Battling Fatigue in the Trenches of Youth Ministry

There is no more fitting admonition in Scripture for those of us who invest ourselves in the lives of teenagers than this: "And let us not grow weary of doing good" (Gal. 6:9).

I grew up working on farms, doing landscaping, even building houses. That is work that wears you out physically, but weariness from ministry is different than the tiredness you feel after physical labor. It's a tiredness in your soul.

Even when the results are good, ministry is draining. The personal toll of investing your life into others should not be overlooked. That's what Paul was talking about in Galatians 6:9, the tendency we all face to become worn out from doing the good work God has called us to do.

"And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up."

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The literal translation of the phrase "grow weary" is "to despair" or "lose heart"—or, and here is the most resonant one to me, "to lose enthusiasm." Who hasn't been there? No matter how well things are going, it's possible to simply lose enthusiasm for the ministry. And yet, we have to be able to rise out of it. Paul's words are a warning, but also a promise that should greet our ears as a welcome word of sustaining encouragement from God.

Paul says that if we can manage to keep our strength up, if we can stay motivated, if we can somehow not lose our passion, there is a reward in store. Based on the context, the reward could be any one of the following:

  • That we would see fruit in the lives of those in whom we're investing
  • That we would see those in whom we have invested use their lives in powerful ways, enlarging and enriching God's kingdom
  • That God's favor would be on us
  • That we would be able to see the fruit of our work, and know that we have served faithfully

If we can keep these in front of us, they can serve as motivation when times get tough. But more than that, there are some practices we can take to stay encouraged:

1. Stay connected to God. Communion with God is the antidote to spiritual weariness. God is the "lifter of our heads," in the words of David. When you find yourself growing weary, fight to connect with God.

2. Stay connected to your support network. When I get weary of doing ministry, I tend to become withdrawn. I can come across as short with my family, robbing them and me of the emotional and spiritual boost that family can provide. Similarly, you may disconnect from your team. Fight the urge. Be as open as is appropriate about your struggles. Ask for prayer and encouragement, and be open to receiving it.

3. Keep your calling in front of you. Remind yourself in times of weariness that this is what God has called you to do. You are a drink offering, in Paul's words, poured out for the sake of Christ. Being tired is expected. Being weary of the work isn't. The writer of Hebrews understood the concept of focusing on our call: "Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:1-2). Focusing on Christ, and on the calling to make His name known, will motivate you.

Youth ministry is amazingly rewarding, but it's also uniquely exhausting. It's OK to admit it. What's not OK is allowing ourselves to grow weary of doing good.

If you find yourself in a weary spot, don't sit there. Do the work it takes to reconnect with God and rediscover your passion. The stakes are too high to allow yourself to walk away from the awesome work God has put in front of you.  


Andy Blanks is co-founder of ym360 and leads content creation for the organization. This article originally appeared at youthministry360.com.

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