Faith Programs for Divorced
Faith: After Affair Causes Divorce, Faith-Based Programs Can Help You Get on Your Feet
When Stephanie went through a divorce after nine years of marriage, she felt like she lost her world. I not only lost my partnership, I lost my whole community,” said Stephanie, who asked that her last name not be used. “…Ilost the couples we had dinner with, my neighborhood, and my home.”
Then, a friend told her about DivorceCare, a faith-based divorce recovery program that’s used in 12,000 churches worldwide. DivorceCare is non-denominational and open to people of all kinds of faith, or no faith. Since its founding, DivorceCare has ministered tomore than500,000 people who’ve faced what DivorceCare founder Steve Grissom calls the big three” associated with divorce: anger, depression, and loneliness.
The 13-week DivorceCare program hosted by Essex Alliance Church in Essex Junction, Vt., walked Stephanie and 40 other newly divorced people down the road to healing. Meetings began with prayer, followed by videos with personal stories, interviews with experts and computer graphics on relevant topics such as What’s Happening to Me?” Facing Anger, Depression and Loneliness” as well as finances, sexuality, and forgiveness.
Afterward, the group talked and worked through the accompanying workbook.There were tears and laughter. Then, they went out together for more conversation and dinner. The group threw Stephanie a great party for her birthday.And they even brought her an enormous stuffed dog as a gift. I lost my dog in the divorce,” Stephanie said. They knew how much I missed him.”
People going through a divorce are surprised at the depth of their hurt,” said Grissom. The Bible teaches that the marriage covenant makes a man and woman one flesh. When you tear flesh, it’s an excruciating, messy thing. If I were to pull you apart down the middle, it would not be clean. Part of you would go to one side and part to the other. The same thing happens on the emotional soul level when people divorce. You don’t just divide, you tear, and you don’t suddenly have two individuals, you have two pretty messy halves.”
Grissom, who went through his own divorce after 13 years, knows it’s possible to be whole again, but, it takes a lot of work and a lot of faith. It’s pretty tough to get through divorce without spiritual comfort,” said Grissom. You’re not just grieving the loss of a mate, there’s a huge list of losses. The loss of home, of active parenting, of financial circumstances, family heritage, in-laws, and on and on. It’s much more complex than most people realize.”
In fact, Marital Transitions and Mental Health, a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior,” found adult men and women were more likely to experience poor mental health within the first year out of marriage compared to those who remained married.While much of the anguish experienced has to do with the sense of abandonment, when people turn to their church for support and find none, they also even worse.
LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
Although statistics show that one out of three adults in the pew on Sunday morning are going through or have gone through a divorce, few churches are equipped to help them. As a result, many leave. Some of the problems maybe a lack of understanding. According to a1997 Barna Group study of 601 Protestant pastors, only 13 percent had ever gone through a divorce. But that number is increasing, according to Gary Pinion, Northwest director for PastorCare, part of the National Clergy Support Network. And with that increase may come a better understanding of what is happening to their own congregation.
One pastor I spoke with said, ‘I could have murdered the head deacon or had an affair with my associate pastor’s wife and survived, but because I’m divorced, my ministry is finished,” said Rev. Randy Carter, executive director of PastorCare.
Pastor’s wives also face special difficulties, particularly if the church supports the pastor after a break-up as was the case for LaShon Williams. She and her husband were associate pastors at a southwest Michigan church when she discovered her husband was having an affair with congregation member and the other woman was pregnant. I felt like I was going to stop breathing,” she said. There she was, the OTHER WOMAN, sitting in the choir with HER son about to be born.”
For two years, her husband denied the child was his.When he finally confessed, there was no church reprimand. I was angry,” Williams said. I felt like I had done everything by the Book and God had let me down.”Her anger helped her better understand what was happening to others around her. It motivated her to write the book, Moving On!”which is used to help women of faith re-invent their lives after divorce.
COMFORTING THE AFFLICTED
Debbie had stopped attending church 20 years earlier when she turned to her church for help with her husband’s alcoholism and felt no support. When she saw the ad for the DivorceCare group, she found “acceptance and fun as well as a place to heal and just be.”
While the Barna Group found that 25 percent of Catholics and 39 percent of Protestants have faced divorce, helping congregants is a relatively new development. Churches are often afraid they’ll appear to be endorsing divorce if they help the divorced,” said Suzy Brown, author of R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Recovery.”Brown’s husband of 33 years got involved with a younger woman. After much sobbing, yelling, pleading, and praying, I filed for divorce. I was devastated on so many levels, I can’t even begin to describe them all. I thought I would never be happy again.”
