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The Famine Blog

30 Hour Famine as Service Learning

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Beth Ruzanic

So often we look at ministry as a series of individual events – even if they are held loosely together by a theme for the semester or the year. Some events may be annual or monthly or even weekly while others may be “special” events that aren’t repeated. I’m not criticizing this paradigm, but I wonder if we could do better by our students if we were fiercely intentional with our planning throughout the year. Intentional planning based on the vision and mission of your ministry (if you don’t have vision and mission statements get some STAT) will help guide your students along the path that you believe God has put before you. A quote from Tony Campolo helped shape my early ministry philosophy and continues to today. “The age of youth was not meant for pleasure, but for heroic service!” Okay, great, now what? I had a lot of work to do!

I started by researching the benefits of acts of service in young people and I came across the concept of service learning. Service learning happens when we combine educational concepts with acts of service to provide a learning experience that also meets societal needs. More and more school districts are including service learning requirements for graduation and it is a cornerstone of the National Honor Society program. Benefits of service learning include: leadership development, diversity awareness and positive community outcomes. In addition the educational concepts taught as a part of service learning seemed to be retained at a higher level than ones that were taught on their own.

As people who minister to students we are one link in a long chain of adults that help to educate kids and grow them into people ready to launch into the world. Therefore combining the biblical concepts we want students to learn with acts of service seems like it would be an effective ministry tool. The 30 Hour Famine fits in perfectly with this philosophy because it combines teachings about the heart of Jesus for the poor and marginalized with fasting and serving others. It is the trifecta of service learning! Service learning opportunities can’t be few and far between if they are going to be effective, so I suggest that you build regular service events into your calendar and make them the cornerstone of what you do with students. Not just a mission trip in the summer or a weekend during the year but regularly scheduled (once a month is a good place to start) events that give you the chance to teach your students, in word and deed, who we are called to be in a hurting world. I have seen over and over that if given the opportunity, students will rise to the occasion and their lives will indeed be beacons of heroic service. If you try it, I hope you will too.

Don’t Sweat The Petty Things and Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Joel Dunn

So there you are, your 30 Hour Famine is right around the corner. You built your cardboard city, you received all of the donations, the four bounce houses arrived, you had all of your students bring two brand new friends to this event, the DJ you hired is dropping some sick beats [yo], you have at least six… no, seven Excel worksheets explaining the analytics as to why this is going to be the best event/mission outreach/overnighter/conversion night in the history of your Youth Ministry career. And on top of that, your church board said to you directly, “We are so thankful for your heart that you have for youth ministry. We have raised your youth budget, we gave you a significant raise, we got you a new youth van, a Coca Cola Freestyle soda dispenser for your office, and you never have to do another lock-in as long as you are at this church.”

Well… maybe you accomplished a couple of those things before your group’s 30 Hour Famine or maybe you were like me when I hosted my first Famine. I wanted it to be bigger than life and grander than grand can be; but then real life got in the way. I had students in crisis, I had a church budget meeting saying we were not doing well and that we were going to have to make cutbacks, and on top of that I had to sell my Coca Cola Freestyle machine*. [*jk] I wanted to be overly prepared for any scenario that could be thrown at me during these 30 hours; but the problem with that was that I forgot about the heart of the event. I turned hanging out with hungry teenagers for 30 hours into a program spectacle that made them more tired and even more hungry!

After my first 30 Hour Famine I asked my student leadership team, “What can we do better next time? How can we make it even bigger?”. One of my 7th grade boys responded with this, “I wish we had more time to just hang out and more time to pray. The games were fun but I wanted to pray more for the people we were raising these funds for. To be honest I just wanted to hang out with everyone and maybe play a board game or two and do some scripture reading.”

That was one of the best answers I have ever heard in my life! A 7th grade boy asking for downtime. Asking me and the rest of the team to just be in the moment, to pray, and to make Christ the center of this event… and not the programming. So I want to encourage you that no matter how big or small your 30 Hour Famine is… remember to be present with your students. Don’t sweat the programming side (don’t stretch yourself too thin trying to over-create program). Your students are going to be stoked at the 30 Hour Famine because YOU are there and present. Keep reminding yourself how good Jesus is. Have an amazing 30 hours!

