I Was Burned At Church

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The PK Problem

We’re a pastor’s kids and my brother really got the brunt of it.
All of his Sunday school teachers throughout his life seemed to
expect him to automatically be the best-behaved kid in the class
and to know everything about the Bible.

Teachers would always call on him to answer questions in class.
He’d feel stupid if he didn’t know the answer, and he felt picked
on by the teacher. This continued into youth group, and he really
hated it. He developed a resentment of Christian education. In an
effort to prevent him from really rebelling, my parents backed off
on their requirement that he attend all the youth group functions.
They still “made him” attend some things but tried to be
understanding about his desire not to go to other things. He made
it through okay and is now in college and spiritually doing well
because people there don’t know him as the PK.

What he really needed was just to be allowed to be a regular
kid. A kid who might misbehave sometimes (like most boys do). A kid
who didn’t want to be embarrassed. A kid who didn’t know
everything. A kid who wanted to blend in.

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Howling Hairdo

We’d just moved to Texas from California. The hairstyles were a
little different from state to state, and my son had a haircut that
fit well in the California lifestyle but was a little unique for
Texas. From the moment we stepped into his new Sunday school
classroom, all the boys laughed at him. The teacher tried to calm
them down, but the damage was already done.

Odd Man Out

I first made a faith commitment at a VBS program in a church
basement in Michigan, but this one particular year I wasn’t able to
attend the first day of the program. And that’s when the plaster of
Paris molds were passed out and filled. On the second day, it was
“paint the plaster cross” day and I had… well, nothing. I felt so
left out.

And because each day was planned as a specific step, the leader
just patted my shoulder, told me that it paid to come on the first
day, and appointed me as the Official Paintbrush Washer for the
rest of the week.

Off-Key

Our elementary church choir practiced after school, and we kids
were being a bit disruptive. So our choir director stopped us and
told us that something bad could happen to us if we continued to
talk because God was listening and hearing how bad we were being.
That was a harsh picture to paint of God.

Split Weekends

When I was 4, my parents got a divorce and shared custody of my
brother and me. We spent alternate weekends with each parent. On
Sundays with my mom, we would go to church. And on Sundays with my
dad, we’d go to the hardware store. I never liked Sunday school
because all the other kids seemed to know each other, and the
teachers knew all the kids except me. I assumed this was because I
didn’t go every Sunday like the other kids. And I never felt
accepted or welcomed by either the teachers or the students.
Finally I begged my mom so much to not make me go to Sunday school
that she had to take me into “big church” with her, and I never
went back to Sunday school again.

Think About It

My brother almost quit going to church because he strongly
questioned his Sunday school teacher about the theory of evolution.
She brushed him off casually at first, thinking she could just move
on and not address his questions. He pressed, and she proceeded to
call him a heretic and said he didn’t deserve to come to church if
he entertained such unchristian attitudes. This had a huge impact
on my brother concerning the expression of Christian love and
acceptance.

Shaken Up

A couple of other kids had probably been getting a little
rambunctious. That’s when the male teacher we had pretty much just
blew up. He grabbed me by the arms and shoved me up against a wall
hard, shook me, and snarled in my face that I better “shape up and
quit screwing around or else.”

No kidding! This is one of my prime memories from all my VBS
experiences when I was young-even surpassing the VBS programs where
they brought in live barnyard animals. Funny how a memory like that
can stick with you even into adulthood.

The teacher got in trouble for it, but nonetheless it dampened
my enthusiasm for VBS and church. And it left us kids a little
bewildered for a while.

Off Subject

While visiting new churches, my parents liked one church where
the people were extremely friendly. During my Sunday school class,
though, all we did was talk about basketball scores from recent
professional games. The kids and teacher even made bets on upcoming
games. It was all supposed to be fun, but there was no lesson or
sharing about God or the Bible-and I had no idea what to say during
those times since I didn’t follow this sport. I felt left out and
embarrassed-plus ripped off for not getting any lesson. I thought
my teacher must be one lazy guy! We didn’t go to that church for
long.

The Heavenly Ceiling

When I was in first-grade Sunday school, we learned about
Creation. I thought the adventures of Adam and Eve were great, but
when we went back and started getting deeper into the creation and
naming of all the animals, the bomb dropped. The teacher said God
would only allow “man” to enter heaven. I was crushed! How could
God have done that to me! It took a long time before I was able to
understand that the teacher meant “people.” I was pretty upset with
God for a long time for making me a girl!

Hellish Discipline

Our Sunday school class wasn’t always the most attentive bunch.
One Sunday our teacher, who happened to be the father of one of the
girls in our class, came in and announced that he wasn’t going to
teach the regular lesson. He then told us about the revelation he
had had that our class was all doomed to hell because we didn’t
give him proper respect. He went on and on describing the tortures
awaiting us in the afterlife and assuring us that our fate was
sealed. At the end of class he walked out, and we never saw him at
church again (thankfully). We were left in tears. It took us awhile
to get over that one, and we still talk about it to this day when
we get together.

Just Say Sorry

I still recall second grade when my teacher accused me of
stealing a book. I was flabbergasted that she would think I would
take anything. Anyway, she found the book, but she never apologized
for the accusation. It seemed like the “teacher is always right”
syndrome.

Roses With Thorns

A camp counselor told me that if I followed Jesus as my Savior,
I would notice an instant difference in my life. My problems and
trials would seem smaller, and I’d have fewer worries. Everything
would essentially be all rosy. So, he and I prayed together that
evening and I expected to wake up the next morning and my whole
world would be changed. Alas, I was still me!


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