Question of the week: How does divorce hurt the church family?


We all know that divorce hurts individual families but are you aware that it can eventually hurt the church family too? When families become dysfunctional and divorce is on the horizon, strange things happen within the church family.

Split loyalties

First of all there are split loyalties. It’s as if no one is sure of which part of the couple they want to continue their relationship. The divorce can cause problems for other couples because the man might take the side of the husband while the woman sides with the wife. Discussion takes place in their home about why and who did what.

Ministers and church leaders get caught in the crossfires of war

Many ministers don’t know how to help a hurting marriage. I had one church leader tell me, “Divorce is just messy and I don’t want to deal with messy.” Before you get critical realize that he was right. Divorce is messy and sometimes messy is more than a minister or church leader can handle with their already busy schedule.

Divorcing couples can take up a lot of a minister’s time, sometimes even months or years. Some couples and ministers would be better off to hand the hurting couple over to a marriage counselor.

In some situations if one member of the divorcing couple leaves the church and a church leader goes to visit him or her, the other partner in the divorce gets upset. If the minister or church leader doesn’t reach out to the partner that left, that person gets upset. Ministers have to walk a tightrope in situations like this.

Can divorce be ‘contagious?’

If there are other trouble marriages in your congregation, it is possible that when one couple divorces, other couples might use that breakup to help rationalize or normalize their own split. Partners in less-than-healthy marriages may also feel threatened or insecure, wondering if the same fate awaits their marriage.

Future church leaders and members

Research shows that most children of divorce leave the church as they grow up. Divorce hit our society hard in the seventies and eighties. Our churches today are paying a high price for not reaching out to those kids who experienced the divorce of their parents.

Many of these adult children of divorce will tell you that the rejection of the church hurt almost as much as the actual divorce itself. A large majority of adult children of divorce have negative feelings toward the church and many won’t attend the institution called the church.

What do you do with the single parent families?

Many churches get confused about what to do with and how to handle single parent families. Some try to lump single parents in with the singles but single parents are raising children. While some activities can be done together with singles and single parents, single parents do need different helps and resources plus they need childcare for each event.

Some churches try to keep the newly divorce person in the previous married couple’s group. While some activities will merge, many will not. Here are just few topics that might not fit well for single parents to be in the same group as married couples.

  • When you are discussing discipline and guidance and how a couple can work together to influence their children
  • When a church hosts a small group on finances, however, single parents also need financial management resources
  • If a church hosts a small group on how to treat your spouse with the husband and wife in the same group, do not include single parents in this group. If a church hosts classes for wives and husbands separately then a single parent might benefit from learning more about how to have a successful marriage.

What can be done from this point forward?

Divorcing people need the church family. They need to hear God’s word and how to apply it to their lives.

If churches will be cognizant about how to treat divorcing couples, everyone benefits including the church family.

  • Hurting people can bring a congregation together when prayer surrounds those hurting
  • Build solid relationships with the single parent and with the children in these families
  • Training and educating children’s leaders and volunteers about the child of divorce will help the child feel like the church and the Lord’s people care about him or her.
  • Hosts seminars and preach from the pulpit about what constitutes a good marriage and what the Bible says about marriage and divorce
  • Preach God still loves the sinner and while the Bible says God hates divorce, He still loves the divorced person

Programs like DivorceCare and Single & Parenting can help your church provide healthy solutions to the issues I’ve described above.

What does your church do to minister to the hurting divorcing family and yet keep divorce from hurting the church family?



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