How can the church minister to children of domestic abusers?

1 Peter 4: 10, As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

That we are to minister one to another is a foundational truth of Christianity. That, in many churches, the idea of ministering to anybody has been reduced to formal ministries, projects, and the such is a modern church truth. I guess I’m rather old-fashioned in my views as I am against this type of ministering; the reasons why are varied but for the most part, it’s that, when ministering becomes formalized, it generally doesn’t get done, and only a small group of people end up doing the ministering. Plus, most important, it ends up being man-centered rather than Christ-centered.

The church that I was raised in actually took the idea of ministering to each other to heart. When someone died, a baby was born, an accident or illness befell a family, or there was some other momentous event in someone’s life, the church was there. They showed up–as a whole. The children, like me, who were without fathers, either due to death or divorce, were taken under the wing of the church as a whole. I never felt like an outcast because I didn’t have a dad in the home or because he’d been abusive. I never felt marked out as different. I felt loved, included, secure in the fact that I was one of them and they, my church family, were part of me.

This isn’t usually true today. Though my children have also been affected by domestic abuse, the churches response has been markedly different towards them than mine was towards me. This is true though I have actually begged–BEGGED–the church leaders to help me help my children deal with things by talking to them or helping me to find someone else to talk to them. Their response? To ignore me, to tell me that “I don’t think that we can do that”, to tell me that I should “Give up because things aren’t going to get better anyway and nothing will make a different”. One preacher even turned and walked out of the room to get away from me.

That’s taking God’s command to love one another and to minister one to another seriously, isn’t it?

No. No, it’s not.

God’s heart towards the oppressed is so beautiful. There’s a plethora of Bible verses on how we, His people, are to care for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the poor, and the widows and the orphans in our midst. Yet, we are usually too busy to even consider getting involved.

Maybe, they might think, it’s too messy to get involved with a family either still living in domestic abuse or coming out of domestic abuse. Maybe they don’t know what to say, or don’t know what the family might need, or it just makes them uncomfortable.

Perhaps they think it’s dangerous.

Maybe it’s confusing–all the accusations and ugliness.

Maybe God will overlook their failure to get involved this one time.

Maybe. Or maybe He meant what He said when He commended the Good Samaritan who got involve in a very messy, very dangerous, potentially deadly, situation when no one else–none of the leaders of His people–would.

Maybe He meant what He said when He commanded us to show love and care for one another:

John 13: 34, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Mark 9: 35, And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

2 Corinthians 4: 5, For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Mark 10: 45, For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

James 4: 17, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

There are many among us who need what Christ’s body alone can give. Our love, our attention, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, help with some project, food, money, clothes. Just somebody to be there. The poor in our congregations need our help. The lonely, weak or sick among our people need our help. Single moms need our help. The women who are struggling because they’ve had no choice but to leave dangerous husbands behind need our help.

And the children of these evil men, men who have failed in their duties as fathers, men who, either overtly or by negligence, in one way or another, have abused them, also need our help.

They need you.

So what can you, the body of Christ, do to minister to children of domestic abusers?

What I sought for my children was to have someone mentor them, hold a Bible study with them, maybe spend some time with them–because I wanted them to see godly men in action and not have the only man in their lives be the man who could never be counted on to do, believe, or say the same thing twice in a row. I didn’t want their idea of manhood to be influenced only by a man who raged when he believed he’d been wronged, who made obscene gestures at them–his own children. A man who yelled at them, called them names, or who made angry threats towards their pets or their things. A man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus while making fun of us for taking God’s Word seriously.

But the church couldn’t do that. Because.

Because. That was their excuse. That’s something they will have to answer to the Lord for. I hope your church does better. I pray that all true churches will want to do better–for the Lord’s sake. For Jesus who loved them enough to die for them–perhaps they can find some way to serve these little ones, these precious children and teens, for Him. 

There aren’t a lot of qualifications. There’s something everyone can do. Younger or older, single or married, you can do something to serve these children. You just have to love Jesus enough to want to show up for His people who need you.

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done itunto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I’d love to hear your ideas; meanwhile, here’s some of my own:

  • Take them fishing. Seriously. A lot of good talking can be done over a fishing pole.
  • Help them to learn to garden. That gets them out of the house, gets them doing something constructive, while also helping them to find a way to help their Moms.
  • Teach the girls to bake, to sew, to cook, to crochet.
  • Teach the guys to hunt, to build things, to blacksmith, to do leather working.
  • Or reverse it–some women like to build, some guys like to cook.
  • Take a walk, a jog, or a run with them.
  • If they are old enough and mature enough, have them over to help you clean, to babysit or to do some other task that you could pay them for. Helps them, helps their Mom, helps you.
  • Have a Bible study and invite them.
  • Take them someplace just for fun.
  • While their Mom is at work, help them clean up their homes.
  • Get them involved in doing repairs on their homes. Teach them to sand, to paint, to caulk, etc.
  • Get them involved in cleaning someone else’s home for free–just because it needs to be done.
  • Get them involved in maintaining church property (cutting the grass, doing repairs, deep cleaning, making communion bread, etc.)
  • If you live on a farm, take them there and let them enjoy just being there.
  • Ask them how they are and really listen to the answer.
  • Let them know that they can talk to you about what they are going through.
  • If you know someone who has gone through abuse, ask them to talk with them.
  • Teach them to repair small engines.
  • Teach them basic car maintenance.
  • Ask them to come along on a family trip.
  • Ask them and their mom to come over for dinner. A lot of couples don’t think about inviting the single mom over because it’s awkward. Not being invited–ever–is awkward and painful for her.
  • Ask them and their mom to go to the zoo, to a fair, fishing, hiking, to go…just anywhere…just to do something normal and fun.
  • Treat them normal.
  • Be aware that their circumstances are anything but.

Any other ideas?

Soli Deo gloria!




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