Raised a Christian, Brown’s church didn’t have a ministry for people going through a divorce. But, she noticed all around her there were a number of other distraught middle-aged women who were facing the loss of everything they had worked for their entire adult life. It wasn’t only that each husband was having an affair, as devastating as that was, it was that they were actually willing and eager to leave a relationship 25 or more years in the making,” she said.
Brown asked some of these women to met weekly at her home. She named the group R.A.D.I.C.A.L. (Raising Above Divorce In Confidence And Love). At the first meeting, she handed out a piece of paper with two words on it “ Get Up. These women needed just one thing “ hope,” Brown said. Even taking a shower was a big time achievement.”
Week by week, the women laughed and cried their way to wholeness. After clawing through the grief of it, Brown decided to use what she’d learned to help others. Her book and its accompanying workbook walk women through a 10-week program that covers nuts and bolts topics such as organizing the clutter that’s part of moving out of the family home; helping children cope; staying close to family and friends; choosing to change; and, embracing transformation.
She also offers a daylong Boot Camp for women who want to jump-start their recovery. While her program started out working with women, she is now developing a curriculum for men. Brown is also helping the church think through how to better support those going through divorce. We are called to be the presence of God to those who are suffering,” Brown said. We must provide refuge, hope and help to those suffering the agony of divorce.”
To help these people heal, Brown says churches must:
1. Recognize the need. Recognize the problem. Recognize the pain.
There is no devastation that compares to being rejected and discarded by your spouse. These people are in our churches, our neighborhoods, and workplaces, and they are suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The numbers are growing every day.
2. Provide resources.
Those going through divorce are desperate for encouraging, practical, spiritual information. Have on hand at least one comforting book you can give them, along with a list of recommended resources.
3. Assign them a friend, a sister, a brother, a mentor.
When you give them the resources, tell them someone will be contacting them soon. Then make sure that happens. Assign a same sex older spiritual individual or an individual who has been through this storm to be their personal contact. Get them on the church prayer list.
4. Get them into a small group.
This doesn’t have to be a divorce support group, it can be a Bible study or a small group. But get them connected with a group of caring, supportive people.
5. Give them a service to do.
Service is a big part of healing. At first, give those going through divorce something simple to do like making a dozen cookies for the new members meeting or helping out in the nursery. Encourage them to serve while being aware of financial and emotional limitations.
FAITH-BASED DIVORCE PROGRAMS
http://www.divorcecare.com/ DivorceCare’s 13-week seminars and support groups are led by people who have been through a divorce.DivorceCare resources include a workbook and daily e-mails of encouragement to help you deal with the pain and rebuild your life. There are thousands of DivorceCare groups meeting throughout the U.S., Canada and nearly 20 other countries and territories. The Web site has a group finder based on zip code. DivorceCare also offers DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) for children ages 5-12 that meets at the same time as the adult group.
Midlife Divorce Recovery
http://www.midlifedivorcerecovery.com/ Suzy Brown, author of R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Recovery,” offers a book and workbook for use in local support groups for women who have been through or are facing divorce, especially a midlife divorce. The interactive membership only Web site also allows members to get advice from forums or just chat. Membership includes a monthly newsletter called the RADICAL Rag and discounts on various recovery products. ($24.95 for 12 months) Brown also offers a Midlife Divorce Recovery Boot Camp, where participants can start on a journey that can bring them personal power, grace-filled peace and a wild, wonderful life. What you get:A 250-page Radical Recovery book; A 64-page Radical Recovery Workbook; Practical advice from area experts. There’s also a separate half-day men’s session.
http://www.encouragementdynamics.com/ Gary L. Pinion, D. Min., author of “CRUSHED, The Perilous Side Of Ministry,” is founder and [resident of Encouragement Dynamics, a nonprofit ministry fordiscouraged pastors and churches across the nation. He hasmore than 30years of ministry experience. Dr. Pinion has gone through divorce. He has an extensive network of referrals to help churches and pastors with just about any issue.
The National Clergy Support Network
http://www.pastorcare.org/ This Web site offers care for clergy who are going through a difficult time. Staff can asses your need and help you determine the best course of action as well as make referrals from their database of caregivers. Follow-up calls are made just to see how you’re doing.