Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Big Fish…Little Glass Bowl

Written by: on April 11, 2024

I have mentioned in the past that I am a PK, my grandpa was a pastor, my uncle was a pastor, my brother-in-law is a pastor and sister a pastor now, my husband and I were pastors.  I have put a lot of thought into pastoral families, and while reading J.R. Woodward’s book The Scandal of Leadership it brought me back to all my thoughts on growing up in a minister’s home.  In my growing up years, there were 2 youth pastors who got into trouble…who fell.  One went to jail, and I have seen the devastating consequences he’s had on the lives of some of the teenage boys older than me. The other was a bit too handsy with the girls.  My sister was a part of this but had so much self-confidence that she walked instantly away from him but come to find out later that one of my friends was not equipped with the same level of knowing she was being groomed.  Her life has forever been changed as well.  Fallen and a path of destruction left behind.

Most of my life I was asked the following question when people found out that I was a PK, are you a “goodie two-shoes? Or are you a bad girl?”.  My reply was always, neither.  I went to church camp every summer where my dad was always the camp pastor.  My dad didn’t always have the wisdom to ask my permission to use me as a “sermon illustration”, I remember at this camp with hundreds of my peers, when my dad said, “Jana came out of the womb pooping, and Tarina (my bubbly and popular younger sister) came out talking.” Talk about formation issues!  When I went to the Christian college, everyone knew me, and my shy self knew few.  Once they got to know me out of the context of my family they told me how wrong they were about me, they thought I was a stuck up snob, when I was really just shy and slightly mortified by my dad.  I love and forgive him and knew when I married a pastor that I needed to also be “called” to this lifestyle and prepare my children for life in the fishbowl.

Coffee table overview

Woodward lays out in his book the scandal of leadership and the fallen.  He notes “High profile “fallen” leaders often share common characteristics, pride, manipulation, seeking status, isolation, a lack of community to hold them accountable, using status to push an agenda, love of the crowds, an abuse of power and role, a push to “succeed”, and a sense of self-importance.” [1] It can be intoxicating to have the power, to have everyone listening to you every word, to follow you and sometimes idolize you.  Having genuine friendships in a church as a pastor, especially if you’ve moved somewhere new, is extremely hard.  No wonder it can breed an environment of scandal.  However, what I know about pastors and their families is that they are human. “Life is a paradox. We are all a mix of good and bad; we are beautiful and broken.  We often have mixed motives. Sometimes, as leaders of families or churches, we become controlling.”[2]

Pastors and families as humans.

“Members of the minister’s family are expected to be spiritual and moral examples to the congregation.  The minister and spouse must have a model marriage.  Other couples within the congregation may confess their marital difficulties and perhaps even be praised for their openness and honesty in doing so. For the minister to acknowledge marital problems, however, may provoke disillusionment, anxiety, and doubts about the minister’s spirituality.”[3]  Are pastors and their families allowed to screw up? To be human?  What happens to the pastor when their child gets in trouble, or heaven forbid stop coming to church?  So much pressure.

Woodward addresses this humanity in leadership by revealing an encounter Walter Wink had with understanding scripture from a Jungian workshop.  He speaks of a workshop where he needed to “take the story of the healing of the paralytic in the Gospel of Mark and internalize it by creating a clay sculpture of one’s own inner paralytic”.  [4]  Wink was working was becoming aware of his own humanity and need to be in touch with his inner self. I wonder what my inner paralytic is, what is yours?  What paralyzes us?  What paralyzes our call as leaders?  I think this may be a key point for all of us as we face leadership and the pitfalls that can happen to us?  Are we paralyzed by fears of unworthiness? By inadequacy? By the desire to be loved or adored?  By the need to be the most popular in the room? The wisest in the room?  What is your paralysis?

How do we remain human in a fishbowl? Wink notes it’s simply to “imitate Christ. Wink makes a case that Jesus eschewed any pretentious titles and simply identified himself as the Son of Man”.[5]  Wink also notes “If we are to imitate Jesus and seek God’s domination-free order that Jesus was announcing, we should condemn all forms of domination, as Jesus did: for example,

  • Patriarchy and the oppression of women and children
  • The economic exploitation and the impoverishment of entire classes of people:
  • The family as chief instrument for socialization of children into oppressive roles and values.”[6]

To name a few.  We must take our leaders and ourselves off of the pedestal and embrace the humanity in each of them, and for the sake of the children who had no choice but to live in a fishbowl…let’s give them a break.  Life is hard enough without the eyes of sinless perfection being place on them or the perfection of marriage and parenting on the pastoral couple.

[1] Woodward, JR. The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church. ˆ (Wyoming, 100 Movements Publishing, 2023) xvvii.

[2]  Woodward, xxvii

[3] Lee, Cameron and Balswick, Jack. Life in a Glass House: The Ministers Family and the Local Congregation. (California, Fuller Seminary Press, 2006) 60.