Partnering With Other Churches for 30 Hour Famine

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Kim Collins

Mmmm…can you smell it?  It’s the smell of fresh paper as you open your box of materials and begin planning your next 30 Hour Famine Event.  New brochures, flyers, posters, and fundraising packets all shiny and new…Oh my!!  Not to mention the videos and Event Guide.  It’s an exciting time in a Youth Minister’s life…and a little scary.  It’s exciting as you introduce or re-introduce your students to the needs of many who face hunger and poverty, and, the realization that together, we can make a difference in combating hunger and poverty.

It can be scary when you think about planning and all the details.  Generally, at this point in the planning, I’m reminded that I need a little help from my friends, and hopefully we have done a little pre-planning, or at least had some conversations about it.  Yes, I am capable of planning it myself; however, it’s much more fun the more people you have on-board, AND it provides an opportunity for others to use gifts they have that I do not.

One of the greatest gifts I was given in my many, many years in youth ministry was the gift of other youth ministers.  Through joining various Youth Ministry networks (one was a year long Youth Minister’s Cohort, one was a local, face-to-face and ecumenical group, and a few online networks), we were able to be in ministry with one another, our students, and our churches.  It was not about comparing our groups, but collaborating with one another for growing God’s Kingdom.  Were we all the same size, or had the same amount of experience?  No!  It wasn’t about the number of students and volunteers, it wasn’t about the latest and greatest program, who had the most education, attended the most conferences, or knew this person or that person.  And this is what made it great!  It was about a group of people who love God and sharing God’s love to students.  It was a group of people celebrating our joys, standing together through our sorrows, and It was about ministering TOGETHER.  Through planning events together like 30-Hour Famine and sharing ideas we discovered one another’s gifts, and discovered some of our own that we did not know we had.

Over the years, after some of these special events, I often heard comments like “that was such a neat idea” or “how did you come up with that idea?”  Some were my own: however, a lot were from friends who shared ideas and experiences that allowed opportunities to make it fit different group needs.  It was also great when we gathered with other churches for an evening of food, fellowship and a friendly game of dodge ball or kick ball!

My biggest tip to any youth minister is to find other youth workers to walk the journey with you.  Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing…just be who God called you to be to the youth and families you serve!

Give it Away!

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Marty Estes

“I don’t know if I can do this…”

I was looking into the eyes of a 15-year-old boy, moments before he was supposed to walk on stage and open our Wednesday night student worship service with a welcome and announcements. His response was understandable. I’d only asked him to do it 30 minutes earlier, and he had never been on stage before; but I reassured him as best I could.

“Sure you can! You’ll do great! I trust you.”

So, how did he do? Not great. He clung to the microphone stand like it was his lifeline in the midst of raging floodwaters. He basically read our announcements off the screen. He stumbled offstage and had a good laugh at himself along with the rest of our students. But, he did it. And this week he will do it again. Next week he’ll do it again. And again, and again, as long as he is willing to serve.

15 years into ministry, I’m relearning something that I once heard, long ago, when I was serving as a volunteer in a local church, something that was said in a class I took on youth ministry as I was finishing up my time in college: “Youth ministry happens when youth minister.” It was catchy. Pithy. Inspiring. I’d love to tell you that my time in ministry over the last decade and a half has been categorized by that statement, but I’d be lying to you. Mostly, my call to ministry has been defined by a consolidation of power at the top, and if most student ministries were honest, they would have to report the same.

That’s why I have a mandate for us today, brothers and sisters. A call to arms, if you will. Much like the great theologians Red Hot Chili Peppers once sang, give it away, give it away, give it away now! Give your power away. Give your leadership away. Give control away to students who are more than capable to pick up the mantle of leadership, even if they don’t know it, and watch as future leaders of the church are called out.

