By Karen Roberts
It started about a week after Noah’s dad left. Fear like nothing he’d ever experienced before. Unable to sleep. Unable to concentrate at school. It felt as if he were dying, and his dad was no longer there to help. Where was his dad?
Noah’s mom didn’t understand what was happening to her seven-year-old son. She was devastated by her own immediate circumstances. She needed a full-time job. The aging van was on its last legs. What would happen to the family home if she couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments? She knew she needed an attorney, but she had no money to hire one.
And then a caring friend told her about DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K).
Noah’s mom contacted the church and found out about the thirteen-week class for children, ages five to twelve, whose parents were no longer together. It was held on Thursday evenings in the children’s wing of the church. The pastor she spoke to knew all about the class, as well as another class, DivorceCare (DC), for parents who were experiencing separation or divorce. He said he would have the leader call her.
On the following Thursday, Noah and his mom met people who welcomed them with delight. The DC4K team said they called themselves Safekeepers because their job was to make everyone in the class feel safe while they learned about ways to manage what was happening in their homes and families. The DC leader invited Noah’s mom to sit in on the DC class, which was about to begin, as well.
What it is. DC4K is a group experience that guides children through the grieving process on the loss of their family as they once knew it, and gives them tools for embracing their present family structure and its challenges. Its leaders, its adult leaders (Safekeepers), understand how separation and divorce affect children and are specifically trained in leading children through the DC4K curriculum.
The DC4K program is biblically based. It uses DVD drama, including “Kids Like Me” episodes, featuring elementary-aged children and Christian teens who share what’s happened in their lives and help each other heal as they hang out together over summer break. The DVD materials also include Bible lessons in which “Uncle Bill,” who runs an ice cream shop, tells Bible stories to his niece and nephew and their friends that help them understand how characters from the Bible faced difficult circumstances and found help from God.
As part of the weekly DC4K classes, children learn songs, participate in games and crafts, and use their personal activity book to record their thoughts and feelings about the lessons. All of their sharing is in a safe, confidential environment. Lesson topics include the following: learning about what’s happening in my family, facing my anger, dealing with my sadness, dealing with my loneliness, letting go of who’s to blame, moving on with hope, and growing closer to God.
DC4K at Madison Park. Madison Park Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, started its DC4K and DC programs in 2011. To date, fifty-four children have participated. More than half of those children return for a second and third semester. At present, the class is held on Thursday evenings in the fall semester and Sunday mornings in the winter semester. It is promoted widely throughout the community—in schools, counselors’ offices, and other churches.
The MPC Safekeeper Team that began in 2011 has expanded to include adults of many ages. College students from nearby Anderson University earn internship credit for participation. In 2016, the team added Junior Safekeepers as helpers, teens age 13 and up who have taken the class in their younger years and have been trained specifically to help the adult Safekeepers.
How to get started. DC4K is part of a wider ministry at Madison Park called HOPE, which stands for Holy Opportunities for Personal Empowerment. The ministry also includes classes on single parenting and grief recovery. Children’s pastor Christi Maidlow gives leadership to Madison Park’s HOPE Ministries. To learn more about hosting DC4K or other HOPE ministries at your church, contact Christi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Roberts is a DC4K Safekeeper at Madison Park Church of God. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.