Gayle van Hoffen goes to Windsor Park Baptist Church and is the Family Care Manager for the Windsor Park Lifecare Trust. She shares their faith-based course designed to support children through the tumultuous changes they experience during divorce and separation.This article is reproduced from the New Zealand Baptist Children and Families November 2023 eConnect newsletter.  

As a Children’s Ministry worker, I often longed to have more time to care pastorally for families. We were so busy working on the teaching for each Sunday and upcoming family events that we only seemed to have time to deal with the families in acute crisis: hospital visits, illness, accidents, grief packs for the loss of a loved one or pet. Divorce and separation was a more difficult one. Yet, the number of families going through this specific type of grief was growing. The families I did get to work with were in a place of such intense pain, and more often than not, one or other of the parents stopped attending church, and we would lose touch with the children at the very time they needed support the most. From my own personal experience in childhood, I felt challenged to do something about it. There had to be a better way!   

Windsor Park Baptist Church has been supporting children with our faith-based divorce/separation recovery course for more than ten years now. We are humbled by the feedback we get from the children, their parents and the community organisations that refer them. Feedback has shown that children who attend the course exhibit more confidence and a more positive sense of well-being. This overflows to better relationships within the family, improved school performance and resilience skills.  

The good news is that although divorce is a painful journey for all involved, we can lessen its impact on children. Research has shown us that the first two years are the most difficult and that with support and parents who reduce conflict and provide the stability and love needed, there is so much hope. 

We have developed and written this eight-week course to be multicultural and relevant to our children and community. It seeks to address the needs the children are facing due to the tumultuous changes they are experiencing. It is now available for other churches and organisations to purchase.  

Photo: Patsy Way and Dylan Fortuin showing bubble breathing. 

We have named the course PowerUP, a gaming term that refers to gains that empower you to go to the next level of the game. This is our hope and prayer for the children who attend: that they will be empowered with new strategies that help them not only cope but thrive as they move forward with their lives.   

The stories we have written and the characters we have created are designed to model situations children navigating divorce may experience. These stories help the children explore what is happening in their own lives from a comfortable distance. The group situation helps them understand they are not the only ones experiencing this change. The course is both fun and positive, and we have never had a child who didn’t want to come back!  

Photo: The courage cake we have to celebrate with the children in week seven. 

We believe time and resources channelled to this area are so very necessary and so very valuable. These precious children are the up-and-coming generation, our next leaders and future sets of parents. If we want to prepare them for their future, we need to help them adequately process their present reality. 

Photo: A sample of the coping tools the children get to take home from the course. 

What an awesome privilege and opportunity we have to partner with other churches to support children at this time. We recognise that we all have different resources and operate in different contexts. We invite you to contact us to chat about how PowerUP could work for you in your community. We invite you to have a look at our website powerupcourse.org.  

This verse is so special to me, particularly in the light of my own personal story. It comes from Genesis 50 vs 20. It says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”  

How liberating it is to know that our past does not have to determine our future. Now that is freedom, thank you Lord! 

Photo: Sarah Clark, Windsor Park Lifecare trust Manager, and Gayle van Hoffen, Family Care Manager. 

 

Photos provided by Gayle van Hoffen. 

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