Currently, we have students leading in our weekly gatherings doing everything from announcements to leading small groups, leading in praise band to leading the game time. They serve on Sundays in our children’s ministry worship time. They work throughout the church as ushers and serve in mission ministries. There comes a point in time where faith moves from things we know and believe to things we do BECAUSE we believe. Student ministry is a key time for that.

But, let’s be real. It’s easy to do it all ourselves. There’s lots of reasons why we should do it ourselves, honestly. Students can be notoriously flighty and non-committal. They can mess up, say things they shouldn’t, and otherwise “ruin” a segment of our program. They can even sometimes end up doing it BETTER than us, but we may not be ready to admit that yet. For those reasons, and many others, it’s easier to just keep it all to ourselves. When we do this, however, we are missing a huge blessing, and denying Kingdom work and Kingdom growth in the lives of our students!

Now, I’m not saying you should simply turn your Wednesday or Sunday program over to your students completely, and just allow them to do whatever they want. What I AM suggesting, though, is that you take a long look at your programming and identify the places where students could take the reigns and lead, and then let them off the leash. Are they going to fail? YES. Are they going to be awkward? YES. But, what you might just find is that they succeed in ways you never imagined, and your ministry will be all the better for it.

Plan, Flex, and Visit

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Becky Gilbert

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, I was a young seminary student called into youth ministry.  Thinking back to the many days I spent in the classroom, listening intently to older and wiser professors giving practical concrete advice about ministry, I can remember hearing things like plan, plan and over plan and then plan again, be flexible, never take your youth to a venue you or someone you trust have not visited. Even 20+ years later, I still hear these things in my mind from time to time. While I learned many other things, these things stick in my mind. I also recollect thinking, to myself, Wow, this is such common sense stuff; who wouldn’t have a back-up plan or realize that youth ministry requires flexibility, and I would NEVER take youth to a venue I had not visited.

Haha. I am laughing because: youth ministry.

Most of us who enter ministry do so with the best of intentions; but budgets are tight, time is even tighter. And the next thing we know we are heading off on a mission trip scheduled to stay all week in a church that may or may not have been infested with roaches.

It started with an idea that my friend Sheri and I had been praying over. We were both serving small churches that were looking for ways for our youth group to serve others through a summer mission trip. We heard of a church, in a town in the Midwest that was inviting volunteers to lead Backyard Bible Clubs in apartment complexes near their church.  My friend and I were excited about this opportunity, the town was only a few hours from us, both of our youth groups were excited about working with children, so we accepted the invitation. The church that invited us already had a group staying in their building so we had to find somewhere to stay. The youth leaders gave us names of area churches that might be open to housing a group. So, we called around and found one who said, yes, we love to host groups! The facility was described to us in detail and it sounded awesome. Sheri and I planned to go out to the church and look around so we would know what we needed to bring with us and where we were staying inside the church. However, life got in the way and we were not able to make the trip. No worries, we thought, it’s a church–how bad could it be?

When we pulled up in the church van several of the youth said, “This is where we are staying?” With that look that says, are you kidding me, right now? I have to admit, the outside of the church did not match the description.  Sheri and I may have given some words of encouragement and asked the group to stay in the van with the other adults while we went to find our hosts. Our hosts were very gracious; but as they took us further and further into the church to show us where we would stay I began to get a very uneasy feeling. They showed us three or four bathrooms that were out of order. The showers that they said we could use were dirty and only worked sometimes. When we mentioned that we were told that they had showers the hosts said, “Yeah they always tell people that.”  As we turned on the light in the room where we were supposed to sleep, the sound of scurrying feet was very obvious. The roaches and rats were both running for cover. There were so many bugs in the kitchen that we were afraid to leave our food in there. We thanked the hosts and walked back to the vans both of us trying to figure out what to do next. We had several conversations trying to figure out where to go, but we stayed there overnight because we had no other choice. Two of the adults on the trip went to a store and got some cleaning supplies and bug spray. The church had this old bowling alley in the basement and the youth were so excited about bowling that they did not seem to mind the other stuff. We were thankful that the youth were busy with the bowling and unaware of the high stress level for Sheri and I as the other adult leaders were very upset about having to stay in the church. I am pretty sure neither Sheri or I slept that night.

