Recently, I got the following question from a children’s pastor.
“I have a nursery worker who I found out is experiencing a divorce. I don’t know how to help her. She is one of my best nursery workers, and she has been in our nursery for years. I’m worried her personal situation is going to affect how she interacts with our infants and toddlers. Should I approach her? Should I let her remain as a primary care worker in our nursery? Help! I don’t know what to do.”
This is a tough situation for children’s ministers. You don’t want to come across as hard-hearted or uncompassionate. But you’re not sure what to do, and you have a responsibility to the children in your ministry.
If you have a couple serving in this area, that makes the situation even more difficult. Usually, one person will resign from serving before word about the divorce gets out. If the person who has moved out and filed for divorce has not resigned, however, it is prudent to consult with your church leadership about allowing that person to remain in a leadership capacity in the nursery.
If both members of the couple are still in the nursery, then church leadership should encourage them to work on their marriage and provide a way for them to do so. While the couple is working on their marriage, that should be their focus, and they should not be serving in the nursery.
This post does not attempt to address any of the theological issues surrounding divorce, but let me make just a couple points related to scriptural issues in the context of caring for your ministry team.
MOST times, when you encounter situations like this, you will be dealing with the person left behind who did not want the divorce. Like all of us, this person is not perfect but quite often is trying to honor God by attempting to save the marriage.
If, however, you believe that your worker initiated a separation or divorce for wrong (unscriptural) reasons, you need to notify church leadership and ask for direction. Normally, it would not be wise to continue to allow the person to continue to serve.
When handling the person who wants to remain serving in the nursery, I encourage you to take the time to find out the details of the situation. You might schedule a time away from the church building to talk.
- Find out the basic details, and allow the person to talk. It will bring you closer together if you allow time to talk through the situation.
- Take time to pray about specific needs. Make up a list of the person’s needs, and promise to spend time in prayer over them.
- Use Scripture to encourage the person that God will get him through this time.
- Specifically ask the person if he wants to continue in the church nursery. Don’t assume that he wants to continue serving.
- If the person wants to continue, explain that personal problems need to be left at the door as best as possible. When workers come into the nursery, they need to focus on their responsibilities.
Many times, the woman needs to continue in her position in the nursery. It is the one time in the week when she can focus on something besides her divorce. Having those toddlers’ chubby, little arms reach out for her calms her. This time in the nursery reminds her that God is still in control. And she needs that reminder!
Men generally are not as emotional about divorce as women are. It would be good to allow the man to remain in your nursery area, but remind him that, when he enters the room, the job at hand is providing care to the infants and toddlers there.
Suggest that your nursery worker register for DivorceCare. If your church hosts DivorceCare, the worker might not feel comfortable attending at your church, so you could suggest a group that meets at a nearby church. If your church doesn’t host DivorceCare, you can use the DivorceCare search engine to find a group close to you.
If your nursery worker has children, take a few minutes to check out DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids.
Let me stress that there is no universal formula or simple answer for dealing with a nursery worker in the middle of a divorce. You’ll need God’s wisdom and discernment. You’ll also want to make sure that you are aligned with church policy. Ultimately, you also have a wonderful opportunity to sensitively minister to a person who has faithfully served side-by-side with you in ministry.
How have you handled a situation like this?
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Want to learn more about how to start a DivorceCare for Kids group for the hurting children in your community? Click here.
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