4 Dangerously Negative Effects Of Divorce On Children (And What You Can Do About It)

DIVORCE

As I’ve worked with children for over twenty years, I’ve repeatedly seen how news of their parents’ divorce shatters their world.  I wasn’t ready to deal with it as an adult (my parents divorced when I was 25), and I’m sure it’s even more difficult for a child to process this world-changing information.  Everything they know, everything they depend on for emotional stability, is lost in an instant.  They may have detected major issues in the parents’ relationship for years, or perhaps one parent was suddenly shocked to discover a history of infidelity for the other.  Whether the decision to divorce is immediate or drawn out, it devastates everyone involved.  Quite often the parents are so traumatized they don’t know how to help their children cope.  It’s always a tragedy, no matter how amicably the split happens.

A recent study shows that in the broader American culture, 43 percent of marriages end in divorce, and depending on the state, between 26 and 47 percent of children live in single-parent homes.[1] More than 2,000 blended families are formed every day, but more than two-thirds of those fail within six years.[2]

By studying God’s Word, we can all agree that divorce is never God’s plan. I don’t think it’s ever anyone’s plan. Nobody gets married thinking, “I sure can’t wait to divorce this person one day.” God’s desire is that marriages thrive and last “until death do us part.” Unfortunately, divorce happens. When it does, it affects everyone involved. Often, it disproportionately affects the children in an extremely negative way.

I’ve seen the devastation of divorce in the faces of parents and their kids.  Confusion, resentment, discouragement, and depression are common results.  If those emotions aren’t resolved with love, honesty, and time, it deeply affects future relationships.  Hurt people hurt people, and they often don’t even know why they have difficulties in relationships.  In the lives of children, a few of the most common results of divorce include:

1) Increased stress

No matter what age children are when their parents announce the breakup of their home, kids are never emotionally prepared for the shock. Stress shows up in many different ways. Relationally, kids may become defiant, or they may withdraw. Emotionally, they may become hardened and defiant, or they may regularly burst into tears. Physically, the stress often finds the weakest part of the person’s body; headaches, stomachaches, and other gastrointestinal problems are common. Even the most mundane, everyday decisions can become difficult.

2) Lack of stability

When parents split up, the most secure point in the child’s universe is shaken and destroyed.  God has made us to be relational beings, and the home is the first and foremost place of rest, comfort, and security.  When that’s disrupted, the child naturally questions the validity and reliability of everything and everyone.  In addition, the child is suddenly forced to move back and forth from mom’s house to dad’s house, finding it difficult to ever feel settled and often feeling like a pawn in their blame game.

3) Eroded or shattered trust

When their security crumbles, children may put up walls and refuse to trust anyone, even those who are the most stable, loving people in their lives.  Or in contrast, they may trust too much, putting their faith in untrustworthy people in the hope that trusting someone will make them feel safe again.

4) Irresponsibility or hyper-responsibility

Everything the kids have known has been turned upside down.  The parents have been trying to teach their kids to be responsible, but now the children wonder, What’s the use?  They may neglect homework, cleaning their rooms, taking showers, and doing the normal things they’ve been doing for years.  Or they may react in the opposite way, trying to earn their parents’ love by being overly responsible.  Some kids use their exemplary behavior as a bargaining chip in an attempt to get their parents to reconcile.  It’s magical thinking, but it shows the desperation of the child to restore a happy home.

Grandparents and other extended family members can provide much-needed stability and support during the confusing and painful time before, during, and after the divorce, but be careful.  Some extended family members become furious at “that man” or “that woman” for hurting their beloved son or daughter, sister or brother.  Extended family members may be a great source of wisdom, insight, and hope, or they can throw more gasoline on the fire of resentment!

So, as Kids Pastors, what can WE do?  

  • PRAY!  Pray that God will be the Lord of every home.  Pray that parents will see Divorce as an absolute LAST resort.
  • TRAIN!  Train parents what the Bible teaches about the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family.  Help them see the effects of a future divorce on their children.
  • ENCOURAGE!  Encourage parents to seek wise counsel when dealing with marital issues.  Encourage them to see a Christian marriage counselor.  Normalize counseling as a means to “allow someone else to speak into the issues from a fresh perspective.”  Marriage and Family Counseling have received an unfair stigma. Counselors are there to help lead through life’s toughest issues when our emotions and judgement are cloudy.

For more on this subject, you can pick up a copy of my book, “Talk Now And Later:  How To Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics.”  There is an entire chapter on “How To Talk To Kids About Divorce.”  I believe every parent should read this chapter.  Whether it is YOUR family or one that is close to you, Divorce hits us all.  We must be prepared to help mitigate these negative effects that Divorce has on our children.

