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D-I-V-O-R-C-E spells opportunity to help

SUMMARY: About half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, and people who divorce are more likely to have been infrequent churchgoers, according to Barna Group research.

Showing the church’s commitment to helping separated and divorced people manage their emotional, spiritual and economic challenges can open the opportunities for people who may feel estranged from religion after their marriage fails. Give them an opportunity with a divorce recovery group.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get this response, as Suntree United Methodist Church, Melbourne, Fla., did?  “The divorce recovery program has given me back something I thought I had lost: hope. Each week brings me a little closer to where I need and want to be one day, fulfilled with not just life, but more importantly, myself.”

Turn to those who have been through divorce, survived and now thrive. They are the most motivated to share their time and experience to support others. Involve them as research or focus group members as well as leaders of the new outreach. If you lack the time or energy to start the ministry from scratch, glean the best from existing programs or find one with a good reputation and use it.

The success of DivorceCare™ is apparent as its support groups operate in more than 12,000 churches worldwide. DivorceCare™ brings together people through weekly group meetings and seminars. People who know what participants are going through and want to help lead the sessions. Watch this how-to video for details.

Gina Jones, from Nashville, TN, says, “DivorceCare™ gave me hope and professional guidance through a seemingly endless maze of deceit and misfortune. The weekly videos, scripture, prayer and discussion kept me focused on the present, not the past, giving me a future.”

The program provides training tools, DVDs, workbooks and promotional resources. Your church could charge a nominal fee or request donations to cover the program’s low costs. Participants can include anyone who is divorced, separated, widowed or ending a significant relationship. They can also join any week of the program.

In Michigan, Flushing UMC’s 13-week Divorce Care™ program has helped adults learn how to deal with the pain of the past and look forward to rebuilding their lives. Sessions include:

  • What’s Happening to Me?
  • The Road to Healing/Finding Help
  • Facing My Anger
  • Facing My Depression
  • Facing My Loneliness
  • What Does the Owner’s Manual Say?
  • New Relationships
  • Financial Survival
  • KidCare™
  • Single Sexuality
  • Forgiveness
  • Reconciliation
  • Moving On, Growing Closer to God

Consider divorced people as newly single. Vestavia Hills UMC, Birmingham, Ala., hosts a singles ministry to create a “haven for caring and support.” While the singles ministry at Vestavia Hills takes a healing approach, a singles ministry could be a next step for someone who participates in a divorce recovery program and is ready to mix and mingle. A singles ministry can offer individuals the chance to work together on volunteer projects, gather for movie nights or discuss current events.

Helping children through divorce is a unique challenge. DivorceCare™ offers DivorceCare for Kids to involve children ages 5 to 12. Flushing UMC also offers DC4K, which allows kids to meet other children who are going or have gone through the experience, sharing their feelings in a casual, comfortable environment with games, music, crafts, stories and videos. The DivorceCare for Kids starter kit includes a DVD, CD and a mascot puppet with interchangeable “feeling” faces.

Suntree UMC also offers a program for children of divorce that meets the same time as the adult sessions. You can read more about it here.

Church leaders likely know people who could benefit from a divorce recovery group. Invite them. Publicize with announcements in church, on your Web site and through schools and community resources. All participants in the support group should have experienced the breakdown of a significant relationship. If people want to get involved who haven’t been through such a break-up, they can volunteer at events, help publicize the group and serve as “outside” connectors.

Imagine the possibilities and identify the feasible solutions given your resources. A true commitment to divorce healing can set your church apart.