[Instead of wasting this week with your children while they are out of school, please spend some time talking with them…and dealing with their spiritual struggles.]

Our church families are broken. And as I travel across the nation, what I see rather than efforts to heal and repair, are efforts to conceal and minimize. My interactions with Christian families and elders often peels back layers to reveal:

We have children using drugs and alcohol.
We have young people that have already mentally left the church.
We have youth who are growing up with a dulled conscience.
We have sons and daughters who are embracing a secular worldview.
We have children who are committing idolatry through their materialism.
We have young people committing fornication.
We have youth bullying or using profane language.
We have sons and daughters being arrested.
We have grandchildren addicted to pornography.
We have children who are worldly.
We have young people who have no problem lying to their parents.
We have sons and daughters experimenting with homosexuality.
We have children who do not sing during worship and look bored.
We have young people who are on their phones during Bible class and worship.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Sadly, these issues do not even include what is going on between the parents. Divorce, materialism, lying, and adultery are rampant—yes, even in the church. I’ll say it again: our families are broken.

Yes, these things are going on. But the question that I’m struggling with is: “What are we actually doing about it?” The honest answer is not much. Sure we have activities, VBS, retreats, and even some service projects. But the reality is we aren’t addressing the core of the problem—we are not rearing up children with a heart for the Lord. And add to this we have totally forgotten God’s command for church discipline.

My observation is that we are trying to “love” our children into the right behavior. As a result we have children that rule the house and have no fear of their parents. (And by default have little to no fear of the Lord.) Yes, we are to love our children—but a part of that love should be to love their souls enough to discipline them.
“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14).

Friends, wake up—there are souls at stake here! The souls of our children, grandchildren, and members in our church families.

It’s time we stop tip-toeing around and start dealing with some of these issues. It’s time the church get into repair business instead of the “program” business. It’s time we start addressing the heart. How ironic is it to see young people in a worship assembly wearing youth retreat t-shirts and yet they look bored and refuse to sing. Maybe it’s time we stop worrying so much about the design of the t-shirt and instead focus on what’s under the shirt—their heart!

It’s time we have family forums and Bible classes to help train parents how to raise children using Scripture. It’s time we humble ourselves and admit our families are not perfect. It’s time we roll up our sleeves and invest the time necessary to repair homes. It’s time we teach our children to blush again and weep over sin. It’s time we hold fathers responsible to be spiritual leaders. It’s time we acknowledge it is the parent’s responsibility to train up his or her own children in the Lord. The church should not be a welfare state where parents drop off their children to activities, and expect someone else to make their children faithful.

And finally, it’s time elders start addressing these issues among their flock. Yes, the preacher can address some of these issues from the pulpit, but it is not his job to fix it. It’s past time we employ church discipline—even to our young people. (If they are old enough to be “accountable,” make the decision to follow Christ, and be baptized, then they are old enough to be disciplined when their behavior brings reproach on the church.) If a parent gets upset because members or elders talk to their baptized children then maybe the parents should ask themselves soberly: Are they more concerned about their reputation than they are the child’s soul?

If someone in your congregation was in the intensive care unit (ICU) how would you respond? Every congregation I visit has families that, spiritually speaking, are in ICU. Yet, we continue to conceal and minimize. It’s time we treat and heal.

By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.