TNAL Cover 3D Box

[1] Statistics: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrosstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=100

[2] American Blended Family Association, www.usabfa.org/Default.aspx?pageld=188238

 

How To Handle Parents Who Don’t Attend Your Church

parents-angry

Some time ago, one of the children who attends our church (but his parents do not) told me, “I didn’t come last week because my dad doesn’t think it’s important.”

I recognized what he was doing.  I asked him, “Did your dad actually say that he doesn’t think church is important?”

The boy said, “Well, no, but since he didn’t bring me, he must have something against me coming.”

I quickly responded, “Wait a minute.  We can’t draw that conclusion.  Give your dad a break.  I’m sure he was just busy and couldn’t make his schedule work out.  After all, you’re here today.”  I’m very careful to avoid relational triangles where two people gang up on another.  In this case, I was not (and AM not) willing to join the child in accusing his dad of wrong motives.  It may seem like a small commitment, but I assure you, it’s huge.

I have made a commitment to ALWAYS honor the parents of every child who comes through our doors.  I tell the kids that our ministry is here to support their parents, and I tell the parents we’re here to serve them in every possible way.  I don’t want there to be any suspicion that we’re trying to take the parents’ role away from them.  The parents who have been part of our church for a long time sometimes take this for granted, but those who are coming for the first time—and especially those who haven’t been part of a church—need to be reassured that we’re committed to serve them.  In a dozen different ways, I tell the kids and the parents, “We’re on the same team and are committed to the same purpose: to support your role as parents and encourage your child’s spiritual growth.”

Just the other day, I got an email from a fellow Kids Minister.  She asked, “How should we specifically minister to those children who come to our church, but whose parents are unbelievers or who do not welcome the teachings promoted through Christian Education?”

If a child’s parents don’t attend our church, come only occasionally, or aren’t believers, we want to accomplish these objectives:

1)  Honor the parents – I always speak worth and honor regarding the parents to the kids.  I will NEVER let them talk their parents down simply because they do not share the faith of the child.  Every time I encounter the parents, I honor them and remind them that we are on the same team.

2)  Remind the child of their duty to be a soul-winner in their home – Our message to the child is clear, intentional, and direct.  I tell the kids, “God has put you in your family for a purpose.  If you want your parents, brothers, and sisters to come to Christ, you have to show them the love of God in your actions as well as your words.  You can’t expect to win them to Jesus if you act like a selfish punk.”  They seem to understand this concept.  Even first graders get the picture that they can be lights in their families.  They can let their light shine so their parents and siblings see Jesus in them.  We never want the kids to use church as leverage to blame and control their parents.  Instead, we want to turn that upside down so they become loving, obedient, joyful lights that show their family members the grace of Christ.

3)  Communicate with the parents – send them emails, letters, Facebook messages, etc.  No, I don’t mean STALK them.  I mean let them know what is going on in your church and ministry.  When their child does something incredible, let them know.  When their child does something that demonstrates the character of Christ, let them know.  When there is a special training for parents at your church, let them know.  As you communicate to them, pray that God will use every communication to help them get closer to crossing that line of faith.

How about you?  How do YOU deal with parents of kids in your ministry but they don’t attend your church?  What approaches have you found to be extremely effective?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the Kidmin Community.

 

5 Things Every Ministry Leader Should Be Doing With Their Family

Family

This week I got an email from a fellow Kids Pastor.  It said, How hard do you push your children? On those days when someone from the church has been extremely rude, or when a party took place on a Saturday night and Sunday morning my kids show up and have to clean before worship service can even begin, or when they are just plain TIRED. Everyone gets frustrated from time to time because we are dealing with humans.  How do I, as a mother, know when I’m pushing them too hard.  The LAST thing I want is for them to look back one day and resent the time and energy that the Children’s Ministry takes.”

I totally understand the difficulty of this delicate balance.  My wife and both of my kids (12 and 14) are VERY involved in our Kids Ministry.  They LOVE it!  But, I don’t ever want to take that for granted.  I want to be proactively working to preserve that spirit and excitement for God, the church, and the ministry.  Here are 5 things I do to help make that happen.  Perhaps you can apply these to your family situation…

1)  Always talk positively about the church, the leadership, and the ministry.

I don’t mean wear rose-colored glasses and act like there are never any challenges.  I think if you act like nothing is ever wrong or difficult, then your kids are not fooled and they start to see you as “fake.”  Acknowledge the difficulties (cleaning up after a party when you didn’t plan on it, having to get up early to set up, etc.), but remind them that God has called your family to do an incredible task – lead kids to Christ.  Remind them what a privilege it is – and always make sure your tone and verbage communicate that YOU count it as a privilege.

