Question of the week: How do older adults divorcing affect children’s ministry?


A couple of years ago we began to hear about a relatively new occurrence—the gray divorce. The gray divorce is when mature and/or senior adults divorce. There are said to be several reasons for this phenomenon. You can read about them here.

With the older adults divorcing, several things are going to affect churches and in particular children’s ministries.

A children’s minister emailed me awhile back about an issue she was facing for the first time. Her question was, “I have a family dealing with the divorce of grandparents. Do you have any articles or insight for them as they talk with the children? They truly want to make this a teachable moment.

When dealing with this issue in your ministry, your goal may become twofold, reaching out to the grandchildren, while soothing and comforting their parents.

Let’s discuss the adult children first. There is research that shows the older people are when their parents divorce, the deeper the crack in their foundation. Everything they have based their life upon is falling apart. These adult children will need your help. In your ministry, this could be parents of the children in  your church or adult volunteers who may or may not have children of their own.

Realize that

  • Adults who volunteer in your ministry, this includes young adults, are going to be grieving the death of their parents’ marriage. They need someone to talk to about their feelings.
  • Some volunteers may need to take time to grieve, and this means they may need to take a break from serving in children’s ministry.
  • Some might have doubts about marriage in general and might need for the church to set up some marriage seminars where renewed strength can be gained.
  • A few adults might display anger and hostility toward life in general. They will need your guidance and especially your prayers and understanding.

The second part of the divorce scenario will be addressing the grandchildren’s needs. While one or possibly both parents are stressed and grieving over the divorce of their parents, the grandchildren are also affected. At a time when a grandchild might want to ask questions about why granddad is now living in another place, they sense it is a hurtful subject to bring up to their parents. Many kids will suffer in silence as they try to keep the peace at home. Some may even wonder, “If my grandmother and grandfather got a divorce, are mom and dad going to get a divorce too?”

Children’s ministers can play a major role in helping grandchildren process the divorce of the grandparents by

  • Reaching out to the grandchildren.
  • Giving the grandchildren permission to ask questions and to talk about the divorce.
  • Explaining what divorce is and define words that might be swirling around the home. Examples include court, judge, mediation, etc.
  • Opening the dialogue about the children’s own parents divorcing. Some grandchildren will wonder if their own parents might divorce. Help the grandchildren craft a conversation with the parents about their marriage.
  • Comforting and praying with the grandchildren. Grandchildren may worry about Grandma being able to take care of herself. They may be concerned about who will do Grandpa’s laundry and cook his food. While you may not know the answers to these questions, you can offer up prayers for the safety and well being for the grandparents.

Children may wonder about future events such as what is going to happen to family around the holidays. Ask the child for permission to talk to their parents about the concerns they have shared with you. Most parents will not be aware of their children’s concerns surrounding the grandparent’s divorce. When this is brought to their attention, most parents will appreciate your assistance.

Remind the parents to be open and to talk to their children about the grandparent’s divorce. Ask the parents to assure their children that they are not getting a divorce. Ask the parents to allow their children to visit with both Grandma and Grandpa. Above all, intercede with prayers for the entire family.

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