In recent weeks, area children and their parents have filed into the First Baptist Church of Morris on Thursday nights to both tackle some serious issues and have some serious fun.
The church is now about halfway through a new program aimed at serving divorced and single-parent families — DivorceCare for Kids. Kristi Larson, wife of the church's pastor Steve Larson, was part of bringing the program to the church.
She leads a Bible study for single mothers. When she heard about DivorceCare for Kids from another church member, she was interested in hearing more.
Long before starting the Bible study, she said single parent and divorced households were an area she felt a calling in which to minister. She recalled babysitting for these families years ago, and being struck by their needs and experiences.
"I just fell in love with the kids, yet got kind of a birds-eye view with some of the struggles they go through," Larson said.
She said she and others at the church felt that the program was needed in the community. Larson said there are many families handling the issue and this program is for them.
"We just wanted to offer them something," she said. "Many times in the church, we'd love it if there was no such thing as divorce and kids that have to deal with that, but they do, and God loves them and cares about them and wants them to know that."
DivorceCare for Kids is a 13-week program for children aged 5-12 that meets weekly at the church, which is located at 1650 W. U.S. 6. The group of children and church volunteers meet at 6 p.m. and the program goes through 7:30 p.m., while divorced and single parents can also join in a class at the same time on-site.
Larson said the program is open to the public and that participants don't have to worry about joining in late, since the lessons covered can each stand alone.
Each week, the group uses a curriculum and structured activities on topics like fear, anger and forgiveness. The schedule includes journaling about the week, crafts, games, learning Bible verses and also watching videos to help them deal with different aspects of life.
She said DivorceCare allows kids to work through problems in their lives before they grow older, or, if they're not quite ready to do that, they can have fun with others.
"We really want to offer a place for these kids, before it comes to a crisis in their life, they can deal with this stuff," she said.
On a recent week, the topic was fear. The children watched a short video on how to manage their fear, made etch-a-sketches crafts out of paint in plastic bags and also were able to talk about their week with the group of volunteers. There are eight volunteers from the church that take part, and Larson said each had reasons for joining in the effort.
Volunteer Bonnie Joneson of Morris said the topic of divorce is close to home.
"I got involved because my grandchildren went through a divorce," she said. She wanted to help kids through a time in their life where they are impacted beyond what their parents see.
She said it can be difficult for parents to help.
Mary Motter, also of Morris, agreed.
"I just think that there's so many children from split homes, and they don't know the feelings that they have," she said.
As a stepmother, Motter sees the value in working with the kids through their emotions.
"I wish there would have been something like this for them," she said, of her stepchildren.
DivorceCare for Kids is open for local families that want to take part. The program is 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 6 at First Baptist Church of Morris, located at 1650 W. U.S. 6. For more information, call (815) 942-0812.