2)  Guard them from “church drama.”

I know too many pastors and church leaders that come home speaking negatively and “dissing” the pastor and other leadership when there is a disagreement at church.  They do this to their spouse and in front of their kids.  Listen – your kids pick up on that.  When they see you hurting because of what church leaders or other pastors have done and said, it clouds their emotions and it is difficult for them to let go.  Don’t bring your “offense” home to your family.  They may end up carrying that bitterness LONG after you have already “made up” with the person you were feuding with.  Most of the time you don’t go back and tell your kids about the restoration of that relationship.  They are left feeling the effects of the bitterness that you ended up seeding in them (however unwittingly).

3)  Treat your kids just like everyone else.

 Although obviously they have to get up earlier than most and also tag along with me at times – other than that, I treat my kids just like any other worker on my team.  I expect the same out of them (not more, not less) than anyone else on the team.  I NEVER say to them, “You are my kid, so I expect you to do more than the rest of the team.”  Instead, I say, “Remember, you are a leader on this team – others are watching your example.  Let’s set the best example possible and lead people in the right direction.”  When you apply additional pressure to them simply because they are your kid, they will soon begin to resent the reason for that pressure.

4)  Pray as a family – for your pastor, your church, and the ministry.

It is very difficult to pray for someone or something regularly and be angry or discontented with them.  My family and I pray for my pastor and his family regularly.  We pray God’s blessings on him, the leadership, and the church as a whole.  This endears my pastor and the church to my kids.  Rather than driving them further from the church, it does the opposite.  There’s an old saying, “If you talk about someone to others, you will grow to hate them.  But, if you talk about someone to God, you grow to love them.”

5)  Serve with joy.

Let them see you smile as you pick up after the party from the night before.  Let them hear you rejoice about the opportunities to serve the Kids Ministry.  Talk about it as a FAMILY ministry.  Don’t let them feel like they are just “helping Mom” or “helping Dad.”  Instead, talk about the difference WE are making.  Include them in the joy that comes from serving God and His church.

It’s a blessing to have your family serving with you in the work of the ministry.  But, never leave the health of your family to chance.  Be PROACTIVE and PURPOSEFUL in planting the seeds of a healthy spirit of gratitude and love for God and the ministry.  It won’t happen by accident!

So, how about you?  What are some of the things YOU do to help your family stay healthy in their spirit and their attitude toward the ministry?  Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post!

How To Talk To Kids About God

parents-pray

Recently, I spoke to our entire congregation about “How To Talk To Kids About God.”  It seems that parents and grandparents have mystified the idea of having spiritual conversations about God.  They feel that they must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Children’s Education in order to have the expertise necessary to speak clearly to their children about the things of God.

Unfortunately, we are often to blame.  For too long, the Church (and Children’s Ministry Leaders specifically) has poised itself as “the official spiritual trainer of children.”  This is definite far from the Biblical case that I lay out in the introduction of this message.

I have included a How To Talk To Your Kids About…God (OUTLINE).  Also, you can watch the video of the full teaching below.

Feel free to use this in your church to teach the parents of the children in your ministry  about the importance of having meaningful GOD conversations with their kids.

 

Heartwarming Military Family Reunion

Hopper-kids

I was honored to be a part of this incredible moment.  My friend, Rocky, had been deployed for over six months.  He has three beautiful young daughters who love their Daddy very much.  They THOUGHT Daddy wasn’t coming home for weeks.  We convinced them that we needed to shoot a video to send to him overseas.  I said, “Why not go to the airport where he’s eventually going to come home and we can show him what it is going to look like when he eventually comes home.”  The girls were all about it.

In the middle of their video shoot, Daddy steps out of the crowd with open arms to greet them.  They were shocked!!  It was a touching moment, all caught on camera.  Enjoy this video of one of our honored military personnel coming home to his family.  As you watch it, say a prayer for all of those who are still deployed.  Pray that God will keep them safe so that they will be able to enjoy this kind of moment soon.

Powerful Video – “This Time” (Based On A True Story)

Most of you who read my blog often will know I am a huge fan of the music of John Elefante (the former lead singer of the rock group, Kansas). Having followed his career since the mid-80s, it has been a pleasure as I have become friends with him the last few years. He is an incredible musician, singer, producer – but an amazing man of God as well.

I will never forget when he sent me the original demo to the song, “This Time.” I was blown away and moved to tears when I heard the song for the first time. It was a song he had just written that chronicled the TRUE STORY of his daughter, Sami, being saved from abortion. Her thirteen year old birth mother was moments away from aborting her when she knew that God was speaking to her to “get up” and get out of that abortion clinic. God had plans for the little girl she was carrying. Thankfully, Sami’s birth mom did not go through with the abortion – and John and his wife ended up being the adoptive parents.

