More importantly, talk to your children about these undue expectations. The truth is, they need to know that just because you are a pastor you do not expect them to be perfect. When our children do wrong, they are disciplined not because they are PKs but because that is what Scripture calls us to do as fathers. Your children need to understand that you disciple them so they will be conformed to the image of Christ, for the glory of God, not so they will be conformed to the whims of fellow sheep, for your own glory. Therefore, be careful not to fulfill your calling as a father because you’re concerned with your own self-image and reputation. Repent of comments such as, “How could you do that, don’t you know what people will say?”
Another way to protect your children (and your wife) is to minimize their exposure to the problems and difficulties within the church. Derek Prime shares from personal experience the importance of this:
I learned an important lesson when, as a young minister, recently ordained, I preached in a church in the north of England. The pastor and his wife had a family whose children were in their early teens. I knew a little about the church and some of the difficulties through which it had been passing. As we sat around the lunch table on Sunday, I asked a question about these problems. Immediately I felt a gentle kick on my ankle. My hosts gave a noncommittal reply and quickly changed the subject. Later when the children were not around they explained a principle I have never forgotten, and have tried to follow. They made a point of never discussing before the children any matters of difficulty within the church, or anything that might be interpreted as criticism of individuals. They did not want their children to grow up with a jaundiced view of church life because of the inevitable problems with which pastors have to deal.
My own experience suggests that this is a good practice.
However, I do want to qualify this. As your children reach the teen years, discussing with them public matters of difficulty and even personal criticisms of you and your ministry can be healthy. They need to know (and they likely already do) that life in church is not always easy, and at times can be downright miserable. Yet, fellowship in the body of Christ is of such importance it is worth the struggle. They need to see your willingness to forgive those who have wronged you and humbly love those who have criticized you so as to maintain the peace and purity of the church. It will not be long before they are making a decision to join a body of believers, and your example will be instructive when the cruelty of gossip, slander, and downright rudeness raises its ugly head.
When difficulties arise in the church, we need to be wise in how we involve our family. It would be counterproductive not to include them in some part of the process, particularly praying, but it would also be foolish to get them in the middle of it. For example, we must be sensitive to who can hear our conversation while on a phone call. You do not want your inquisitive teen or wife forming opinions, particularly in regard to people, based on part of a phone conversation. They do not need to know all the parties involved or the specifics, but they also do not need to put their head in the sand.
In many situations I want to keep my family uninformed for their own protection. This way, when they are confronted they can honestly say, “I do not know what you are talking about.” Members are often amazed that I do not tell my wife everything about conversations I have had, even in private pastoral matters. They assume I share everything. However, this is a violation of their privacy and unhealthy for my wife. On the other hand, when something is public, to act like they are not aware of it is blatant denial. Thus, you need to discuss with them how to interpret the events and when and how to respond. This can be a great opportunity for the family to apply the gospel in a difficult situation.
And that is the point. You have been given a great calling—to preach the gospel and to be an undershepherd of Christ’s church. But don’t forget to preach the gospel to yourself and to your family, applying it always, even when it comes to their relationship to the body of Christ. Being sensitive to these matters will allow you to be the protector of your family that God calls all husbands to be, including ministers.