How to Talk to Your Children When Christian Leaders Fall

by Melanie | November 1st, 2013

How to talk to your children when christian leaders fallThis has been a pretty sobering week for many homeschool families. A very prominent leader and speaker in Christian homeschool circles confessed to an inappropriate relationship with a woman and resigned from his ministry and speaking engagements. As speakers ourselves, we and our children know most of the other families on the speaking circuit, so we realized we needed to address this with them.

How do you talk to your children when a Christian they know falls into sin? Here’s how we try to handle it.

Don’t ignore it. Children, particularly teens,  have a tremendous hypocrisy detection system. We need to be very, very careful that we don’t pretend to be without sin or pretend our leaders are without sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 When we sin, we need to confess it and ask for forgiveness, especially when our children are involved. If we don’t, we may save our pride, but lose our children.

Be frank. When Christians fall and it causes a stink, it’s often a sexual sin (or the beginnings of it). These sins tempt our sons tremendously. Don’t avoid an opportunity to show them the tragic consequences that can come from indulgence. Explain the cost in terms of shame, loss of employment, effect on family members, and the effect on testimony. Pray for the leader, his family, everyone affected by this tragedy. Hard as it is, it is a good thing for your children to see this pain because the enemy is whispering to them, “No one will ever know,” when he tempts them. Instead, they need to understand that sometimes practically the whole world will know and in the end, God always does know.  This is why we love accountability software for our computers – it teaches our children that someone will know. Please protect your children. Internet filth is a primary way sexual sins get a foothold.

But, how do you explain something like this? In this case, it’s not too hard, “He had a romantic relationship with someone other than his wife. That’s not right. We are supposed to be faithful to our wives and family.” In other cases, it may be more challenging, but your guys can really benefit from the warning.

Bible bread-of-life-316287-mBe humble. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 Better Christians than we are have fallen into sin. We really can’t afford to be self-righteous and neither can our children. Make sure you express to them that we are every one of us susceptible to sin and have to be careful. Pride is a huge danger for all of us. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

And, if you disagree with or dislike the leader who has fallen, be especially humble. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. Proverbs 24:17

Address their grief and anger. As we talk about in our book, everyone craves heroes, especially boys. We want someone to look up to, someone that can be an example to us. When we realize those heroes are fallible, as we all are, it’s hard enough, but when they do something repulsive to us, it can really shake us up. There are a lot of twenty-somethings and teens who are grieving and stewing and rethinking everything. Their idealism is taking a huge hit and that’s a hard thing. We need to come alongside them and help them make sense of this.

We’ll need to talk through whether this affects what they’ve been taught and what they believe. Remember, just because someone hasn’t followed Biblical principles they teach doesn’t necessarily make those principles wrong. On the other hand, if there is error, either in what has been taught or in your expression of it, confess it. We don’t lower ourselves in our children’s eyes by saying, “I was wrong,” because sooner or later (usually sooner) they’ll realize it for themselves. When we tell our children when leaders are right in some areas and not quite right in others, we’re not teaching them to despise them, we’re teaching them to not put any man on a pedestal above the Word of God. No man should be made an idol – and most teachers don’t want to be!

When our children get angry and say, “How could he?” we need to remind them that we are all sinners. David, a man after God’s own heart committed adultery; Peter even denied Him. We need to pray and pray hard that God would keep us from sin. Don’t made excuses for sin, though, and don’t try to soften it. Sin is ugly and evil and this kind of heartbreaking situation ought to make us hate it!

Remind them that though battles seem to be lost, the war is won. It’s hard to see much upside in the sin of Christian teachers being exposed. We need to remind our children that God is holy and that He has his own purposes. It may be hard for us to understand why He allows things to happen, but we need to trust Him and to remember that He wins in the end.

Pray for those leading and teaching. Our enemy delights to bring down leaders. We need to be praying for their protection. Seriously. Really praying. It’s hard not to be proud when people are praising you. Pray, pray, pray for those in authority over you, for those teaching you, for those whose books and work are blessing you. They really need it and our children need to see it, too.

Galatians gives us the pattern for this very situation. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Galatians 6:1 Gentleness. So, any talk on this matter needs to be gentle, humble, honest, and Christ-centered. Keep your eyes on Christ, not on us or on anyone else teaching or writing. Just on Christ who died for you.

Share the gospel with them. Whatever direction you take in this discussion, don’t neglect to tell your children that Christ’s blood covers this, too. We have all sinned. None of us is righteous and God is holy and cannot condone sin. Thankfully, He has provided a sacrifice for us. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 What hope lies in those words!

UPDATE 11/5/2013: Since we are acquaintances with the family involved, we intentionally left the names out of this article, not wanting to add any more to the grief and notoriety the wife and children are suffering already. However, some of our readers were concerned to know the situation which prompted this article, and when they searched online, learned the news from some pretty unpleasant sources. Since there was a public confession and letter of resignation, you can read it directly here if you need that clarification.