The next morning, we went to our Backyard Bible Club and had a great morning!  Lunch was provided by the church that invited us to lead the club. And as we spoke with the church leaders at lunch about our living situation, they shared with us that one of the other churches had to cancel so they had room for us to stay.

After our day was over, we returned to the other church, thanked them for their hospitality and went to the other church.  We ended up having a great week!

Some of you might be reading this nodding along and saying yep, been there, made the t-shirt. Some of you are newer to this and haven’t lead trips and activities as a youth pastor, leader or volunteer. Plan, plan, over plan and plan again. Visit your venues and be flexible.

I have learned so much in the last 20 years about traveling with groups and planning mission and other trips. How could the story of my ministry almost-fail have been different if I had followed the advice that I had been given?

Plan, plan, over-plan and plan again. No thought had been given to Plan B. It never occurred to us to have extra money for a hotel, just in case.  Thinking about cleaning the place we were staying before we ‘moved in’ was not on our radar. Calling the church the day before to check in and be sure no major changes had taken place in the church or to check that showers and bathrooms were still in working order – nope, didn’t do it. Plan your trip and all that you want to do but plan for the unexpected things too.

Visit your venue. If it is at all possible, go to the place you will stay and see it. If you are going out of town, state or country, work with a reputable ministry group that can help you with local logistics.

Most of all BE FLEXIBLE! No matter how much we plan sometimes things change and we have to go with it. Remember that the youth we are leading are looking to us to lead the trip but they are also watching how we handle the changes.

Cultivating Student Leaders When Your Schedule is Tight

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Meg Nelson

We all hope to see our students thrive. What that looks like will be different for each student and for each ministry we serve in. One place I served had “student leader development” as a specific item on the part-time job description. I assumed that meant I was expected to eventually create a student leadership team and develop separate programming for student leaders. This came with highpoints and low points. Despite good intentions behind all the things we did together, I wonder if it was all truly the best format for cultivating a sense of servant leadership in these students. Our schedules are already so tight, and families are already so busy. If we take a good look; there’s likely plenty of existing opportunities within our communities where we can guide our students into discovering their leadership gifts. Perhaps you can use your 30 Hour Famine event as a launching point for an emphasis on cultivating student leaders! This post shares three areas to consider when it comes to cultivating student leadership without necessarily creating new programming.

Focus on themes of leadership within your student ministry teaching times. 

Some students are well on their way in their personal leadership development, while others still have some more maturing to do before being able to take on certain leadership roles. All our students can benefit from learning about Christ-focused leadership. All have God-given potential for leadership. If they aren’t given chances to learn about the topic, how can they discover that potential? Servant leadership could be a great theme to focus on in the weeks surrounding your 30 Hour Famine event! No need to create a separate group and schedule yet another event on the calendar to fit it in, when you can use the tools you already have in place in your ministry to provide a space to discuss leading like Jesus with your students.

Help regular attendees find ways to lead within the student ministry.

Instead of trying to create extra projects, start with using opportunities to serve that already exist. These can be done alongside other adult volunteers to start. Then, as students become proficient in leading these areas, they can then help newer/younger students grow into these servant leadership roles as well. Consider inviting certain students to join in on planning meetings with adult volunteers, giving them a voice and ownership in the ministry. Examples include: being a greeter at the door, running any tech needs, leading games, behind the scenes set-up, giving announcements, sharing a testimony, facilitating a small group discussion time, leading in worship music, and any ideas you can think of! There are ways for students to discover their leadership potential already waiting for them within their student ministry, even for some of those students who have some more growing to do. Perhaps consider planning and execution of your 30 Hour Famine event as a good place to start doing this!

Utilize ministry groups in your community to connect students with service roles.

