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Ministries to divorce people ‘essential’ in today’s world

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–“Often a church wanting to hold up the ideal pushes away the people who have not lived up to the ideal,” a national consultant told participants in Discipleship and Family Week, July 18-24 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Emphasizing the biblical ideal is one marriage lasting for a lifetime, Tim Cleary said many people still fall short and experience divorce. Cleary is single adult specialist for the discipleship and family adult department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He said churches are becoming more aware of the need to conduct responsible divorce recovery and blended-family ministry.
“This helps people to deal with their grief, emotional baggage and complex issues of remarriage,” he continued. “For the church, these are essential ministries in today’s world. Responsible divorce recovery can prevent hasty rebound relationships and marriages.
“Half of all marriages annually are remarriages. If people don’t recover and deal with the baggage in their lives, they are going to repeat the divorce pattern.”
Divorce recovery is the number one outreach to people in many churches that are aggressive in that ministry, Cleary said.
Approximately 50 percent of new marriages end in divorce today and “the rate is the same inside the church as it is in the secular world,” he said. “When people divorce, you cannot really put them back the way they were before. It isn’t an easy ministry to help divorced people find wholeness again.”
He said the first strategy should be to help couples save their marriages if at all possible.
“If you can reclaim any marriages, do it, so that a divorce is not necessary,” he said. “God favors this more than anything else.”
But when divorce and family breakup occur, Cleary believes Christians must be prepared to help divorced people and their families pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.
“God’s love, forgiveness and restoration are available,” he said. “Even for those who have deliberately violated God’s plan of marriage for a lifetime, his redemptive work is to bring about a life change.”
Ministering to those who are separated or divorced can take several forms:
— one-on-one, by offering a book you have found helpful.
— a recovery workshop, using resources such as “A Time for Healing: Coming to Terms with Your Divorce.” For youth, a recommended resource is “Healing the Wounds: Teenagers Learning to Cope with Divorce.” A children’s resource is “KidShare, What Do I Do Now? Helping Children Deal with Divorce.”
— support groups.
— a lecture series.
Cleary said the group events are not ongoing but are “feeder classes into the life of the church.”
He suggested having several referral lists for counselors, legal aid and community services.
“Never give legal advice,” he cautioned. “And if you are not a trained pastoral counselor, never give counseling advice.”
Smaller churches may find working through the local association for an association-wide ministry is effective for their needs.
“Since the church is usually a mirror of society, we must face the fact that a certain percentage of your congregation will experience the devastation of divorce, either personally or in their immediate families,” he said. “It is the church’s responsibility to help pick up the pieces of shattered lives and help persons find wholeness and happiness once again.”
Discipleship and Family Week was sponsored by the discipleship and family division of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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  • Charles Willis