Hal and Melanie Winter


May the Lord keep us all from sin.

Yours in the battle,

Hal & Melanie


8 Responses to “How to Talk to Your Children When Christian Leaders Fall”

  1. It’s also a chance to remind our children that it’s never too late to repent. That is one of Satan’s great lies- that we have just messed up too much that we have no chance. Through the grace of Jesus Christ and his eternal love for us, He ALWAYS wants us back, no matter how horrible our sins. Furthermore, it is imperative that we have a testimony of principles and of Christ that stands on its own and isn’t founded on another fallible mortal.

  2. You know, that is so true. I think I’ll go back and edit a bit!

  3. Hal and Melanie, You’ve done a good job of helping us all through this. I’m sure everyone can sense you put some thought into this topic. As you stated, we have to be “real” about this in our own families because someday it may hit closer to home and everyone is going to need an anchor. A situation like this is difficult enough, but try tragic situations getting closer to home and our perspective can really get clouded.

    The problem with something like this is you may never see it coming from a mile away, unless there were warning signs. On one hand, we must show proofs of what the Scriptures say about a brother or sister caught in a sin. On the other, we must also point out that if someone has truly repented and is going through whatever process that would be outlined for restoration, we must recognize this to bring a brother or sister back to their family.

    Too many times American Christianity has witnessed leaders that became arrogant and ignored accountability or protections that maybe even they, themselves, have put into place. We cannot condone the behavior, as well, there will almost certainly be consequences, whether it’s the condition of the “other man or woman” and their family, or our own families, the friendships and church families, let alone business relationships.

    All these things are difficult. The book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes has so much to say, as well as the Psalms. We must understand we cannot walk casually with the Lord, for He knows and sees all.

    Lastly, I was just sent a pre-publish copy of John C. Maxwell’s newest book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. In it, he outlines some of his most embarrassing moments in his life, as a leader to leaders. I’ve read John’s materials for years but have rarely heard the frankness he delivered in the first chapter. One thing struck me that he said: “None of us does life so well that we are far away from doing something dumb.” That resonated with me because of some difficulties I am going through in life, presently. I offered some of John’s words to Doug, in a loving pledge to pray for him and his family.

    Hal and Melanie, I really appreciate your ministry, and especially because of all the things you have been through with health.

    Thank you for appropriate words for all of us to consider during these trying moments.

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughtful remarks, Mark. I completely agree. We’ve been praying for Doug and Beall and the children, too, and will continue. I’m going to check out Maxwell’s book – sounds great.

  5. Thank you for your gracious and truth-filed response in this sad situation.

  6. I appreciate your not glossing over a very serious situation, but speaking of it truthfully, yet graciously, not covering up, but exposing without naming names. I know we spoke of my son’s situation at the recent conference, and am praying for more discernment in all things…and praying, praying, praying for those the Lord has raised up in various ways, as they are only mere men(women), and not Christ. Thank you, Melanie.

  7. Thank you, Hal & Melanie –
    We just had this discussion with our (teenaged) children, and we were so blessed to see them respond first with shock, but then with a desire to pray and see restoration. Thank you for sounding a clarion call to the basic Christian principles of repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. God truly can use even this!

  8. Thank you for this. Families in ministry are attacked from so many sides…. Thankfully we have a Savior to get us through it all when things get bad. My Dad was in full-time ministry with the Navigators, Promise Keepers, as well as Men of Integrity. He took his own life after marital and other family problems. He could not see clearly and no one really knew. (This makes me skeptical of many ministers and churches….because I know the image they portray is rarely real. It gets to be a rehearsed ministry and loses its focus, which is not about us.) I was suspicious one day after the “finalizing things” conversation we had. Thankfully, it was a happy moment to have becasue he kept saying how proud he was of me… I alerted my mom, but she was not in any condition to do anything or think clearly. Even the men in his men’s ministries were shocked. I do not live in the what-ifs because they will drive you mad or insane. It drew me so close to my Heavenly Father which I am thankful for. God has allowed me to experience so many different thigns and find I can relate on some level to almost everyone. Maybe there is a reason. I try to encourage and minister to others like my Dad spent his life doing. Sometimes we are not able to help ourselves like we have spent out life helping others.

    I will see my Dad again someday and I have always known he loves being in Heaven. It is a wonderful place and that is why some Christians, so distraught with their current situation, lose focus and in one sense, cheat to get their sooner (an act of our gift of free will).

    MY POINT is to encourage EVERYONE (all of us) to pray for the Youngs, for Ken Ham, and all the other wonderful missionaries. Pray for God’s will to be done and that He be glorified in reaching the lost, saved, stumbling, and searching. Afterall, we all NEED Jesus. We start to see ministers as some form of perfection… Not so! We all need Jesus and a Heavenly focus, never on man.

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