First Third Conversations

First Third Dialogues: Ministering to Children of Divorce

In September 2010, Luther Seminary's Center for First Third Ministry, hosted a First Third Dialogue on the topic of Children of Divorce.

This conference was for those on the front-lines of ministry with children and youth who know the realities of divorce. Participants shared their own powerful experiences of divorce and heard from experts in the field about the impact of divorce on youth and young adults particularly in regards to sociology and faith.

The goal was to provide space to share stories and learn from others about the issues surrounding divorce and approaches that are working to create communities of health and healing with and for those affected by divorce.

Keynote speakers were Elizabeth Marquardt and Dr. Andrew Root. Elizabeth Marquardt is editor of FamilyScholars.org,where she also blogs. She is vice president for family studies and director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values. Andrew Root is Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary.

Both presenters not only understand the realities and consequences of divorce but have a heart for what role church communities can play in touching lives of all affected. They both shared their own powerful stories of their parents' divorces. Marquardt had grown up with divorced parents and Root's parents divorced when he was a young adult, in college and only a few months before his own marriage.

The participants were themselves children of divorce or divorced parents. The conversations that came about during the event highlighted the pain, struggle and uncertainty that comes from divorce. People with divorced parents continually voiced relief at hearing their own story within the stories of Marquardt and Root. All of the "children of divorce" at the event were now adults but for the first time felt as if their story had been acknowledged, understood and they were not alone in their experience.

The event opened with a viewing of the 2005 movie, "The Squid and the Whale," a film based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s. Participants then had the opportunity to interact with Elizabeth Marquardt as she presented on her book, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce.

Dr. Andrew Root also presented on the topic, The Real Lives of Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being, based on his 2010 book of similar title.

The second part of Elizabeth Marquardt's presentation can be found here.

This event was only the beginning of the discussion about divorce and the church's role in supporting youth and families through this experience.

It was clear:

  • that adult children of divorce are yearning for a safe place to share their story and hear the stories of other divorced families.
  • that this is a painful journey for all involved and that the decision to divorce is never an easy one.
  • that there is a longing from parents and children for the church to journey with them as they experience the incredible challenge and change of divorce.

Both Marquardt and Root give us valuable tools and language to talk about divorce within our faith communities. Let's try them and keep this conversation open.

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