and Nathan (5). In addition to spending time with his wife and kids, Wayne is an avid reader. He volunteers in the children’s ministry at the non-denominational New Life Church of Gahanna in Gahanna, Ohio where he teaches a wonderful group of 1st through 5th graders every Sunday morning and runs games for the midweek AWANA program for kids from kindergarten through sixth grade. He is currently facilitating a Divorce Care 4 Kids group and planning on starting a new group at his church sometime next year. Wayne did not grow up in church, and God did not draw him into his Kingdom until he was 30 years old following the birth of his third child. He discovered shortly thereafter that God intended him to spend the rest of his life working with kids and teaching them about Jesus. Wayne started Divorce Ministry 4 Kids ( last summer in response to God’s call to minister to children of divorce. You can find him on twitter at @stocksohio or reach him by e-mail at