My wife, Mary Bloebaum, is the director of youth and young adult ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Ill. The Lord has blessed us with four great years of marriage. Being married to a church worker, and in my case, to a youth director, is a rewarding experience. Mary and I both come from very strong Christian families where our parents and siblings were great role models for serving in the local church.
I am an accounting analyst and supervisor for a large company. Mary is in her eighth year in her present Call. Anyone who knows Mary understands that she loves her Lord. She is on her knees every morning praying for me and for all the youth with whom she works. I think of her as being on loan to me from God. She’s only with me for a short time. She’s His child forever. It’s my job to give her a safe haven and a place she can relax and re-charge.
Occasionally, I am asked, “What is it like to be married to a church worker?” Depending on the audience, I typically answer something like this: “It’s a wonderful experience to watch the Lord work through Mary and see the kids she works with develop a better relationship with Christ.” What I usually leave out is that it’s a profession that’s filled with the highest of highs and, every now and then, some deep valleys. I always enjoy when people at my job ask me what my wife does. When I tell them she’s a full-time church worker, I quite often get a deer-in-the-headlights look followed by a comment like, “Wow, that must be really fun, eh?” On my more courageous days, I try to use such moments as an opportunity to talk about Jesus. On days when I’m not so courageous, I say youth ministry is a lot more interesting than accounting and leave it at that. (I then walk away regretting a missed opportunity.)
When I talk with people about what Mary does, I find it hard to express how challenging the Lord’s work can be for a church worker. Don’t get me wrong, Mary loves what she does and so do I. But it can be very draining for both of us.
The highs are wonderful. Mary is very gifted both as a speaker and in one-on-one communication. She captivates people. It’s a wonderful thing to watch. She also really excels at serving. Mary is in her element when she is planning, organizing, and leading a mission trip. In these good times, I enjoy watching what the Lord does through her.
Early in our marriage, I tried to participate in as many events as I could. After a while, I started to feel some burn out, which can be a dangerous thing for the spouse of a church worker. It’s important that I keep a positive attitude about Mary’s work so I can be in a good frame of mind when she needs my help. To that end, I try to be a little more selective in my involvement to make sure that my attitude is where it needs to be.
The times that aren’t so easy come when Mary is confronted with the loneliness of leadership. Satan attacks everyone who tries to do the Lord’s work. Those attacks can take many forms, including but not limited to temptation, gossip, hurtful comments, even outright antagonism. Anyone who thinks church work is always fun and easy need only to look at Jesus’ life. He endured the attacks of Satan and humans many times over, even before that last week in Jerusalem. When Mary comes under Satan’s attack, my role is to be a listener, not an adviser. I am at my best at supporting her when I focus on listening to her, celebrating with her, even hurting with her at times. Sometimes the only thing I can do is point her to the cross and let her know that no matter what troubles she has, Jesus loves her and He will be glorified in the end.
Best of all, being married to Mary Bloebaum has given me an opportunity to see firsthand how the Lord works through those who truly want to follow His will. There is nothing better than watching the people she works with grow closer to Jesus.
My advice to any man newly wed (or veteran wed) to a woman involved in full-time church work is to make sure that you and your wife make time for each other. Church work has a way of dominating life, if you let it. Mary is very passionate about what she does and could think about it all day and night if she let herself. We try to be intentional about spending quality time together both inside and outside the church. I would also advise husbands of church workers to be listeners first and advisers last. When your wives ask for advice, give it, but don’t force it. Our spouses hear from people every day telling them what they ought to do. They don’t need us adding to the mix.
I encourage you to find a trustworthy mentor and learn everything you can from him. Having a safe harbor to share your feelings can be a very valuable tool. And pray for your wife. Prayer is not one of my strong points, but I definitely notice a difference when I actively pray for Mary and our marriage. Finally, enjoy the blessings of being able to assist a servant in the Lord’s ministry. The benefits are beyond imagination!