“Everyone is ministering to students of divorced families. No one is doing it well.”
When I first heard that statement it struck a chord in me. At first I thought, “Wow that was pretty bold.” The very next moment though I began to think, “But what if he’s right?”
What if everyone truly is ministering to students of divorced families? In our current landscape it may not be all that difficult to imagine. Take a moment to consider your own student group. Are there students who come from divided homes or is everyone from a two-parent family?
I suppose you’re thinking, “Are you kidding me?”
The first part of that statement is probably true for every church with a youth group. Every church, no matter how conservative, has someone attending who has a divorce in his or her history. If there isn’t a single divorced family inside the congregation right now, with just a little bit of introspection you may find that you’ve been reaching out to one.
When it comes to the students you minister to, I know it’s true.
Just go to the cafeteria to eat lunch with them during school. Or to one of their football games. Or the local hang out. Students everywhere are dealing with the difficult reality of divorced parents. Some may not be your “core group” or they may be students you see every week. As a student minister you see the students of divorce no matter where you go.
Even in your church.
But what about that last part? That no one in youth ministry is doing ministry to these students well.
Honestly, that stung a little.
I mean I take pride in how I minister to my students. Like every other youth guy out there I know that there will always be room for improvement. But to say that I’m doing a poor job? Those are fighting words.
Then I began to think. Who are the students I’ve been ministering to who have divorced parents? With just a moment or two thinking on it, my list went from in my head to on a piece of paper. I was beginning to lose count. Four students came to mind very quickly because their parents had divorced within the last two years. Then three years ago another family group had been hit.
The longer I thought, the more students who came to mind.
And then I wanted to know for myself: how had I ministered to these students? How had I been reaching out to them and trying to meet their needs differently than the students whose parents were still together? How had I ministered to them specifically in the last year?
So that’s why you have this book in your hands right now. I had an issue that I needed to address and I wanted to do it well. This is the result of a lot of lunches with parents, conversations with students over a lunch table, or a bus seat or a football game.
Divorce is an issue.
But it’s one that’s not as trendy as others.
It’s not the newest crisis teenagers are facing today. It has very little to do with being online, drug use, social media, life threatening eating habits, binge drinking, or sexuality.
I’m not minimizing those by any stretch.
But those issues seem to get youth ministers and parents hyped up. They’re the current trends, the recent developments, the ones on the news.
Divorce has become old hat. The norm. “The way things are.”
Here’s the problem: divorce is a big issue to those going through it. To the student, it’s life changing. To the parent, it’s the end of what they had dreamt when they first married. To the community, it’s taking sides and gossiping about who’s at fault, why things went south, and what new relationships will occur.
So where does that land you, the student minister?
If you don’t have students in your youth group who are going through a divorce situation, are living with only one parent because of a divorce, or have been affected by divorce in one way or another, I’d be very surprised.
Divorce is an issue.
And it’s one that we, as student ministers, need to understand and address if we are to minister to the students God has given us well.
*This is an excerpt from Ronald’s book: Divorce and Student Ministry: 4 Ways to Help Hurting Families.