Your community has its own set of unique ministry opportunities beyond the student ministry that can be great avenues to help our students develop their leadership gifts. I was fortunate enough to serve at a church where including students in the broader ministry of the church came naturally. Worship, missions, men’s, women’s, children’s, even the building and grounds team had students as members of those ministries. That might not be the case where you serve. It might take a few conversations to help facilitate the process, but it’s a process that will have life-long implications as we raise up a generation of students who graduate already connected to church life beyond our student ministries. This helps ensure we see students graduate who have started to discover where their passions and faith collide. Looking for a venue to start this process? Find ways for various ministry team leaders to get involved in your 30 Hour Famine event so they can connect with students – building relationships that may turn into ministry partnership!

Keep up the great work!

If you have the time, ideas, and resources to provide a separate student leadership program, that’s awesome! I know some great youth workers who do this incredibly well. I also know the reality of part-time or volunteer leadership, a small number of attendees, as well as families already crushed by the busy schedules of work and school make something like that a little more daunting. Hopefully these tips can help all of us consider how to integrate themes of leadership and service opportunities into the already-existing rhythm of what we’re doing in ministry. What are some creative ways you are cultivating student leaders where you serve?

In the Wake of Trauma

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Eric Woods

His eyes were locked in a glassy gaze straight at the ground. Clearly, something was not right with this high school freshman I had only just met when he arrived at our camp.

“I’d love for you to participate,” I said, but he didn’t look up.

“Yah, I don’t feel like it,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of tough stuff going on at home.”

I was sure he did, and didn’t doubt the way he was feeling…but I had 20 other students that needed me to lead some experiential learning activities. So, on we went. “Jump in when you’re ready,” I told him, “and we can talk more later.”

It was sometime the next day, after he came down from the high ropes course and sat on the log next to me, that I invited him to tell me more about what was going on at home. “Are you safe at home?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s nothing like that,” he said, “There’s just a lot of yelling between my mom and dad. And I don’t sleep good ‘cause it goes on all night.”

As the pastor to more than 60 youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or delinquency, I hear stuff like this all the time. It doesn’t surprise me anymore; but I’m also learning that the kinds of struggles I see in my residents are a lot like the things “normal” students struggle with too.

Perhaps they are magnified, and sure, the specifics may be different; but they’re there nonetheless. The truth is, almost everyone is wrestling with something.

They’re concerned about the upcoming SAT, and whether their score will be good enough to get them into college.

They’re struggling with the reality of broken homes—or intact but really dysfunctional homes—and tired of lying awake at night listening to mom and dad argue.

And more than one out of five of them have experienced three or more of what are called Adverse Childhood Experiences: things like physical, emotional and sexual abuse, household violence and mental illness, neglect, and parental separation, divorce and incarceration. (By the way, there’s tons of data and analysis of the landmark study, began in the late 1990’s to look at the long-term impacts of these experiences on overall health and wellbeing. Additional data can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy.)

So, it’s safe to assume that a bunch of the students in any of our youth ministries on any given day have some pretty difficult stuff going on.

And in light of this reality in my own ministry, I’ve adopted three key practices that are helping my students to engage in the wake of their own trauma.

1. I don’t assume that everything’s OK.

Remember that old question everyone asks, “How ya’ doing?” Well, it’s a loaded question for many, and it forces them to lie or brings them right back to their deepest struggle, even as they’re walking into youth group surrounded by their peers and friends.

Instead of asking that, now I use greetings like “Hey, great to see you!” or “Glad you came, we’re going to have a great time today!” My students know they’re free to share, and often ask me if they can. But they also know they don’t have to.

2. I use caution with stories I tell.

I’ve learned this from experience. Sometimes, the funny story about not getting an A in AP Calculus (I got an A minus), or the heart-wrenching story about my parents’ divorce isn’t the right story. While those stories may make the point, they may also trigger significant emotions in youth who are on the edge about their own struggles.

I don’t avoid stories altogether—I tell a lot of them—but I do carefully think through each story before I share it from up front.

3. I allow some time and space to get ready.

In the room where we meet, I always have three stations out when students are arriving, each with a stack of scrap paper, a few pencils, and a basket.

Students can engage with and answer three questions. The first – “What is something good God has done for you recently?” — allows them to practice acknowledging God’s faithfulness, regardless of other circumstances. The second station gives them a chance to let go of the challenges in their life, even just for a while, by answering the question: “What is something difficult you need to release to God today?” And the third station is simply a place to write and release prayer requests.

