It's Time to Close the Church Doors - Article by Barrington H. Brennen


Itís Time to Close the Church Doors
By Barrington H. Brennen

2005, 2020

Dear Sir: My son and his wife are always going to church. They are involved in a church activity every night of the week. Their small children are suffering for lack of attention. I am also concerned about their marriage, which seems not to be so healthy these past months. I am concerned because it seems they have become so busy working for the Lord that they are neglecting to nurture their own souls. What can we do about it? Signed: Concerned Grandmother.

Answer: Dear Concerned Grandmother. It is true too many of us are so busy going to church and are so involved in church activities that we have neglected to care for our own souls. We are so involved helping others, until we have lost the intimate connection with Jesus. The devil is smart. He knows that one of the most effective ways to weaken Christians is to trap them in doing so much good until they end up being good for nothing.

Too many of our families are not setting their priorities straight. They put church above family, and career above relationships. Yes, God should always be number 1 in our lives. However, too often many do not understand the difference between having a healthy personal relationship with God and having an involvement in church activities. Some parents literally drag the entire family out of the house every night of the week to some church activity. This is certainly proving to be unhealthy for the spiritual, physical and psychological well-being of growing children and married couples.
Research now tells us that this generation of adolescents is the most sleep deprived ever. It is because they are up too late watching TV or do not have a balanced lifestyle. Small children need at least 13 to 15 hours a sleep a day to grow healthily. This is why they need to sleep 1 to 3 hours during the day. Young babies less than six months need between 18 and 23 hours of sleep a day. Children in primary school between ages 5 and 8 need at least 12 to 15 hours of sleep a day. Parents are you allowing your children to get sufficient sleep each day?

This is a diabolical attack on the Christian family. It is now time for families to decide which days of the week they will keep the church doors closed in their mindís eyes. While I served as a school counselor, I met many children who were suffering academically and socially simply because their parents took them to church every night. They would come home from the meetings way past the normal, healthy bed time, and could not get sufficient rest before they had to rise early the next morning to go to school. They were often sleepy in classes, edgy, and nervous. Their school work performance was poor. What kind of image will these children have of God? Sometimes their parents are also shouting at each other, and it is all because they would not pause to take time to rest.

I have conducted many marriage seminars for churches and institutions. At each seminar I asked the couples to complete a marriage survey. Each time more than 70 percent of the couples indicated that being "too busy" was a serious challenge in their relationship.

Unfortunately, many pastors are to blame for this poor family behavior among their own church members. They make their members feel guilty if they do not show up to every function. They pressure them to believe that true service for God is only shown when you are physically present at every meeting called by the church. They make their members believe that if they are spiritual enough, they would have no pain and all their needs will be met. Through their own subtle tactics of control, these all-powerful, all-knowing spiritual leaders, whip the wan of guilt over their membersí heads by telling them "If you were out last night to the revival you would not have the pain you are experiencing."


Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, both Christian psychologists, authored a book entitled "12 Christian Beliefs that Can Drive You Crazy." In Chapter 1 they talk about the false assumption of Christianity: "Itís selfish to have my needs met." Let me share with you the opening story of the chapter they used to introduce the topic.

"Exhausted and lonely one Monday afternoon, Sarah reached over and switched on the radio. It had been a rough weekend. Every request she made of the children had turned into a battle, and her husband had remained planted in front of the television. She couldnít recall if he had said a caring word to her or the children all weekend. It was like the old joke, she thought "Ask me how my day was," say the comedian. "All rightĖhow was your day?" "Donít Ask"

It was a bitter joke for Sarah. She didnít even want to think about how depressed she was. Maybe the radio would help. She flipped through the newspaper for the dayís radio listings. The topic on the Christian station was, "Help When Youíre Down." She recognized that speakerís name; he was a local, well-respected pastor. She tuned in to the station.

". . . so youíre down, troubled, lonely, youíre under crushing pressure. You wonder sometimes if things will ever change for you." "Is he reading my mind?" thought Sarah. He was describing her very feelings at the moment. He understood. "My friend, thereís an answer for you from the Word of God." Biblically based teaching was important to Sarah.

"The answer," said the pastor, "is to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others. Just as our Lord thought not of himself, but emptied himself for others, we will find joy in self-sacrifice and service. Get off the pity pot."

Sarahís heart dropped. "Peace in sharing? Iíve been sharing myself all weekend, and Iím in pieces, not at peace." She had no sooner formed these resentful words in her mind, that she immediately felt guilty. After all, the pastor was quoting the Bible. "I guess heís right," she told herself. "Iím just being selfish." She reached for the church bulletin to see what additional committee she could volunteer for. Maybe in serving more, sheíd find the happiness she longed for. But she was beginning to despair of ever being happy, and ever feeling satisfied about herself and her life.

Every day, well-intentioned Christians listen to messages similar to the one Sarah heard. That messageĖ"Stop thinking of your own needs"Ėis taught by sincere well-intentioned Christian teachers who only want to help people obey the Savior. The problem is that itís not a biblical message. Could this be the message many parents are hearing why they refuse to stop and care for themselves and their families?

