Critique of DivorceCare’s “Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce” Program
DivorceCare is a resource ministry that churches can purchase video and support material from to begin a DivorceCare ministry. At the end of this post we have pasted in the description of DivorceCare, taken from the DC website itself.
The following evaluation was sent to us by a blog reader whose church put her through the five week Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce program along with her abuser husband. While the bulk of the DivorceCare material is for people who have already divorced, Choosing Wisely is a module designed for couples who are considering divorce:
Choosing Wisely is a five week workbook / video you go through as a couple with one mentor couple before divorcing. The first night you agree to certain requirements while taking the class, one of the requirements is not to physically abuse your spouse, no mention of any other type of abuse. I expected helpful advice but instead got weekly lessons on how divorce will ruin your health, kids, finances and relationship with God. This was often three of them against me because my spouse kept saying how divorce wasn’t his choice. I was asked straight out how my decision lined up with Gods principles of divorce only for abandonment and adultery.
The last two weeks are on forgiveness and reconciliation which results in you asking each other for forgiveness and signing a contract with specific steps for reconciliation. I felt hugely pressured in the contract making to agree to couples counseling (but didn’t sign any agreement). The only thing I would agree to was attempting to have civil conversations about the kids. The last video ends with two different people saying that no matter how bad your marriage has been, nothing could be as bad as divorce.
I told the church it was like five weeks of emotional abuse. It could be horribly damaging to people who have needed to leave a toxic relationship and when they finally do, the church guilts them into going back. I wish I could say it was helpful but feel that any abuse victim would be traumatized by the experience without years of strengthening before taking it. The church will look into it.
Jeff S relates that in a recent discussion with someone else who had been through the DivorceCare program, very similar criticisms were shared. However, that same person was very positive about the DivorceCare for Kids material.
To be fair, understand that DivorceCare provides its material only to local churches and also provides, as you can see below, leadership training for those churches in operating this ministry. All well and good UNLESS what you have is an abuser and victim. Then this turns into the same old error of couple-counseling in an abuse situation and it can end up, as our reader above tells us, being a gang up on the victim session led by the abuser.
The Following is Info from Divorce Care Website:
Church Initiative was founded in 1993 by Steve and Cheryl Grissom. Steve serves as the president of Church Initiative. Cheryl serves as the ministry vice president. Here’s what led to the start of our ministry and how we’re serving local churches all over the world.
After experiencing the pain of divorce, Steve’s church played a key role in helping him heal. Once he was ready to resume active service in his local church, Steve felt burdened to make sure churches around the world would be prepared to help others going through divorce.
So, in 1993, Steve and his wife Cheryl designed and developed DivorceCare, a Christ-centered, video-based support group program.
As local churches saw success with the DivorceCare program, pastors began requesting additional resources, similarly structured, to help minister to people in other life crises, such as grief due to a death. In 1996, the ministry underwent a name change to Church Initiative, with a vision to create biblical, Christ-centered resources that mobilize lay people to help hurting people, within the context of the local church. The DivorceCare program was joined by DivorceCare for Kids, Single & Parenting, GriefShare, and other dynamic ministry tools created by Church Initiative to minister to people in a life crisis.
Today, over 18,000 churches are equipped with one or more Church Initiative ministry programs. Here are some of the programs we’ve developed:
Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce, a marriage crisis intervention tool designed to help prevent divorce and save families
DivorceCare for Kids, DC4K, designed to bring healing to children of divorce and to give them hope and the tools to develop healthier relationships within their families
GriefShare, a grief recovery program to help people grieving the death of a loved one
Single & Parenting, a support group program for single parents who are divorced, widowed or never-married
Church Initiative has a strong commitment to provide ongoing support to churches using its materials. The ministry provides free consulting, promotional tools, and an extensive leadership development website. In addition to the comprehensive leader training resources that come with each curriculum kit, Church Initiative has also developed “Boot Camp Training on DVD,” which provides churches with a complete tool kit to host area training events for the DivorceCare, DC4K, and GriefShare leadership teams.