Depending on where you live, children will be getting out of school in the next few days and weeks. This means many children will be traveling across the country or town to spend the summer with their other parent.
How do children’s pastors and church leaders help these kids have a good send-off? You may want them to understand you will miss them. If they are just going across town, you may still expect them to attend your church during the summer.
Many children of divorce have people disappearing from their lives all the time. When you have an opportunity to “send them off” and tell them goodbye, seize the opportunity with gusto. Do not put any guilt trips on them about attending your church if they will still be in the area. This will be their time with the other parent, so don’t infringe on it.
Kids need to be able to depend on people telling them goodbye. They need to know you’ll be waiting for them at the end of summer when they return from the other parent’s home.
Ask children of divorce or their single parent what the summer plans are. Address the kids who will be leaving right away first. If you have a large children’s ministry, you may need to put names on a calendar or find someone to help you keep track, so you don’t inadvertently miss someone.
Tips for send-offs
Talk to the children personally if possible. Tell them how much they’ll be missed while they’re gone. Tell them to enjoy their time with the other parent. Some kids need permission to do this.
Text the children if you can’t visit them in person.
Reassure the children the church will be waiting on them at the end of summer. Some children get attached to their physical surroundings, so whether or not you realize it, they may be attached to the church building or the children’s area.
Assure the children you will be waiting on them to return.
You might take a picture of the children standing in front of the church building. Post this picture in a prominent place in your office or on a bulletin board. Tell the children you’ll keep their picture there until they return. Let them know they can remove it when they return.
Don’t tell the children all the activities they will miss over the summer months. This can be very hurtful to some children.
Keep in mind the children are going to be spending time at their other home. Although it might not seem like they have another home, they do. The children may be worried about leaving the parent, but let’s get real: This person they are going to spend the summer with is their other parent. They have a right to get excited about it.
Build on their excitement by asking them questions about what the other home is like, what they get to do, and people they might get to see. Here are a few questions to get you started on a conversation with the children going to visit their other parent.
What is it like at your mom’s place? Do you have your own room?
What kind of things are you going to get to do at your dad’s? Go fishing?
Will you see your aunts, uncles or cousins?
How about your grandparents? Will you get to spend time with them?
Does your mom have a church? Will you get to go to that church this summer? Can you take a picture of the church, so you can show it to me when you get back here? (Notice I didn’t say “get back home.” It’s important to allow the child to have two homes and two churches.)
While many of us think the children will miss us and/or our children’s programs, the reality is these kids will literally be changing homes and living different lives. Some will be moving into very different lifestyles for the next few months.
Don’t burden them down with the thought that they are supposed to miss everything at home. Remember they will be at home—their other home.
Keep your goodbyes and send-off light and joyful. Send the children off with a prayer, a couple of Scripture verses, and maybe even a big hug. Whatever you do, make sure you keep a smile on your face and joy in your heart.
Keep in touch with the children’s parents who go to your church during the summer months. This tells the parents you care about their children.
This article originally appeared here.