We can be very active in church. We can even try to be nice and helpful to all we meet. However, the most helpful people in the world are those who have been helped. As Dr. Clouds writes it: "The most comforting people in the world are those who have been comforted; the most understanding people are those who have been understood; and the most loving people are those who have been loved."

Dear parents, please stay home tonight with your children. Give them time to grow and enjoy life. Provide for them the environment that has a healthy balance between leisure time, church, and school work. Remember, you can be so busy "working for the Lord" that you can destroy your relationship with him and your family. Some Christian husbands and wives are so holy and heavenly they are of no earthly good to their spouses. "Letís stay home to night baby." It is certainly time to close the church door and stay home to nurture your soul.     

I encourage you, as a dear Christian yourself, to keep your children in prayer, but do not get overly involved in their lives. However, it is good to take the time and express your concern to your son about his over-involvement in church activities and what you have observed about the affects it has on the children. Then, after you would have done that, leave them alone and pray for them as much as you can.

Too often I meet individuals who have misplaced priorities. In our society it is not uncommon for parents to put children above their spouses or church involvement above family life. We must learn how to set our priorities. What should be on our list of priorities? Here are a few things we can consider: career/job, spouse, education, church, children, God, friends, and extended family. Out of these items, which one should come first? As expected, no one would have a problem agreeing that God should always be Number 1 in our lives. However, what comes next is the problem. If the person is married, the next on the list of priority is the spouse, or his or her marriage, followed by the children. Note carefully that the church isnít mentioned yet.
First of all there is a difference between having a personal relationship God and being involved in church activities. Although they are both important, they are both separate entities in our lives. Many think that if they know God, then He expects us to "sacrifice everything" for Him. They say "if we make an honest sacrifice for God, he will never forsake us, and all our needs will be met." This is a myth. Usually children suffer the most with this type of philosophy. One of my favorite authors, Ellen G. White, an inspired, non-professional expert on family life, makes an important statement on the subject. She states:

"Every family is a church over which the parents preside. The first consideration of the parents should be to work for the salvation of their children. When the father and mother as priest and teacher of the family take their position fully on the side of Christ, a good influence will be exerted in the home. And this sanctified influence will be felt in the church and will be recognized by every believer. Because of the great lack of piety and sanctification in the home, the work of God is greatly hindered." Child Guidance Page 549

Note the emphasis in Ellen Whiteís statement. She makes it clear that if parents place their family life and children the Number 1 priority, children would grow up in a better environment that will also influence the church life. Note it is not the other way around. Families make up churches and not church make up families. In other words when there is strife in the home, it is seen in the church. In fact there is no strife in the church that did not start in the home. If we would understand this concept, parents would be more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home with their children.

Little children cannot grasp the concept of an invisible, all-powerful God who is up in heaven ministering on our behalf. Therefore, parents stand in the place of God to their children. The childrenís concept of God will be gathered from the relationship their parents have with them. Either they will grow to think of God as a rigid and a unkind taskmaster, or they will believe he is a companionate, merciful, and kind God. It all depends on the parentsí attitude. Dragging the children to the church and forcing them to participate in every activity can certainly lead the children to think of God as their enemy instead as their friend.

Letís not forget that

"The family is key in its significance because it is the place where relational skills are learned well or poorly. And if the family is the social organization in which these skills are learned first, then the family becomes central to the process of disciple making. It is a place where disciple like relationship skills are learned and it is a primary group in which disciple making takes place." Guernesy, A New Design for Family Ministry, Page 11

With this in mind, we cannot forget that in order for parents to be good mothers and fathers they must first be happy husbands and wives.

"This would mean that the marriage comes first, even before church activities. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work, and play, all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. The stronger the basic unit, the stronger the rest of the system."

Dear reader, if you are married, engaged, or a single parent, take a pen and paper, and make a list of the priorities in your life. I have a sample list a few paragraphs above. However your list may differ. After doing so, rank them based on their importance in your life. See which one comes first and which ones come last. To make it more meaningful, husband and wife can each make a separate list, and then compare their answers and discuss the differences or similarities. Note also that your priority list will differ according to your own unique situation. For instance, if you are a single parent, your would not have spouse on it, and you might rank your children as number (after God) in your life.

It is imperative to understand that although there can be variations in the ranking of the priority list by each individual, yet always your relationship with your most immediate family members (spouse and children) should always come before any other relationship, activity or event.

One effective way to keep the family, and not the church first in your life is to have "couple night" one night a week. If there are children, there should also be "family night." The couple should select a night that they would dedicate to themselves with no interruptions or interferences from relatives or friends. They can go out to the restaurant, walk down a famous street, walk on the beach, visit a garden, watch a movie together, etc. Whatever you do, it is your night to be together. Then in addition to that, if children are in the family, there should be a night dedicated to full concentration on the children alone. Wonderful activities can be planned, and it could be a joyous time for the children.
Parents, let us help make our country a peaceful and happy one by placing our family and marriage relationships top on our priority lists of our. Our children need us close to them. Unfortunately, although the church may demand that you attend every activity, remember, the church may not be there when you are down and out. Take the time to cherish relationships close to you. Take the time to pick the roses now. Stay home tonight.  


Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.  Send your question or comments to or call 242-327-1980 or visit the website





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