Don’t Use Church As a Punishment Tool | Dear Parents #3

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I came across this series of letters to parents the other day and found them insightful and helpful. Here is letter #3:

Dear Parents,

You love your kid. That much is obvious by your willingness to set rules and then hold your children to obedience to those rules. As a pastor to children, I commend your commitment to follow-up your parenting rules with consequences for disobedient actions. Consequences are good things.

However, suspending your child from church is not a good consequence. It sets the wrong precedent. Well-meaning as it is, for many reasons it is the wrong consequence. Obviously it’s a different scenario all together if your punishment is to suspend them from a lock-in, extracurricular activity, or other church-related activity. But when the church doors are open to teaching, mentoring, accountability, and the right kind of Godly relationships…please don’t keep your child from this as punishment.

This what I normally hear in the “witholding church as punishment” dialogue:

“[Insert Name] was not obedient at school this week, and so I told him he has to sit with me in the sanctuary. I know he really loves church, and I just couldn’t let him attend with all of this bad behavior recently.”

What is wrong with this statement? Here is what you are basically saying to them:

You aren’t good enough to go to church, and I will use the adult service as punishment for your crimes.

Why is this bad? It’s bad because you are telling you child a few things when you do this. You are telling them that:

  1. Adult Worship service is boring and is a worthy punishment. // Your adult worship services may indeed be boring, and if they are I hope that you work to make sure that you find a place to worship that isn’t boring. When you this strategy as a punishment, you are telling your kid that church is something to be “suffered through.” Why would you want to make that impression on your kids? That’s right, you wouldn’t.
  2. Learning God’s Word is NOT something important. // I know, I know…you think this is crazy and believe that God’s Word is important. But when you deny your child the opportunity to learn God’s Word from godly people who have prepared all this week for the moment that your child would experience on their visit…you are communicating to your child that the lesson he would have learned is not valuable or life-changing.
  3. God doesn’t want you when you’re disobedient. // This might be a stretch, but hang in there with me on this one. When you punish disobedience by witholding opportunities to learn about God, you are tying obedience/disobedience with God’s acceptance of us. Our Father in heaven has promised to forgive us of ALL confessed sin, and he has said that nothing will ever separate us from his love, and he has said that he has redeemed us from our past mistakes by sending his Son to pay the price for our sin. I say all that to say this…please be careful how you represent the most grace-giving, loving heavenly father in your discipline to your children.

I know that you love your kids, and you are trying to do your very best to lead them spiritually. But from your Children’s Pastor’s heart to your heart let me please remind you that there are many, many, many more creative consequences for disobedience. May I suggest suspension from television, video games, sporting events, after-school snacks, and I could go on and on and on?

Sincerely,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor

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