John has just released the official music video for the song today. Please watch this video and pass it on to others. Who knows how many young women will be moved by the message behind this video/story. If only one child is saved from being aborted as a result of this video, it will be worth it. I believe you will be moved as you watch “This Time.”

Brian-and-John-Elefante
Brian with John Elefante at his house in Nashville

Becoming A SLAM-Grandparent!

Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy (far right), his three boys, and me

Yesterday was a very cool day for my wife, Cherith, and I. It was the day we discovered we are now “SLAM Grandparents” at First NLR. We became the Kids Pastors here in 1999 – nearly 14 years ago. “SLAM” is the name of the Elementary Kids Church service we began when we got here. Yesterday, it was an honor to welcome several children into “SLAM” who belong to Anthony Kennedy, one of the kids that were in that original group.

I am about to celebrate my 14th year as Kids Pastor at First NLR. I have been blessed to minister to thousands of kids during this time. It is such a privilege to watch them grow, both physically and spiritually, and ultimately pass on that spiritual heritage to their own children.

In the time I have been at First NLR, I have friends and acquaintances that have been in three and four churches. I am thankful for a church with strong pastoral leadership, a clear vision, and dynamic spiritual health. These are the things that allow me to stay here at First NLR and receive the benefits of longevity in ministry.

In the coming months, I will be performing the wedding for one of the girls who grew up in our kids’ ministry here at First NLR. What a blessing to be able to be a part of the different seasons of life for the same children and families. While we continue to grow as God allows us to reach more and more families, I pray that Cherith and I will see the day when we become “SLAM Great-Grandparents.” (somebody please pass me my walking cane and Depends)

Book Review: “Connecting Church & Home” by Dr. Tim Kimmel

“Strong churches don’t make strong families.  Strong families make strong churches.” – Dr. Tim Kimmel

What is the center of your Family Ministry strategy?  Is it safety and protection from the dark influences of this world?  Is it reaching unchurched families through evangelism?  What drives your ministry to kids and families?

Dr. Tim Kimmel offers a one word answer in his new book, “Connecting Church & Home.” That one word:  GRACE.  Dr. Kimmel suggests that God’s grace can and should be what encompasses everything we do as a church – especially ministering to families.

Kimmel begins with the book with a challenging history of what has happened in the American church in the last 75 years.  As society has deteriorated, parents have felt more and more isolated and incapable of leading their own children on a spiritual journey.  Add to that – the church answered by raising up professional Children’s and Youth Ministers to “help” them raise their kids.  What happened more often was that the parents abdigated their responsibility to the “professionals.”

This book is challenging, but is a very encouraging read.  Kimmel offers a blue print of a “grace based parenting system.”  This is clearly defined as “treating others the way that God treats us” in every single relationship in the home.  Kimmel writes, “By making God’s grace the philosophical starting point of everything we do, we guarantee that whatever is done will be done within an authentic connection to our kids’ heart” (P. 58).

Kimmel’s strategy of “Grace Based Parenting” is broken into four dimensions:  Greatness (aiming kids at the biblical standard of greatness), Character (guiding kids through the building of godly character that will last a lifetime), Freedom (every child wants freedom; allowing the child freedom to fail, etc.), and Inner Needs (providing for the basic needs for love, security, hope, etc.).

Grace based parenting is a parenting strategy that seeks to produce heart change in the life of our kids.  This type of parenting results in kids who inwardly love Jesus and inwardly want to serve Him wholeheartedly.  Kimmel understands that if you change the heart – the outward actions will change to imitate Jesus as well.

“Connecting Church & Home” can be purchased here.

Check out this video from Dr. Tim Kimmel discussing his book:

Great Family Project: “The Christmas Prayer Chain”

prayer chain christmas

Looking for a great and easy-to-do project for your family this Christmas?  My wife, Cherith, started this Christmas tradition in our family when my kids were just babies.  It has meant a lot to our family, and I hope you will find it meaningful as well.

What you need:

25 strips of construction paper (approx 2 inches wide and six inches long); a sharpie marker; glue

What to do:

1)  Prior to Dec. 1st, gather your kids together and take turns naming the name of someone the family will pray for (friends, family, pastors, teachers, and others)

2)  Write one name on each strip of construction paper, then glue each strip together end-to-end, linking each to make a long paper chain (see graphic above).

3)  Place the Christmas Prayer Chain on the mantle or on the Christmas Tree

4)  Starting Dec. 1st, gather the family together to remove one link of the chain and pray together for the person listed on that link.

5)  This is a wonderful way to countdown the days until Christmas and have meaningful family prayer time.

May you and your family enjoy your Christmas holiday!