Critique of DivorceCare’s “Choosing Wisely: Before You Divorce” Program
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[August 20, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
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 DivorceCare 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 God’s 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 couple’s 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. [Emphasis added.]
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’s 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 DivorceCare [Internet Archive link]1 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:
[DivorceCare, a seminar / small group resource to help people hurting because of separation and divorce.]
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.] [Emphasis original.]
1[August 20, 2022: We added the link to the DC4K: DivorceCare 4 Kids website, as it’s the closest match we could find to what Jeff quoted in this blog post. The Internet Archive link is a copy of the DC4K: DivorceCare 4 Kids website link.
To quote from Jeff’s quote:
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.
We couldn’t find a copy of what Jeff quoted on either the DivorceCare or Church Initiative websites, or in the Internet Archives for those two websites. Editors.]
[August 20, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 20, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 20, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 20, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 20, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]