I found an article about the impact of “time outs” on kids the other day. It reminded me of the way shunning is used in unhealthy churches… and about getting kicked out and such. I know nothing about kids and discipline. But as far as church discipline goes… this makes a whole lot more sense than what I’ve seen.

The article encourages that time outs be “brief… and previously explained”. That got my attention. My mind jumped to the time outs I’ve witnessed as part of church discipline–being told not to do things, not to interact… not to come for a certain amount of time. The norm in my former church was six months. These were not “brief”, and were not usually explained in advance. Actually most “discipline” in my former church was sudden and vengeful, without any warning… and completely unanticipated because they had no basis in reality, but in suspicion, rumor, and gossip. This type of punitive time out in the article is defined as punishing, hostile, and humiliating, done in anger and frustration but with no goal of growth or learning.

The article states that time outs were intended “to help children calm down so they can reflect on and change their behavior as part of a larger parenting strategy…”  What if church discipline were intended in the same way? What if, if someone did wrong, they were “sat down” or “put out” in order to give them the opportunity to consider their behavior and change it, not through fear and shunning, but through love, support, and careful counsel? What if church discipline left those who must be disciplined and become repentant feeling loved and cared for rather than condemned? What if, as the article recommends for time outs, church discipline became a time of “reflection and conversation”, a time to consider spiritual and emotional states and reconnect, completed with a time of comforting, connection, and further reflection?

Time outs… being sat down or sat out. There are definite parallels.

Can you imagine making a mistake and instead of being condemned, rejected, gossiped about, and shunned–being loved, directed toward right, and reconciled?

Wouldn’t that have been amazing?