This article, which was first published in the March/April issue of K! Magazine addresses the issue of how the church should address children of divorce and children from single-parent families in the context of family ministry. Over the next three installments we will look at the move towards family ministry in the church today, what that means for children of divorce and children from single parent families and what the church can do to ensure these kids do not fall through the cracks.
Family ministry is all the buzz in the world of children’s ministry these days. It seems as though the whole children’s ministry world is painting the world orange! Deuteronomy 6 has become the “go to” verse in children’s ministry, and for good reason. There is much to be learned there. God clearly calls the family to be the primary vessel for imparting and teaching spiritual truth to our kids.
Like many things, though, it’s easy to take a good thing too far. In the lingo of Orange where red is the family and yellow is the church, there is a temptation to lean too far towards the red side (family) in order to compensate for years of yellow driven ministry. When churches do this, they run the risk of losing an ever growing segment of our population and a dwindling portion of our churches – children from divorced homes and single parent families. When our focus is simply on “helping parents to disciple their kids,” what are we saying to kids whose parents have either abandoned them or are in no emotional or spiritual state to disciple them? In those situations, we leave these kids asking and wondering:
WHAT ABOUT MY FAMILY?
The Biblical Mandate
The Bible is clear that the primary responsibility for the spiritual nurture and discipleship of children lies squarely with parents. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says:
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
However, in the same book, God commanded His people:
The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. [Deuteronomy 14:29]
God, in his providence and love, knew that there would be children and families that did fit His plan for the created world, and He commanded His people to provide for them. And, lest someone argue that those are merely Old Testament commands, the Bible could not be more clear than in James 1:27. It states:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
The Bible tells us that God is a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).
In our society today, it is children of divorce and children from single parents home who are left as orphans by virtue of their parents’ physical and/or emotional absence. God’s Word calls His people to stand in the gap for these kids and these families. In today’s world, that is a role the church should fill.
Join us for the next installment where we will examine some haunting first-hand testimonials from people who were more-or-less abandoned by the church in their hour of greatest need.