It’s 2:00 a.m. on a Friday night/Saturday morning and my husband is not home yet. I checked our bank account this morning and I saw all the restaurants he has been spending money at without me. I have noticed he has been on his phone quite a bit lately and even takes calls late into the night. Last weekend he went on a work trip and it just so happened that there was no reception where he was staying. The signs are clear, my husband is obviously involved with someone else and her name is Youth Ministry.
Yes, I am the wife of a youth minister. I want to make one thing clear, my college sweetheart takes his vocation as a husband and father of three girls very seriously but that doesn’t mean our family doesn’t feel the effect of his job as a youth minister. My husband starts his days very early working with middle schoolers and ends late at night hanging out with high schoolers. He is always on call for his teens answering texts and phone calls at all hours. Last weekend he went on retreat with 40-plus teens up in the mountains where he had little to no reception. And on top of all this he is very much emotionally invested in his teens and their spiritual development which can be extremely draining.
Watching my husband push through his days with little sleep, I wonder to myself how I can be a more supportive wife. Being a mother of very young kids, I am not always physically available to offer my services. To be honest there are days where I feel quite helpless. It’s a little embarrassing to admit this but there are times when I wish I didn’t have to share him with the Church. There are days when I would feel resentment or loneliness when he has to take time away from us to solve a crisis between volunteers or go to a teen’s football game. There are times when I would act like an over protective girlfriend when I saw my husband was having a rough day. In my mind I would lash out with uncharitable thoughts towards those who made his day difficult or rashly offer to play mediator on behalf of my husband.
None of these things are helpful to my husband and one could argue that they could be hurtful. As a wife, I am called to support my husband who takes part in leading the domestic church at home. As a youth minister’s wife I have the additional responsibility to support him as he takes a fatherly role to teens searching for Christ. It’s daunting, it’s overwhelming but it is its own calling in itself. It takes a special person and a special calling from God to work with and lead teens to Christ. Additionally it takes a calling to marry and realistically live with such a person.
Three ways a youth minister’s wife can support her husband
1.) PRAY! I am called to first and foremost support my youth minister husband through prayer. I need to pray for his perseverance, his personal relationship with God, and for his openness to follow God’s plan for the ministry. I need to pray for his teens, his volunteers, for the parish he supports. Prayer is my number one tool and without it I am of no help to my husband.
2.) Play the role of Mom when needed! Secondly, I need to be open if called to take on a motherly role to the teens in the youth ministry. Even if I am not physically at youth group or on retreats, I should still make myself available and take every opportunity to “love on them.” On top of prayer, this could be writing letters of encouragement, sending food to youth group nights, talking with teens after Mass, meeting the teens’ families, etc. A mother finds every moment to do something for her children even if it isn’t the most glamorous.
3.) Take care of yourself too! Last but certainly not least, I need to spiritually care for myself. I truly believe that the times where I fell into resentment or jealousy, my soul was not in a good place. I need to be spiritually fed so I have the strength to not only protect myself from these discouraging thoughts but I also need to support my husband when he is weighed down from his own battles. I have also found it helpful to find a community of other youth ministers and spouses who I can share my struggles with and uplift in prayer.
I always wondered how Mary, the mother of Christ, dealt with this sort of thing. The Bible says very little of how she coped with sharing her only Son with the world during His three years of ministry. It certainly is something I try to mediate on when I am feeling ungrateful for my special calling. St. Pope John Paul the Great said it best, "There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice."
I don't want to sound like being a youth minister's wife is all challenges. In fact there are some great perks to being a wife of a youth minister. There is always a babysitter willing to watch the girls, giving me and the hubby some much needed alone time. My kids and I get to participate in my husband’s work. Whether it is bringing the family with to youth events and watching my 2 year-old entertain an audience of high schoolers, or doing behind the scenes prep for big events, it becomes a family affair. Not many occupations allow the entire family to be involved. We get a front row seat to what God is doing not only in our lives but in the lives of the young Church. There is no greater feeling than to see the joy in my husband’s eyes when he is able to help a teen come one step closer to Christ.
Yes, being a youth minister’s wife is a challenge and a sacrifice but I do believe this is my calling and I am proud to share my husband with Christ’s bride, the Church.