Diocese of ChichesterDiocese of Chichester

Working with Young People through Separation and Divorce

Working with Young People through Separation and Divorce

By Ben Leighton

I was 8 when my parents separated and were later divorced. My dad remarried and my mum was left to raise my two younger brothers and I. With little knowing of what was to come, I now find myself in a position where I speak to young people who have been through similar situations, or are facing them. Here are some overarching thoughts that I have as a pastor working with young people.


Whilst I can relate to many of the feelings that a young person may experience, we cannot assume that our emotions are a mirror image of theirs.Every situation, though similar in some parts of the separation spectrum, is different. We must approach each circumstance as an opportunity to learn from the young person's feelings, responses and thoughts, and ask the Spirit to reveal His wisdom and guidance to us.


To be invited into a young person's 'crisis moment' or 'moments' is a privilege for any youth worker, and we must treat it as so. Their offering of trust in us needs to be met with healthy confidentiality, taking the seriousness of their situation as a given.Having been invited into their world, it is necessary for us to recognise the gravitas of any advice that we might offer; this must not be underestimated and should be treated with God given sensitivity.


Billy Graham famously said, “It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict.God's job to judge, and my job to love. ”And whilst we are encouraged by Paul to judge those within the church (1 Cor. 5:12ff), for the protection, care and bettering of our flock, it is not our job to instil God's wrath; Jesus' challenge to address the plank in our own eye (Matt. 7:1ff) is left ringing in our ears. Marriages inside and outside of the Church break down for a number of reasons, many of which are open to harsh judgement. We must know that the way in which we judge, and the measure of judgement that we use, will be returned to us; our job is to love.


In a culture where the divorce rate of those within the Church is not dissimilar to those outside of it, we have a responsibility. With Christian arguments that concern adoption and advocate for a child's parental upbringing, we have a commitment to live out these same convictions in our communities. Whilst there will always be marriage difficulties, we have the opportunity not to judge and condemn, as some may expect, but to care.It is our privilege as pastors who work with young people to pastorally serve families in our church; both the parents and their children. It is our mandate to preach with our actions louder than our words, our desire to seek God's will in all that we do, and our duty to offer hope and love to those around us.