My students know that these stations really are just for them, and between them and God. They know that sometimes I read their notes, and sometimes I don’t. But they also know that these stations are a chance for them to set aside the distractions in their own lives…at least for a while.

Big and Small, You Need Them All (The Ministry of Jesus)

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Russ Polsgrove

Jesus preached often to crowds. Big crowds. Four to five thousand people, but also rooms packed full of spectators. We don’t have specific numbers, but I imagine there were places where 50 or so folks just watching him teach and perform miracles. He definitely drew a crowd.

He also had 12 disciples. We know about those disciples because they’re featured so prominently in the gospels; but real ministry took place as Jesus mentored those guys. They went on to have amazing ministry stories even after Jesus left them, but there’s no denying he had an impact with that small group.

Among the 12 he also had three. There are numerous stories where Jesus takes Peter, James, and/or John aside to pray, to give a lesson, or even to scold a bit for their arrogance. A tiny group of people Jesus poured into had tremendous impact.

Jesus was a master in every ministry environment, no matter the size. Big, medium, and small, he excelled in all.

What does this have to do with my youth ministry?

Depending on the role we play in our church, or our specific personality, we have a tendency to drift towards one “environmental size” group. Extroverts are often in front of bigger crowds, introverts thrive in small group settings or one on one. If we’re honest, we prioritize the one we like best. My first church had about 25 students, medium sized. My second church had over 250 students, and my current church dips into the single digits attendance at times. I’ve been in all size youth ministries, and at every church, I’m ashamed to admit I thought we were doing it the right way and other churches weren’t. But ALL these environmental sizes are important for spiritual development. The miracle of the 5000 is so powerful BECAUSE there were 5000 people. The disciples were influential because Jesus spent 3 years with just those twelve. Peter was the rock of the church because Jesus grabbed his hand when he was sinking, and had awkward conversations when Peter was wrong. The truth is, no size is better than the other. We need all three.

5000. 12. 3. They’re all important.

The key is finding ways for your ministry to excel in all environmental sizes. If your group is small, you need to find some sort of large group connection for your teenagers so they know they’re part of a bigger story, they’re not alone in their journey. If your youth ministry is 500 teenagers, you need to find ways for them to connect with someone 1 on 1. Because if they don’t, their growth will be stunted.

As we start a new youth ministry year, here’s some healthy questions to ponder.

  1. In what environmental size does our group excel?
  2. Conversely, in what environmental size does our group struggle? How can we work on that for effective ministry.

If you have a small youth group, is there a large gathering anywhere in your town where your teenagers can be with others like them and experience God? If you lead a large ministry, when was the last time you personally invested in one or two of your students? If you lead a youth ministry, chances are you’re probably always looking to improve the way you reach teenagers. Sometimes it’s as simple as a change in crowd size.

How your youth group can help respond to Hurricane Harvey

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Adam McLane

Like everyone else I’ve been paying close attention to both the immediate rescue efforts and the long-term needs of those effected by Hurricane Harvey. And along the way I’ve heard from fellow youth workers wondering what they can do to help, more specifically how they can get their youth group (or church) practically engaged in helping.

My response to that Holy Spirit tug compelling us to act when something like this happens is always 3-fold:

Pray – Commit to praying for those impacted by the storm.

Give – Give what you can and as you feel lead.

Go – Consider going to help in recovery efforts, maybe not right now but as the Holy Spirit leads.

Today I specifically want to point you to those first two items: What is World Vision currently doing? How can you help? And how can we pray for those impacted and even those who are responding to the need?

Below is an excerpt from an article on the World Vision website which helps us answer those first two questions: “How can our youth groups pray? How can our youth groups give?


How is World Vision responding?

On Aug. 25, as the storm approached Texas, World Vision began shipping relief goods from four of its field sites across the United States: Fife, Washington; Grand Prairie, Texas; Chicago; and Philippi, West Virginia.

