Leader's Insight: Kids and the Church's Dirty Laundry
Tight lips protect the family.
As a newlywed pastor more than twenty years ago, I learned I should not routinely dump all the problems of ministry on my husband. I think it was a wise decision.
Now our entire family is active in the church, including our two teenagers. It is important for me as a pastor to encourage each one to employ his or her gifts in specific areas of service. However, we do not make church issues and problems the center of our conversation at home.
In order to maintain appropriate boundaries of confidentiality, I limit my family's access to church information. I tend not to discuss church problems with my husband unless they directly affect his participation, or if I need his advice. We try to shield our children from any conversation about such problems, again, unless their participation in the ministry is directly affected.
We do, however, encourage our children to share with us issues they may have with peers or adults at church. I do not want my children in the position of defending Mom in a church conflict. Neither do I want them to hear any comment from me that would reflect negatively on any person or family in our church.
Spouse knows all, knows best.
I tell my wife most everything that's directed at me or happening in the church. She's been the best and most consistent sounding board I've known these past twenty-plus years as a full-time pastor.
After we got engaged, she told me that her mother had cooked and cleaned for a pastor and his family to help pay her way through college. Her mother said, "If you marry a pastor, be ready to see the worst parts of the church and life in general." I can't say with certainty that has been the case, but I don't hide anything from her (as long as it's not confidential). She's had to hear hard things, then have to act as if nothing's wrong on Sunday.
Lately, I've been thinking that we have to be more careful how we talk about problematic church situations at home since our 4-year-old daughter may get a warped view of someone. She might look like she's concentrating really hard on her coloring book, but she's listening. If we're not careful, she'll develop a low opinion of someone Jesus still loves. We should try to preserve her innocence for as long as possible, even if ours disappeared about two years after I got out of seminary!
Draw kids close to the adventure.
I don't shield my family. Obviously I don't tell them everything, but my two teenage children know what's happening.
We've had some painful experiences, but it's not the ugliness in church that hurts the children's faith. It's my response that strengthens or weakens their faith. My kids see inside me. They know if my response is genuine. If they see me react with integrity, their faith grows stronger.
Recently a friend shared with me the gossip someone was spreading about me. It was horrific. My 14-year-old son was standing there with me. Afterward, I said, "Hey, buddy, I'm sorry you had to hear that."
He said, "No, no. I want to ...