Life in the Fishbowl

You know, I don’t blog about this whole pastor’s wife gig a lot. I mean truthfully, there’s just not much to say. It is what it is. When Chip was in Seminary, there was a great group called Spouse Fellowship. We ate some great snacks, had some very giggly times, and were regaled with every pastor’s family vs. the parish horror story you can ever imagine. We heard about the WELCA who thought they had the right to use their key to unlock the parsonage and use the kitchen whenever they pleased and the young bride who was afraid to change the curtains in her bedroom because the bedroom looked out over the church, and the ladies’ aid had made and hung the curtains. We heard about families whose choices were under constant scrutiny, from family size to what activities they participated in outside of church, from politics to preschool choices. We heard about marriages that almost fell apart, and marriages that did fall apart, mostly due to the stress of the ministry.

And truth be told, we’ve been out “in the wilds” so to speak for almost 8 years, and it hasn’t been too bad. I mean, sure it would be nice to go to the grocery store without feeling like every time we pass a church member they weren’t checking out our cart, but for the most part we’ve had a pretty gentle introduction to life in the ministry. The church is beautiful, the people have been friendly and welcoming. They’ve embraced our children and mostly kept out of our personal decisions that have nothing to do with the ministry of the church, and I’ve been extremely thankful for that.

I have no illusions that a pastor’s family has any sort of a private life. I’m careful about what I say online and even more cautious about what I say in real life. I watch what I say in front of my children, knowing that even the most innocent of comments can be repeated in such a way that someone will manage to take offense. I long ago decided that the open book approach was going to be easier to maintain than the separate lives/secret alias approach.

Still, it gets hard sometimes. My children aren’t perfect, and even if we did practice corporal punishment, I don’t think I could bend them into being ideal pastor’s kids. My husband isn’t perfect. Heaven knows, I’m not perfect! It’s hard to see them criticized, to feel like people are combing through our lives and our words, written and spoken, looking for something juicy that can be taken out of context. It’s wearing to constantly feel like we’re being inspected, and even harder knowing that there are people out there just waiting for one of us to trip up. And while in some ways life as a pastor’s family has been easier than I dreamed it would be back when I was hearing horror stories in seminary, in other ways, it’s harder than I ever imagined. It hurts more than I ever thought possible.

And so, I would ask you, gently, to think about your pastor and his or her family. I would ask you to pray for them. I would ask you to help them. I would ask you that, if you feel God has laid it on your heart to criticize them, you speak the truth in love. Look after your pastor, and love him. Help make sure he’s taking care of himself. And most of all, remember that church isn’t about one person’s will or one pastor’s personality, but about the will and purpose of God.


  1. //

    I live next door to a pastor and his wife. I’ve never quite thought about that but then, I’m not a member of the church. They are the kindest, most decent people I’ve ever known but I’m thinking, after raising 3 sons, they probably had their challenges.

    I remember the day my daughter came home in a police car(nothing serious) and he was out there telling us not to worry and telling stories of the time his son came home in a cruiser etc. I wonder, I felt the judgement of the neighbourhood that day, how much deeper it cut and how much harder the judgement was for them.

    Great post!

    I hope people take heed.


  2. //

    People need to remember that we are all sinners, not one of us perfect. Pastors and families included:) I can only imagine feeling like everyone was watching and maybe judging. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. //

    As the wife of a former pastor I remember those days. Makes me really glad that I can now say “former pastor.” You’re certainly in my thoughts – it’s a tough line.

  4. //

    Or her [my minister is a woman] 😉

    I’m always hesitant to offer help, in some ways, because I figure in a congregation the size of ours [~300-400], she probably is inundated with offers of help. But maybe the opposite is true. Hmmm. She just had a baby, and is on maternity leave/sabbatical……

  5. //

    Thanks, all. It can be tough, but there’s a lot of joy in it as well. Maybe next week I should do a post about that. 😀

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