Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Disobedient Children and Meetings with the Pastor

On our very first Sunday at the church, I recall being in the nursery with my baby.  A sweet teenager was helping with childcare and she told me in a matter-of-fact way that she was going to be having a meeting with the pastor.  She was going to be baptized soon.  I remember smiling and thinking how sweet that was until she volunteered that all kids have meetings with the pastor at one time or another.   I asked her why all kids usually have meetings with the pastor and she told me that kids who get into trouble are brought in to the pastor's office.  She mentioned that this was her 4th meeting with the pastor, but at least this time it was for a good reason and she seemed excited about that.  

The meeting regarding baptism seemed perfectly normal to me, but as I looked at this sweet young lady, I couldn't help but wonder why she had met with the pastor three times before.   She did not seem at all like someone who was difficult to deal with.  She was thoughtful and respectful to me and had a bubbly personality.   It didn't make sense.  And it also puzzled me that she volunteered this little bit of information on our first Sunday.

I had to ponder this thought:  would my kids ever do something to that level to necessitate a meeting with the pastor?  Probably not.  Our kids weren't perfect, but had never caused any sort of trouble that would need to be dealt with by a pastor.  To be honest, it made me wonder if this church was a good environment in which to raise our children if so many teens were having discipline issues requiring meetings with a pastor.

That little meeting on our first Sunday faded into my memory for quite some time until I heard about other incidents in which teens were brought in to meet with the pastor. 

Unfortunately, it turned out our family was not exempt from these meetings.  I recall my nearly 21-yr old daughter having a meeting with the pastor after she had been associating with an "unsavory" male whom she met at college.  We had told him about their relationship.  The meeting lasted for hours.  Scripture was read over and over showing how she had sinned.  There were tears, there was anger, it was not a pleasant experience.  I left the meeting emotionally beaten down and can only imagine how my daughter felt.  But because the pastor was involved and we trusted him, we convinced ourselves that we were doing the right thing. 

There was also the other meeting that I previously blogged about (a technical problem erased the blog post, but you can read my daughter's Google review here).  This same adult daughter was forced into a meeting with the pastor, church leader, close friend, and parents.  She didn't want to be there.  We all sat in a circle and I imagine she felt physically trapped.  We were advised to remove her cell phone, have her quit college, quit work, not allow internet use, so that she could use the "free" time to turn her life around.  This was not grace.  This was a berating.  Scriptures were read repeatedly to show how she was in sin.   And once again, it was a long meeting.  

In talking with others, the meetings our daughter endured were normal.  Typically a parent was present and meetings lasted for literally hours.  Scriptures were always used.  Strong emotion was present, sometimes with the pastor pounding his hands on the table for emphasis.  Voices were loud and intimidating.  

Just as the young lady warned me about this on our first Sunday, I've been told that other congregants actually warned new attenders about this practice.  It was an accepted practice and parents went along with it because it seemed the right thing to do.  If a pastor, man of God, is encouraging this, how can it be wrong?  

Looking back, it is my opinion that allowing the pastor to speak with our children in those meetings with that kind of emotional and spiritual intensity for that length of time was not the best thing to do.  In fact, in our family's situation, I believe it was the wrong thing to do.  I feel guilty that two of my adult children endured those meetings.  

God has given parents the responsibility to raise our children, not pastors.  Pastors are to be shepherds, not authoritarians.  It is completely appropriate for pastors to give guidance and suggestions to parents on how to deal with discipline issues, but not to berate, spend literally hours, raising voices, pound hands on table, read scripture after scripture showing our kids they are in sin.  That feels abusive.  It does not take hours to tell someone that their behavior was wrong.

I found it very helpful to discuss this situation with my daughter even years later.  I apologized to her and she was so gracious to say that she understood that we were only doing what we thought was best. 

Our children are a blessing from the Lord.  We don't need this kind of thing from the past to pull us apart and unfortunately, because we felt sucked into this environment, we may have made wrong parenting choices.  Some of us may have unfinished business (and I may not be done yet).  Let's deal with that.  Let's love on our adult kids - even ones who may not be going down a path that we would have chosen for them.   Some may have chosen the paths they are taking because of the unhealthy church environment.  I can't think of a better time to extend love and grace to them, certainly not shun them or exclude them from our lives.  

