Separation and Divorce
offers two articles you may find helpful on the subject of Separation and Divorce. Click on a title to jump directly the article:
Nurture Families During Separation and Divorce
Nearly everyone who enters into "the estate of holy matrimony" does so with the intent to "live happily ever after." Our culture's consuming focus is on creating a picture-perfect wedding — not on supporting an ongoing marriage.
For many people divorce may seem so common that, unless someone has actually journeyed through the experience, it may appear to be nothing more significant than a change in residence. Regardless of the circumstances, we need to acknowledge that divorce rips through the layers of trust, community and security to reshape the very core of a person’s faith and identity. During this critical time many people shy away from the church. With a growing insecurity about their sense of belonging, it often becomes difficult to deal with the dynamics of a faith community.
Our culture's consuming focus is on creating a picture-perfect wedding — not on supporting an ongoing marriage.
One of the tasks of the church is to recognize the reality that one in two families deal with the consequences of separation and divorce. How can the church nurture families in transition?
- Be honest and upfront about the realities of families in transition. Honor privacy, but acknowledge their pain. Model a spirit of grace and acceptance.
- Include prayers for the children and families in the midst of separation and divorce in your corporate prayers.
- Encourage those who have found healing in similar circumstances to be mentors for men, women and children of all ages.
- Give sincere and appropriate assistance. Consider starting a car-pool option for families with children to provide transportation to church programs and events.
- Sponsor divorce support and recovery groups for men, women and children in your congregation, or provide a ready reference for programs in your community.
- Be sensitive to what you name adult- fellows hip groups. "Pairs and Spares” may be cute to some, but painful and insulting to others.
- Embrace the children. Surround them with love and attention.
- Put away the perfect attendance awards and recognize a child's willingness to come when he or she can. Relay all forms of communication to both parents.
- Recruit 'Pew buddies" to sit with single parents who have small children.
- Unfortunately, the divorce decree is often the first wake-up call many spouses hear. It leaves them bewildered and extremely lonely. Become familiar with the stages of the grief and be sensitive to individual journeys.
- Many families struggle to keep the realities of divorce from completely consuming them. Help them maintain a. balance with invitations to opportunities for fun and fellowship.
- Give individuals in transition age-appropriate ways to realize that the power, within them is greater than any challenge they face. Encourage them to claim the words of I John 4:4 as their ongoing inspiration.
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Supporting People during Remarriage and Blending Families
“I do’s” along with the more recent occasions to “redo-the-do’s” have become an important part of congregational life. Even so, marriages and remarriages create a dynamic in our congregations that needs to be considered as couples and their children strive to find faith, hope, and security that will equip and empower them to embrace the many joys, challenges, and uncertainties that reside within their own versions of family. They are searching for programs, relationships, and inspiration that will give them the confidence and wisdom to deal with whatever another day might bring.
Our ministries must embrace the heart of the people’s needs and circumstances.
This reality is intensified by some statistics indicating that the number of couples who resign or forgo their initial intent may be as high as 50 percent of all first marriages, approximately 70 percent of all second marriages, and up to 90 percent of third or more marriages.
How congregations can be supportive:
- Our ministries must embrace the heart of the people’s needs and circumstances.
- Individuals carry a sense of vulnerability with the hopes and dreams they bring into relationships.
- Unresolved issues, feelings, and past life experiences have the potential to affect the intimacy, openness, and communication necessary to really thrive.
- Use sermon illustrations that are real and relevant. Provide invitations and entry points for people of all ages to gain insights for their own daily lives from biblical stories.
- Regard the individual needs and strengths of blended or step-families apart from those of a nuclear family. Though they have many similarities, they are fundamentally very different.
- Invite people of all ages from a variety of family configurations to periodically assess the content and approach designed to welcome, nurture and engage them.
- Provide pre-marriage classes with options for ongoing small group fellowship and support.
- Plan retreats for couples and families to join with others to enjoy inspiration and support.
- Include occasions to acknowledge and nurture individual family identity and common intent as you assist them in creating a common family vision or mission statement.
- Provide and promote resources in your church library for personal and family enrichment.
- Invite couples or families who have endured specific challenges and transitions to walk with those who are currently involved in similar stages of family life. Offer mentoring relationships for fellowship, encouragement and support.
- Nurture a sense of understanding and pastoral care in Sunday school teachers and congregation leaders. Encourage them with an open and affirming heart to shape attitudes and misbehaviors that are typical of children trying to manage family transitions. (Most negative behaviors stem from feelings of insecurity and perceived neglect or insignificance.)
- Include specific prayers for new marriages and step-families for a few weeks following the actual wedding date. Keep a cumulative record of the dates to honor anniversaries with recognition and prayer.
This article was published in Seeds for the Parish
, a bimonthly resource paper for leaders of ELCA congregations.