As a leader in education or church ministry, you have likely encountered domestic issues and child custody concerns. These situations can affect your ministry in a variety of ways. Often, it is difficult to discern how to handle each situation in a way that protects and addresses the needs of parents, children and the ministry of the institution.
To better prepare as ministry leaders for domestic or child custody issues, here are two real-life scenarios along with a suggested route to take to avoid risks. As a leader in education or church ministry, you have likely encountered domestic issues and child custody concerns. These situations can affect your ministry in a variety of ways. Often, it is difficult to discern how to handle each situation in a way that protects and addresses the needs of parents, children and the ministry of the institution.
To better prepare as ministry leaders for domestic or child custody issues, here are two real-life scenarios along with a suggested route to take to avoid risks.
Scenario One: Who picks up the kids?Parent A drives to your school on Friday to pick up the children because it is their weekend to have the children. A heated discussion occurs when the dismissing teacher does not release the children to Parent A. At the beginning of the school year, the school asked the enrolling parent, Parent B, for a list of individuals authorized to pick up the children, and Parent A was not on the list. What do you do?
In this scenario, it is best to have Parent A get in touch with Parent B to receive authorization to pick up the children. If this is not possible, parent B must come to pick up the children. Always verify to ensure the children are released to someone who is authorized to do so.
Scenario Two: Parent-Teacher ConferencesParent A and Parent B attend a parent-teacher conference and begin a verbally harsh argument. Parent A says they do not want the children to attend that school. Parent B is then upset and continues to discuss children’s progress with the teacher, but the discussion then wanders into marital issues. Parent A storms out, and Parent B begins to discuss personal issues with you. What do you do?
In this situation, it is important to remember that an educator’s role is simply to educate the children. Sympathize with the parent, but remain focused on the student’s progress and stay away from domestic issues. This may be difficult as the student’s progress may be impacted by the domestic problems. In such instances, it may be good to refer either or both parents to a pastor or other family counselor for additional help.
How Can We Keep Domestic Issues Out of the Church and School?The short answer is you cannot. However, you can be proactive in keeping disruptions to a minimum. Take steps with the parents to keep the domestic disputes out of the church or school. One such step would involve defining and communicating your expectations to the parents. At the first sign of a problem, a meeting with both parents, followed by a written follow-up setting the ground rules would be a good step. Clearly state that parents must handle any domestic disputes outside the church or school property.
Also, parents should make any pick-up/drop-off arrangements ahead of time to avoid any complications in church or school.
Schools educate and nurture children. These institutions do not and cannot enforce custody orders, and other requirements courts may impose on separated or divorced couples. Schools and churches neither have the resources nor should they be dragged into such disputes. In such instances, the institution must insist that the parents act reasonably and in a mature manner. They must deal with these issues in the context of their families, without involving the school or church. Your focus should be to provide the children with a Christian educational environment or a nurturing ministry in the church.
Finally, work with your conference to create a policy for your ministry if you do not have one. Creating a policy will allow your ministry leaders to have a clear process and limits on what their involvement should be and on what to do in these circumstances. Which parent receives the school records? Are both parents on the authorized pick-up list? Answer these questions with a clearly written policy.