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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Divorced ... and Parenting

Ten principles for navigating the new reality

By Michelle LaRowe Conover
Feb. 28, 2010

The statistics aren’t pretty.

“Fifty percent of first marriages, 65 percent of second marriages and 75 percent of third marriages end in divorce,” says Dr. Melody Palm, director of counseling programs at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo. “Those statistics are the same within the church as they are outside the church.”

God’s plan for marriage is that it be a permanent union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). But God is forgiving and full of compassion, grace and love. (See 1 John 1:9 and Psalm 103:8.)

“While divorce is not what God, or for that matter any of us, intended, it does happen,” says Gary Allen, national director of Pastor Care for the Assemblies of God. “God accepts all of us without necessarily approving our past behavior or circumstance.”

After divorce, parenting challenges only multiply, whether the issues involve child custody or helping children adjust to a blended family with remarriage. Applying the following 10 principles can help restore a solid footing to family relationships.

1. Put the kids first.
While divorce may separate spouses, it shouldn’t separate parents from their children or their responsibility in raising them. In most situations, the goal should be for a child to have a long-term relationship with both parents, advises Palm, founder and executive director of Still Waters Counseling Center in Springfield. For such a relationship to happen, parents can’t force children to choose sides, can’t put the other parent down, and can’t view the children as leverage to get what they want.

2. Trust that children are in God’s hands.
Dennis Franck, director of Single Adult and Young Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God, reminds divorced parents that God loves and cares for them and their children.

“It’s a biblical promise that God cares for the single parent, the orphans and the widows, and parents and children of divorce are today’s orphans and widows,” he says. “James reminds us that ‘pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father [is] to visit orphans and widows in their distress’ (James 1:27, NIV). God opposes those who oppress the widows and the fatherless (Malachi 3:5).”

3. Stay involved with the church.
“My best advice for parents of divorce is to be around people who accept you within the church and to stay close to church family. Surround yourself with people in ministry and a supportive pastor who desires to help you grow in Christ” says Jacqueline Doucette, a graduate of Zion Bible College and a credential holder with the AG.

Doucette, who is divorced herself, credits her church family with supporting her and her then young son through some of their most difficult times. (See sidebar. The Assemblies of God position paper “Divorce and Remarriage” includes guidelines for ministerial credentialing of divorced candidates.)

Franck encourages divorced parents to connect with others who have been through divorce.

“Women should connect with women and men should connect with men whose yesterday is their today,” he says.

4. Keep home life as consistent as possible.
Children thrive off of consistency. Predictable routines, expectations, rules and consequences help children feel secure. Palm says that “consistency is key” for helping children transition and adjust to life after divorce.

5. See all family members as God sees them.
Many divorced parents struggle with feelings of shame, guilt and rejection. They may feel that God, or others, view them and their children as undesirable.

“As a divorced person, when we deal with shame and rejection, we have to get a right perception of how God sees us,” Doucette says. “I took hold of Jeremiah 29:11 and believed that God had plans to prosper me, to give me hope and to give me a future.”

A Compassionate Church

The immediate victims of divorce, spouses and children, who have been sinned against and deeply hurt, need and deserve special care within Christian congregations and from trained caregivers.

In addressing the ideal nature of marriage, the church must also recognize that among its most needy, and yet potentially most fruitful, congregants are many who are already divorced, possibly remarried, and who struggle with guilt and condemnation from earlier marital failure. It is imperative that the church demonstrate to them Christ’s love and grace.

An uncompromising declaration of the sanctity of marriage must be articulated in ways that affirm and comfort the divorced and equip them to be successful in any new marriage that may have been, or will be, undertaken in faithfulness to Christ.

— From “Divorce and Remarriage,” pg. 11. The entire AG Position Paper is available as a downloadable PDF at

6. Follow Christ’s example.
Checking one’s actions and attitudes against the model Jesus has provided can help keep parents on the right track toward modeling Christlike behavior to their children.

7. Rely on the power of prayer.
Sometimes divorced parents feel like they have no one to turn to, but God is always there, willing and ready to listen to and meet the needs of divorced parents.

Franck encourages divorced parents to gradually and tactfully share their needs and concerns with others in the church.

“Some married couples are blind to the needs of divorced parents and would be willing to help out if they knew the needs were there,” he says.

8. Walk the talk.
Children live what they learn, and one of the most powerful ways children learn is through observation.

“We can’t tell our kids we are called to love; we have to show our kids how to love,” Doucette says. “We are called to be obedient and to be Christlike. For divorced parents, this sometimes means loving and forgiving the person who has hurt us the most.”

9. Never forget God’s acceptance.
Franck points to the unchanging divine nature of God. “God hates divorce because of what it does to us,” he insists, “but God loves divorced people.”

Divorced spouses need to grasp the truth that the church, when fulfilling Christ’s mission, exists to minister to hurting people.

“What is the mission of the church? To minister to those in pain,” says Palm. “There are a lot of churches with a lot of different flavors. If you’re in a church that is unaccepting and judgmental, you may need to find a body full of more graced people.”

10. Model mercy toward the ex-spouse.
Divorced parents “need to portray the ex-spouse’s good points with love and mercy, because if they don’t, they will build a wall between the child and the parent,” Franck says. Children deserve a good relationship with both parents, and this sometimes requires a parent to sacrifice their feelings for the good of their children.

MICHELLE LaROWE CONOVER is a frequent contributor to the Pentecostal Evangel and attends Faith Assembly of God in Hyannis, Mass.

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