The Fish Bowl4 min read

As a pastor’s wife and leader in the congregation, I know that people watch my family. They are watching what clothes we wear, what activities we attend or don’t attend. They watch at which service we worship, how our children behave in church and how we handle them when they misbehave. People watch us to see which songs we enjoy, if we raise our hands or not and so many other things.

It is true that being a leader in the church—and particularly the pastor and his family—puts us inside a sort of fish bowl. Being in the fish bowl causes me to struggle with the question: should I stand back and not allow myself to become part of the congregation or should I invest in the people and become vulnerable?

[Tweet “Should I stand back… or should I invest in the people and become vulnerable?”]

If I choose to invest and become vulnerable, I can find myself taking personally things that are said and done by the community. As I share myself with the community, it is easy to be hurt.

Last summer I met with a few ladies from our congregation. We read a book and, coming together about once a week, we shared our thoughts from the book. We spent time not only sharing about the book, but about our lives.

Summer came and went and some of those ladies made choices about where they were going to spend their time that were different from mine or from what I expected. I have to be honest—it hurt. I took it personally. I wondered if I said something or did something that turned them off.

Because I was invested in them, when they chose to leave groups we were doing together or even the church, I was hurt. I know their choices were not personal, but it still hurt.

[Tweet ” I know their choices were not personal, but it still hurt.”]

If I choose not to invest, it hurts the ministry and the people in that community. I never become a real person to the congregation and they are only objects to me. Bitterness and resentment creep into my life as I become angry with how much energy and time my husband seems to put into those objects.

So how do I hold both of these things in balance? I don’t want to be too far removed from the members so that I don’t show any interest or care in them as people, and I don’t want to be so close that I am hurt.

The answer is in Jesus. He is the Word that became flesh. He came to get personally involved in our lives. He did not stay removed from our problems, but took them as His own.

As He is shared between me and the community, we are able to view each other through His eyes: as His creation; as His love; as His people.

By sharing myself, my hopes, my fears, and my dreams, I become more than just the pastor’s wife. I become a real person and the people, in turn, are more than just objects to me. They are His creation.

[Tweet “By sharing myself, my hopes, my fears, and my dreams, I become more than just the pastor’s wife”]

In the same way that I share and speak Jesus to them, they do the same for me. They speak into the mess of my life because I have shared it with them.

Those same women were able to speak the Word of comfort and promise that is Jesus into my life as I watched my father struggle with cancer and fall asleep in Christ. Those women were there to cry with me, support me, love on me, and speak the promises of Jesus into my life in a time when it was hard to see or understand what was happening.

As I struggle with people looking at me through the fish bowl, I realize that I have the opportunity to share Jesus with them through my life. And, as I do that, they in return have the opportunity to speak Jesus into my life.

Miriam Rossow is a member of the Katie Conference Committee. This year’s conference theme for pastors’ wives and widows, and vicar and deacon wives is “The Word With Friends.” The conference will take place April 24-26 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bay City, Mich. For more information, or to register, visit

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About the Author

Miriam Rossow is a mother of four wonderful children and wife to Pastor Justin Rossow, who serves St. Luke, Ann Arbor. Miriam graduated from Concordia University Ann Arbor with a music education degree.

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