[4] Woodward, JR. The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church. ˆ (Wyoming, 100 Movements Publishing, 2023) 65.

[5] Woodward,  91.

[6] Ibid, 91

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

22 responses to “Big Fish…Little Glass Bowl”

  1. mm Kim Sanford says:

    Jana, I’m struck by your whole paragraph that begins “Members of the minister’s family are expected to be spiritual and moral examples to the congregation.” It’s so true and just sets everyone up for heartache. What if, instead, ministers and their families were expected to be models only in being honest and facing up to their screw-ups in a Godly way? And maybe in asking for help when they need it? That seems like a model that would be beneficial for the whole church.

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Like Jesus surrounded by his disciples, don’t pastors need friendships too? I think that is a model I’ve not seen done very well because if you are a leader can you also be friends? How do you make friends? Are they part of the church? I think loneliness is the cancer of leadership.

  2. Scott Dickie says:

    Yes…and Amen! I am very grateful to have spent the past 28 years Pastoring in the same church, where the ‘pressure’ on the Pastor’s family was very minimal–no expectations of my wife, who had her own vocational calling as a counsellor, and our kids grew up fairly inconspicuous (one of the benefits of a larger church). Having said all that…it wasn’t until they were in their later teens and young adult years that they began to share some of the inevitable ‘pressure’ they felt growing up as a PK. Quite apart from any ‘comments’ related to their lineage…just the reality of growing up in a community where they were more ‘known’ or ‘recognized’ is, itself, a unique reality that my wife and I were likely not as attentive to as we should have been. Since these conversations began a few years ago….my wife and I have pondered how much a healthy church community that views their leaders and families as ‘normal disciples’ of Jesus would mitigate this negative experience of being a PK…..and how much, even in a healthy community, is simply an unavoidable and inevitable experience of growing up in a ‘fish bowl’…..much like other kids who have parents in public roles (politics, coaching pro teams, teachers at their school, etc..). What do you think?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Thank Scott! 28 years in one church and you are healthy is a feat! Amazing! I love how you said “normal” disciples. Do we also idealize the Bible? When we fail to read between the lines, we miss that everyone were normal, fallible people (except Jesus). Maybe we need to read behind the lines with our leaders…messy, ordinary people called to serve God and others! So glad you have such a healthy ministry and that your wife is happy in her call too! Well done good and faithful servant…:)

  3. Kally Elliott says:

    You’ve got me thinking about my own kids. Admittedly, I have used them in sermon illustrations without their explicit permission, though I have tried to be mindful of not sharing anything embarrassing, but mostly things that build them up. I have probably failed at that though. As they became teens I became more careful about any story I shared about them – but still, I should have only done so with explicit permission.

    Like Scott, I am grateful to have served in congregations and ministries that did not expect my family to uphold certain standards or even to attend. When my family did attend they loved them well (mostly), but as my family was not paid staff and had their own callings, they were not expected to be there. In the smaller churches I served we probably felt more pressure to “be involved” but in the church I currently serve my family rarely darkens the door and I have felt zero pressure for them to do so. That’s not to say people don’t ask and want to get to know my family but I never hear their desire to know my family as pressure to be at church or behave in certain ways. In fact, as I am reflecting on your post, I realize how supportive many in this congregation has been of me as a mother when I have lamented mistakes I have made and/or worry out loud about my kids. Many of them on the other side of parenting, having raised their kids, have a broad and spacious view of parenthood and what it means to be try to navigate the world as a young adult.

    Okay, that is too much for one comment on a blog post but you have me considering how grateful I am for Christians who don’t pressure clergy and families to be perfect but who accept them in their full humanity!

    You talk about Wink and his work on paralysis in leadership – I often get caught up in paralysis.

    I love getting to know you better through your posts. Also, I promise to try never to mention that you came out of the womb pooping. (I also really love this.)

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Kally, I am so grateful to hear how many pastors don’t feel the pressure of the fishbowl from their churches. That is so great and I am so grateful you have this and even more grateful your kids did not have pressure. Tell me more about paralysis? What makes you paralyzed?

  4. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Jana
    A great perspective. Thanks for sharing…You wrote, “We must take our leaders and ourselves off of the pedestal and embrace the humanity in each of them, and for the sake of the children who had no choice but to live in a fishbowl…let’s give them a break.”

    It is interesting, that although I was a missionary in Hungary and my kids are third culture kids (they think in both Hungarian and English) I can’t imagine them saying that they were MK’s.

    More like children held hostage by a retired Army guy.

    Yup definitely a hostage situation.


    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      I think all kids feel like hostages. But children of pastors and missionaries, etc.. are definitely defined by their parents professions more then anyone else. I always thought how difficult it is for a pastor to show up on their busiest work day and have their entire family there! What a weird concept most of us don’t have to experience.

  5. mm Tim Clark says:

    Jana, as always, insightful, encouraging and analytical post…. I love this:

    “However, what I know about pastors and their families is that they are human.”