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4


  1. This is heartbreaking. As an adult, I endured such a meeting regarding my friendship with a shunned previous attender so I can picture what you went through. I was unaware that this was standard practice for the children/teens of the congregation. This treatment is nothing less than abuse.

    1. I'm sorry to hear you experienced it, too.

      I feel bad for anyone who had to endure a meeting like that. I witnessed enough with my adult children and then the 11 hours with the pastor/elders before we left to know that no good can be accomplished in those meetings. And why are those meetings so long? What purpose does that serve? Drilling into someone over an over again does not create an environment conducive to behavioral or heart change. There is no effective change when one is forced to change.

      Does this church have more people on the shun list than the non-shun list? Makes me wonder.

  2. I sure hope the people still in that place WAKE UP and GET OUT. The sick thing is they probably know something is wrong but are too afraid to leave. Like those of us that used to be there most of them have probably endured these types of meetings. People, IT IS NOT NORMAL to have a pastor running all the details of your life. Many of us that God has graciously delivered are praying for you. We know you shun us but we LOVE you.

    1. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I have so enjoyed getting back in contact with former members who were once shunning us. It is amazing to experience the grace and freedom. There is forgiveness and tears, but it is so sweet because we all share a similar story and have understanding.

  3. This happened to my teenage and adult children as well. As I read this I cry for the abuse I allowed my children to endure because I was doing what I and my husband thought was the right thing to do at the time. Currently none of my sons go to church, the humiliation and shame they were put through was just plain wrong and very damaging to their self-esteem. Shame is never the answer to change hearts, love is the answer, ultimately Christ...the perfect example of love. After attending this church for their whole lives and being shunned at the end have left them confused to say the least, and refusing to attend church today. I understand, it has taken me over 3 years to even begin to connect with church myself. Even now, I am not the same person I was. God is healing but it has been the HARDEST time in my life. I pray for my family daily~that Christ will heal their broken hearts and renew their love for Him. May God's grace redeem the years that were lost.

    1. These wounds go so deep, don't they? It's not just as simple as going to another church. There is a healing process for all, including our children.

      I think the toll it played on my children's lives is the most difficult pill to swallow as a mother and you and I can really relate with that.

      I will pray for your family, too. You are not alone, friend!

  4. Once our Pastor told my single mother to put my sister & I on phone restriction & to take all the phone cords out of the house with her when she left for work. She did & thank God there was never an emergency. While he was giving my mother that bad advice his daughter that was in high school with me was caught drinking alcohol in school & was suspended. She never took his advice again. Use your own discretion when it comes to disciplining your children.

  5. I was already on your side of this mess, but this? Oh. No way is this okay. Take her out of college? Make her quit her job? And what? Lock her in the basement?

    Horrifying. I have been fortunate enough to not encounter such a situation in my life. By the same token, there has only been one church I attended in all my 47 years that touched my heart and led to me KNOW Jesus. Since then, it's all just shine. I attend now and then, but I don't have to attend church to walk with Jesus every day. He loves me whether I'm in a building with a leader and congregation, or in the woods behind my home, walking along the river.

    How scary for your family. Many blessings to you all as this continues on.

  6. For heavens sake...you made a choice to attend a strict biblical based church. Now you are whining about that choice...and pointing fingers at those who took you under their spiritual care. It is a free country, no one forced you to choose that church. Get over it and move on.
    Attacking the church leadership is typical of those who "come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves". You are walking on dangerously thin Spiritual ice.

    1. She is lighting the dark path so that others clearly see what is at the end. I will wager your pastor does not show video of his discipline sessions when he meets with prospective members, nor does he tell them what colors are appropriate to wear. One should have the truth so that they may discern if the church is right for their family. And belittleing and condemning her is a mean defense mechanism...someone seeking after God's own heart would simply pray for her to see the light.


Please refrain from using "Anonymous" as your user ID. Instead, click on Name/URL. In the "name" field, type your pseudonym, ie, Fred Flinstone.

You may leave the URL field blank. Thank you for commenting!

I reserve the right to remove or not publish disruptive and/or rude comments.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.