“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Bob and Ruth Fobes have demonstrated the truth in this proverb, serving together for more than 50 years and leaving behind generations of disciplemakers wherever they served.
Bob and Ruth met at Glen Eyrie. Both had a passion and vision for a multiplying, generational discipleship. They each knew they wanted to marry someone with the same calling. “We both wanted to give our lives to people,” Ruth says.
From the beginning, they were committed to working as a team. That partnership has been vital to their ministries in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Massachusetts, and now in Florida.
Over the years, they have found that their strengths complement each other, blending their unique gifts. Among other gifts, Bob is a teacher, and Ruth’s main gift is in administration. Ruth primarily processes through thinking, and Bob leans toward feeling out the plan.
They have learned to compensate when their different strengths are at odds. “I have to be careful not to shoot down his ideas,” Ruth says.
The Fobes love to invest in people life on life. Although they meet with people individually, most of the time they do this as a couple. They help people develop biblical thinking and envision a godly future for them.
When ministry takes them in different directions, they rely on one another for input. For example, Ruth dreamed of writing about her passion for lifelong discipleship. She wanted to pass on principles, motivating Scripture, and action steps that would multiply in the lives of many women for generations. That dream came true when she had the opportunity to co-write A Woman’s Journey of Discipleship and lead the writing team through the publishing process with NavPress.
As Ruth labored over this project, Bob supported her behind the scenes. When the writers met in their home to hash out the material, Bob would jump in with suggestions if they got stuck. He is a cheerleader for the finished product. He will make sure you know about the distinctive features of A Woman’s Journey of Discipleship.
A Woman’s Journey continues the Fobes ministry of passing on a vision for disciplemaking, which began to bear fruit during their first assignment at Penn State. Ruth (not Ruth Fobes) was one student who grasped this multiplying vision. She is still applying those principles today. She organized an ongoing discipleship process at her church and recruited several groups of women of various ages to go through A Woman’s Journey of Discipleship. These women, who have finished the three-book series, are leading others through the same process.
Steve, also a student at Penn State, was one of the many young men who sought coaching from the Fobes in outreach and vision. Years later Steve called Bob to ask if Bob and Ruth would sponsor his son, Dave, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Beyond sponsoring him they spent countless hours investing in his life.
“Dave led Mike to faith in Christ,” Bob says. “Then Mike grew as a committed disciple and in turn invested his life in others throughout his Air Force career. Now Mike is in seminary and seeking God’s direction for his next step.”
Bob and Ruth love doing life together, whether it is at home, at play, or in ministry. They have directed three collegiate training centers, led summer training programs, and enjoyed leading numerous small groups. They also had a very fulfilling ministry at the USAFA, where they partnered in leading a weekly study with cadets and meeting individually with them. Inviting growing disciples into their home—for an evening, a weekend, or a much longer period—has been a powerful part of their ministry and allowed them both to invest in people’s lives.
The Fobes’ team approach has not always followed traditional Navigator gender lines. When Ruth worked at Navigator Headquarters as the administrator for the church ministries, Navigator leadership tended to be all male. Ruth was one of the first women to serve on a national Navigator team. She was invited to serve on the Navigator Church Ministries leadership team both at Headquarters and on the field. She paved the way for other women to come to the table.
What are the keys to ministering successfully as a couple? “Processing. Lots of verbal processing,” Bob says emphatically. They advocate that couples take some time every day to talk about what’s going on in their lives. Prayer—especially praying over God’s Word—has also been a crucial part of their journey together.
They work through difficult decisions by talking together and listening to God individually. When Bob and Ruth were in Colorado, Navigator leaders asked them to move to Boston. Bob was ready to go, but Ruth felt it was important to wait until their children were finished with college in Colorado. They waited and continued to seek God. Finally, during a trip to California, each sensed God was leading them to move.
“As we listen to God and talk things out, we end up on the same page,” Ruth reports.
To maintain a healthy balance and prevent burnout, Ruth and Bob hold each other accountable to the following pattern:
Divert Daily: Enjoy a diversion from your routine every day.
Withdraw Weekly: Set aside one day a week to take a break from ministry.
Meditate Monthly: Spend extended time alone with God one day a month.
Abandon Annually: Take an annual vacation.
Following this plan keeps the Fobes refreshed and active. Jeff Springer, whom they have known for years, observes that Bob and Ruth naturally reach out together wherever they go. After their latest move, to Florida, he says, “As they were still unpacking boxes, they moved quietly into the neighborhood and started to meet neighbors. The next thing you know they’re having a Bible study.”
The Fobes “flow with love and care and interest in people,” Springer says. “They’re the epitome of the Navigator vision: ordinary people who are advancing the Kingdom ‘next door to everywhere.’”
Bob and Ruth continue to move “from one adventure to another,” Bob says.
“We try to love people for who they are and put a ‘crown’ over them for who they could be,” Ruth adds. “We are always thinking about how we can impact others with this multiplying vision.” And as they do this together, they are sure to “go far.”