By Travis Hill
Confession: I’m a huge Middle Earth and Tolkien nerd.
However, one question I had upon my first reading of the Lord of the Rings was this: if the entire fate of Middle Earth rested on the destruction of the One Ring, why didn’t Gandalf, who had the ability to communicate with the Eagles, call up Gwaihir and ride him all the way to Mount Doom? Why did he go through the trouble of giving the ring to an unknown hobbit from the Shire and wish for the best?
Obviously, not giving the ring away would have made for a less epic tale, one that I’m grateful Tolkien never wrote.
Sometimes I think doing an event in youth ministry feels like going on an epic journey. There is the planning, the meetings, the phone calls, sign-ups, email lists, dissemination of roles and jobs, cajoling parents to provide food or rides, and on and on and on. All these details can easily overwhelm us. But if we do everything, aside from simply burning out, we will also steal away an awesome experience for our students, an experience that they can learn from and share with others.
My challenge to you is to give your Famine away. Create space for your students to lead and learn. In fact, the more hands-off you can be with 30 Hour Famine, the better the experience will be. Is this direction messy? Of course. Will some of the students who express interest and take charge of certain roles fail? Most likely. Does Famine have the potential of being “not as good” as years past? I don’t think so. From my experience, the more students are in charge, taking leadership, the more the other students will buy into it.
It’s really interesting to see how students grow by having them:
- On stage speaking
- Writing devotional material
- Configuring and designing games
- Gathering supplies
- Running check-in
I’m constantly amazed by the middle schoolers who can lead just as well as high schoolers, and even better than me. It shouldn’t be a question of age and wisdom, but rather of heart and desire. One of our best Famine experiences was when we gave the speaking and organizing role over to one of our seniors and let him direct the entire weekend. Was it tough? Yes. Was it worth it? Incredibly.
Too often we feel we have the “best solutions” and forget that it’s not about us; it’s about the students.
Imagine: would Frodo have grown if Gandalf had taken the ring to Mordor instead? Would Frodo have come back wiser, acknowledged as an elf-friend, garnering respect? Would Sam have added on his loyalty and leadership traits to eventually become Mayor of the Shire? Sure the journey was grim, but it was worth it.
What would it look like to relinquish control and give your 30 Hour Famine away to a group of students? This time around, let them make the decisions. Help them and guide them, of course. Give them the room to breathe and rise and fail. But always be there to carry them home on the backs of eagles.