    Yes, we are. But often instead of feeling free to express our humanity we have to bottle it up. Because I think a healthy pastor has to strike a personal balance between the sacred and profane (not profane like profanity but in terms of not-religious), but many people in the church only want someone who is sacred. And I sometimes think that’s because they are not so they want a pastor who can represent the holiness they can’t achieve themselves.

    I could go on, but you get it. Thanks for ‘seeing’ us pastors.

  6. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Hi Jana- What a great post. Thanks for sharing your experience which I fear, is similar to so many PK’s. I also really appreciated your call out of the paralysis we can face, and I it makes me wonder if there is an interconnectedness between our own paralysis and the cycle that reinforces the fishbowl dynamic you outlined? For example: as a congregant, can I have fears that reinforce my putting a pastor on a pedestal? Or, if I am in ministry, can I have a paralysis that creates a dynamic of separating myself from the congregation that prevents me from being seen as human?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Jennifer, yes to both of those! I wonder if it’s a vicious circle of paralysis. We all are paralyzed with our own imperfections that we idealize those who “seem” sinless and therefore are unable to allow these idealized people to be human because then we have to face our own humanity. How twisted is that? If we are a leader who is trying to get off the pedestal due to isolation, who can they trust with their heart and brokenness? No wonder it’s all getting messed up:(

  7. Adam Harris says:

    Great posts Jana, thanks for sharing that aspect of your life. There are some great reminders in here for us pastors and our kids. That pressure to meet everyone’s expectations and feelings of living in a fishbowl is real. Although I think these feelings will always exist to a degree while in ministry, the community where we serve now is very gracious to my family and I and were very thankful for that.

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      I’m grateful you are in a church that allows you all to be human. I also agree that there is no way out of the fishbowl. it’s a bit like being a mini-celebrity in a small microcosm. Even if parents don’t put that pressure on, we all know we are being watched.

  8. Hey young lady, thanks for sharing more of your story and what has shaped you. I have 1 easy question. How are those 2 former youth pastors doing now?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      One was, rightfully, in jail and I don’t know how he is doing or where he is. My dad may know, but I honestly don’t want to ask because it’s a painful time in our history. The other youth pastor was able to restore his life with his wife and find a way back into serving a church, I don’t think as a pastor, but involved. I was roommates in college with his victim and her life was not so neatly recovered… I think this is sometimes the unfortunate outcome, more attention is given to the leader and family, and the victim simply moves off the radar. I’ve lost track of her now, but wow.

      • Thank you sooo much for opening up an area of your life that can be a challenge to navigate. You are so right about people wanting or demanding the pastor gets help because it is so obvious that he needs it.
        The ones who get left behind are the children, the betrayed spouse, or the young girl who was deeply traumatized and manipulated. In my experience, recovery is tough and these ladies need a therapist who understands what sexual betrayal and manipulation does to the body and nervous system. It’s far more than just spiritual, because sexual betrayal changes everything about us. Fortunately, there is a growing movement of women who are seeking to help older ladies who were taken advantage of when they were younger.

  9. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. You wrote, ” Life is hard enough without the eyes of sinless perfection being place on them or the perfection of marriage and parenting on the pastoral couple.” How do you convey this to the congregation? This seems to be a big challenge for Church Leadership.

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Well, as you see by other people’s response, there are a few pastors who feel supported in this way by their churches. In my experience, I believe a crucial “committee” each church should have is a pastoral care committee, meaning a group of trusted people who can know and understand the pastor and their needs as well as their families. Advocate on their behalf. I have also heard that committee become the group to go to, to complain about the pastor so it’s a tricky affair, but having people whose task is to support the pastor? negotiating benefits and salaries and advocating for livable wages and so forth…I could keep going on.

  10. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Jana!

    What a brilliant and empowering post! You wrote, “To name a few. We must take our leaders and ourselves off of the pedestal and embrace the humanity in each of them, and for the sake of the children who have no choice but to live in a fishbowl…let’s give them a break. Life is hard enough without the eyes of sinless perfection being placed on them or the perfection of marriage and parenting on the pastoral couple.”

    I emphasize the ministry and family of a pastor which is often the center of attention of the entire congregation like a group of fish in a small fishbowl whose glass is very transparent. Being in that position must be very tiring!

    However, in your opinion, how do you balance pressure and relief for pastors and their families so that they can escape the shadow of “perfection” that is demanded by the people even though pastors and families are just ordinary people?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Honestly, as a PK, my parents never ever were the ones to put any pressure on me, but I don’t think they realized that I know how other people were being judged within the church when their child screwed up or the adult screwed up. I honestly believe it’s on extending grace to everyone, pastor included. It requires accountability and the support for when a pastor is human they can also be vulnerable… I wonder how we can have courage as leaders to model vulnerability in a way that can keep us safe and uncanceled, but allow others to also express their vulnerability?

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