Our team of staff, local churches, and community partners is mobilizing to reach 300,000 people affected by the disaster. On Wednesday, Aug. 30, four 53-foot semitrucks arrived to affected areas and local partners distributed supplies to storm victims. Several other trucks are en route from warehouses across the country to Houston and Corpus Christi. Each trailer carries enough supplies to help about 2,500 people, said Reed Slattery, World Vision’s national gifts-in-kind program director, who is helping coordinate the response.

“The need is so great on the ground, we’re just trying to be able to respond as quickly as we can, to try to meet that need as best as we can,” Reed said.

Emergency supplies headed to the disaster zone include: tents, sleeping bags, coolers, food kits, personal hygiene items, women’s toiletry kits, school supplies, toys, socks, clothes, diapers, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and latex gloves.

Products are being distributed to churches and local partner organizations to benefit storm victims there.

Getting supplies from World Vision to pass on to shelters and people in need is “a huge blessing to this community,” said Dan Worrell, operations minister for Houston Northwest Baptist Church which received one of the first truckloads of supplies Wednesday from the Grand Prairie warehouse. “We’re able to distribute in a level greater than we did previously.”

How can your youth group help?

Right now, our warehouse staff, truck drivers, and local partners are working to mobilize and deliver relief supplies to affected communities as quickly and safely as possible.

Almighty Father, we ask for Your mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Protect people. Guide emergency responders as they seek to help those in need.

Whoever believes IN HIM

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Jake Kircher

“Thanks for clarifying what you believe about [X]. God knows we couldn’t have anyone on staff who believed differently.”

I sat in my office with my boss slightly stunned. Did he just indirectly threaten my job because of the growing questions I was asking? What was even more shocking was that the topic we were discussing wasn’t even a major theological topic. It wasn’t something covered in the church’s statement of faith. It wasn’t even something that was talked about much within the life of the church. Yet somehow, it was a topic that if I didn’t believe exactly right, as defined by my boss, my livelihood would be put in jeopardy?

Over the last few years, I’ve been doing a significant amount of reading and studying a varying array of scholars and Christian leaders about many theological topics. The biggest conclusion I’ve come to? There is a wide, vast world of belief out there and it’s not easy to break down these beliefs into “right” and “wrong.” The fact is, I was finding God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-seeking, prayerful and thoughtful people on both sides of different beliefs, and everything in the middle.

I believe we as Christians have, often unconsciously, taken Jesus’ claim that “whoever believes IN HIM shall not perish but have eternal life,” and added all sorts of other beliefs into that sentence.  Adam and Eve, Revelation, baptism, and more. I’m not suggesting these aren’t important topics! But as the list grows, it often forces us to look at someone who believes differently than us and condemn or judge their eternal salvation, calling into question the very God-given identity within them. In an attempt to “follow God,” we have created an idol of having the right beliefs about several things, many of which are honestly debatable.

The biggest thing missing from most faith communities today, both conservative and liberal, is thought diversity. Instead, emphasis is placed on comfort and surrounding ourselves with people who think and believe the same things as we do. The problem with that is that in that kind of environment, no one grows. More so, we don’t really love. (See Luke 6:32) Real growth and true love only gets fleshed out in the context of diversity, differences and challenge.

Following Christ and believing IN him doesn’t mean that we tell everyone what they should believe ABOUT any number of things. It means that we build loving relationships with others who are IN Christ and we talk and pray and discuss and debate ABOUT what it really means and looks like to live in Christ. This is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, “that all [believers] would be one…then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Again, what is the emphasis on what the world would know? The right answers to every sub-point? No. That Jesus was sent and that the world is loved.

As we invest in this next generation; as we teach them how to study Scripture and ask deeper questions about life and faith, we must teach them how to respect differences and how to have loving dialogue that challenges us all to be more like Christ. We must help teenagers understand the paradox that we live in as far as finitely knowing the unknowable, infinite God. Don’t just teach the teens you work with the right answers. Instead do everything in your power to help them be lifelong learners with The Answer and the amazingly, diverse and beautiful community of others committed to the same thing.