Divorce and Discipleship

Being sensitive to the child’s spiritual life

by Keith Swartzendruber/ May 3, 2016

Family ministry in the church today focuses on the responsibility of the parent as the primary discipler of their children. The role of the church is to support parents in this endeavor. Blended families have additional challenges as they disciple their children. Oftentimes children in divorced families are faced with a two-headed monster. In other words, they have two of everything—two families, two houses, even two sets of rules and guidelines. Their faith and church life is no exception. The child may observe various acts of worship and doctrinal differences based on what church or churches they attend. This can lead a child to constantly question if they should stand or sit to sing. Should they make a cross with their hands or fold their hands when praying? And the ultimate question, What must I do to get to heaven?” This can turn into a two-headed monster that must be tamed. 

Here are some helpful ideas to tame this two-headed monster: 

1. Parents must be intentional in establishing faith in their children. The child’s spiritual development should not be overlooked by the challenging circumstances of family life. 

2. Parents should do their best to answer the whys” regarding a child’s faith. Helping a child to understand the whys” gives them a clear understanding as to what it means to be a follower of Christ. 

3. The Church should plan activities in order to accommodate children living in divorced families. Giving them every opportunity to participate helps to build and strengthen their connection within the church body. 

4. The Church can offer strong role models who can help fill in the gaps for single-parent households. 

5. The Church can help bridge the gap between Sundays and holiday seasons when a child must be absent. It is important to give children from blended families and single parent households the opportunity to access lesson material online or by other means. This allows the child to stay connected even when they must be absent. 

6. The church leaders can give clear instructions on how and why we worship the way we do. 

Children are vulnerable to the negative effects of divorce. It is important that the parents and the church partner together, ensuring that families of divorce keep their focus and priority on the child’s spiritual development.