Tuesday night is my free evening. My wife attends a bible study and after I put the kids to bed I can do whatever I want. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a perfect opportunity to write, relax and recharge. But tonight, I’m eating Cool Whip right out of the tub and playing a video game that isn’t that great. The Cool Whip isn’t even thawed. I just pulled it out of the freezer and started eating it. It tastes good, like a cloud of sugar–one of those big fluffy clouds that patrol the sky on hot summer days.
It strikes me, as I sit here, mindlessly eating frozen Cool Whip, that I am, in fact, eating frozen Cool Whip. What am I doing? Then I realize that my shoulder hurts because I’ve been sitting in an awkward position eating Cool Whip and playing a lame video game for hours. Yes, I’m embarrassed to say, hours. Why am I spending my free evening so mindlessly? This is what strikes me as I sit with an aching shoulder and a developing stomach ache. I’d like a redo on my Tuesday night.
I’m tired. It’s April and our student ministry team has been steadily pouring ourselves out all year long. It’s been leading, writing, filming, counseling, editing, teaching, leading worship, traveling, mentoring, trouble-shooting, serving, setting up, tearing down, staying up late, getting up early, navigating crises, training, calming down parents, prodding parents, meeting deadlines, reviewing, confronting, encouraging, intervening, worrying, producing, acting, and managing on repeat since late last summer. I’m tired–very tired. When I look around our office during our team meetings I can see the weariness in all of our faces. It’s been a great season of ministry but we are all coasting to the finish line like cars running on fumes, praying we make it to the gas station at the next exit. Will we make it? I think so. I hope so.
My suspicion is that I’m not alone. We’re all tired. If you are a youth worker, you are exhausted. Maybe you thought it was just you. You aren’t alone.
I remember, early in my career, at the end of a season like this, thinking that maybe I wasn’t cut out for student ministry. Maybe the profound exhaustion I feel is an indicator that this line of work isn’t for me. Maybe you feel that way. Maybe you don’t like people right now. Maybe you feel like hiding. Maybe all you can think about is summer with less programming and more sand and sun. Maybe you ate Cool Whip out of the tub last night. This doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for student ministry. It simply means that you’re tired.
The danger here is that tired doesn’t fix itself. Tired people become exhausted people. Exhausted people burnout. Youth workers who are called, gifted and wired for student ministry run out of steam and drop out of the game all the time. I’m realizing that when I catch myself eating Cool Whip out of the tub it’s time for a day off. It’s time to delegate a responsibility, cancel a meeting or schedule something that I love. That’s why I’m going to quit early tomorrow night and play beach volleyball with a few friends.
Are you tired? Been eating Cool Whip? Please take a step back and rest. Go do something you love and recharge your batteries. Your students need you–fully energized and engaged. You were called, gifted and wired to do this. Stay in the game.