One quick look at me will tell you that I am no star athlete. In high school I was more involved with the school newspaper than the basketball team. The only time I ever began getting serious about physical exercise and fitness was this time I met a really cute girl in college who was a runner. I took up running right away (and, coincidentally, married the cute girl three years later). To this day, any thought or desire to exercise comes from my wife or my desire to spend time with her.
I really don’t enjoy working out. But I love my wife. Therefore, I’ll do it.
We were working out to a youtube video the other night in our living room after the kids had gone to bed (it’s kind of like a poor man’s gym membership and I’m cool with that).
It was one of those thirty seconds cardio, ten seconds rest, thirty seconds weights, ten second rest and repeat until you are no longer capable of coherent thought workouts.
By the end of the forty minutes I wanted to die and quit. In that order.
But I kept going.
Finally finishing the workout I collapsed in a heap and tried to steady my breathing, which I’m told by my wife is important to prevent the build up of lactic acid aka, the reason my arms were on fire. And then the lady on the workout video started talking about the “burnout” we were about to do. I know that word from ministry. You’re not supposed to burn out. You’re supposed to give yourself rest and breaks and Sabbaths so you can continue to minister for the long haul. Burnouts are bad. But my wife was about to do this and I wasn’t going to let her outdo me (even in the privacy of our living room I have a small pride issue in this area).
My arms were killing me. My legs were jelly. My hipster glasses kept slipping off my face. But I was going to do these last five exercises if they killed me.
And I did. And it was awesome. I pushed through some mental walls that told me I was done and didn’t have it in me to keep going. I overcame.
I hurt like crazy the next day.
After the burnout I had a moment of revelation. Those stupid last five workouts are like what it feels like to keep going at student ministry when it’s hard and you feel like you’re slogging through it all. You work for hours on your lesson, only for a student to tell you it was “okay” and the game was boring.
You get students involved in planning an event, you have a vision for it that ties into your ministry, and the pastor has given it his blessing, but the whole thing falls flat on its face.
You meet with students, parents, volunteer leaders, and other church leaders and are completely exhausted at the end of the week. And next week looks about the same.
Assuming you’ve got the whole “keeping your day off your day off” and spending time with your spouse and family, here’s my advice: Don’t give up!
Don’t let the hard work make you wonder if there are any easier professions out there. Don’t get so bogged down that you think you couldn’t possibly make it another week. Keep at it, youth worker! Go for it, student pastor!
God is with you as you minister for Him.
Don’t give up on the last workout. Go strong!