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The Famine Blog

Crockpot Ministry in a Microwave World


By Joel Dunn

FASTER!!! QUICKER!!! HURRY!!! That’s what my brain is constantly telling my body. I need to do this faster so that I can do more. I need to be quicker at that thing so that I can fit more in; and I need to hurry so that I can run to that next thing. Do you ever feel like this? Well… STOP.

The End.

Ha-ha! I wish it were that simple, but it’s obviously not.

I would, however, like to I take a moment to encourage you. I know you have a busy, crazy, overstretched schedule. But have you recently been able to take a break, and breathe, even have a moment for yourself?

This year God was telling me to slow down. And after being diagnosed with some health issues God (gently) forced me to slow down. I was burning the candle at both ends for too long and the people closest around me and my body were affected by it. These past couple of months have really reminded me to take breaks, to play with my daughters more, to love my wife better, and to lean on people as a tribe and church! God showed me how to slow down and to really “slow cook” an amazing feast for my soul instead of “zap-frying” sustenance just so I could fit one more thing in my life.

So: when was the last time you to took a moment… to breathe… to spend real time with the people around you… to marinate in God’s love… to have crockpot relationships? I want to encourage you as you head into a summer of ministry (and many of you are just recovering from a 30 Hour Famine event!) to make room. Take the time, the moment, the breath that you need to so that you can go into your next ministry season knowing you’re not “zap-frying” ministry, but that you’re slow cooking a glorious feast and that all are welcomed to your table.

30 Hour Famine and the Hierarchy of Needs


By Beth Ruzanic

46 years ago some kids in Canada were heartbroken about the sheer number of children who die each day from hunger related illnesses so they did something about it, and the 30 Hour Famine was born. Building on the success of our neighbors to the north the first 30 Hour Famine in the USA took place 25 years ago in 1992. Since that time millions of young people have raised millions of dollars to combat the scourge of hunger across the globe. If we allow ourselves to stop and think about those statistics for a moment we realize that they cut directly to the heart of every teenager, in fact of every human being, that we all long to make a difference.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has long been the standard for the psychosocial development of the human species. It begins with a foundation of Basic Needs i.e. food, shelter, water, clothing. Then it moves onto Safety and Security which includes a home and people who are family. Next is Belonging and that includes relationships that ground us with a sense of place and the opportunity for intimacy. Following that is Self-Esteem where individuality and confidence grow along with achievements. The top of the pyramid is Self-Actualization and this is where we see the development of morality and creativity. More importantly during Self-Actualization is where experiences of purpose, meaning and inner potential start to occur.

For many decades youth ministry has focused mainly on the middle of the Heirarchy. Belonging and Self-Esteem are so critical to moving teenagers to a place where they are even able to be open to who God is and what he wants for their lives, so it’s normal that that’s where we aim. We talk about loving students where they are and showing them with words and actions that we care about them. We build programs that welcome them and give them a sense of Belonging so that they feel safe and secure. These are all great things that need to happen, but we can’t stop there.

Self-Actualization has to be the goal or else students will leave our programs without a God driven sense of purpose. They will move forward without the knowledge that their inner potential is something that the God of the universe cares about deeply. When a student asks me “where does God want me to go to college?” I recognize that they haven’t hit the stage of Self-Actualization yet. They haven’t yet discovered their purpose or the meaning of their life. So when I tell them that what God wants is faithful disciples and that they can be that anywhere they go I’m often met with confused looks and more questions. (By the way, self-actualization sometimes gets a bad rap with Christians who think of it as selfish or humanistic; but reframe is as ‘knowing who God made you to be.’)

So what do we do? Well we involve students in opportunities to move beyond themselves. Short term missions, sponsoring a child in the developing world, the 30 Hour Famine are all amazing ways to move students from being inwardly focused (the Self-Esteem phase) to being outwardly focused where they can begin to discover their purpose and meaning. We can’t stop there though, we have to reach for the tippy top of that pyramid and stay there. We have to provide continuous opportunities for students to stay in the Self-Actualization zone so they can develop a strong sense of self in Christ. Perhaps fun and games need to become the exception and not the rule. Maybe our regularly scheduled programming should be outwardly focused. In my city of Pittsburgh almost 20% of children are food insecure. The Pittsburgh Public School has more than 50% of its students qualify for free or reduced meals so the entire district gets free breakfast and lunch. Hunger is a problem in our city.

When students hear this they are motivated to act. They want to help. They want their lives to have PURPOSE and MEANING. So we partner with local food banks and urban farms who are trying to get healthy organic produce into the kitchens of people who wouldn’t normally have it. We donate snacks to local after school programs so kids can have something to eat before they go home to what may be an empty refrigerator. We develop long term strategies that keep students reaching for Self-Actualization because when they are there they begin to recognize that the tippy top of the pyramid is where their search for purpose and meaning converges with God’s desires for their lives. That in living life as a faithful disciple their longings will be fulfilled and through service and sacrifice their purpose is revealed.

Post 30 Hour Famine Success


By John Denton

Hundreds of groups are gearing up to hold their 30 Hour Famine event this coming weekend during the 2nd National Date. Whether that’s you, or you completed a Famine event recently, here are some practical thoughts about what to do after your event…

So you had a great 30 Hour Famine? Your students raised money. Youth were involved in serving your community. You helped bring awareness to world hunger. Everyone had fun and no one got hurt! Let’s consider it a success. Congratulations and thank you. Here are a few great ideas to help you maintain that momentum after your big Famine weekend.

  1. Keep your youth updated. It is easy to let this weekend pass and let all of the good vibes of helping others fade away. Not this year! Every time you meet for your main program or ministry take a minute to update your youth about some aspect of World Vision’s work around the world involving your Famine funds. Make it your “weekly Famine minute” or “Famine fact.” Keep your group in the loop and informed all year long. (By the way, the 30 Hour Famine blog always has links to great resources for this purpose. And if you’re in the 30 Hour Famine Facebook group, you’ll always see links to these stories.)
  2. Keep on serving. Food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are open year ‘round. Your neighbors need help no matter what weekend it is. Get your group active in the community. It was so much fun helping others over the 30 Hour Famine weekend and we are sure that positive energy will keep on rolling all year long. Make a commitment to take part in one community outreach project each month.
  3. Keep on supporting. Your group can sponsor a World Vision child for $39 a month! That’s probably less than they spent on Unicorn Frappuccino’s last week! Teach your youth about good stewardship and learning how to use their money for good work. This will change a child’s life and it will change the focus of your group. Click here to learn more about sponsorship.

My last piece of advice is simple. Keep on making memories. The Famine weekend was taxing on your body and you ate one less slice of pizza this week. The youth loved it. They learned, their perspectives were changed, and they helped change lives. Keep those memories alive. I am by no means a veteran youth worker but I do know that in my 15 years of ministry my favorite memories are from the 30 Hour Famine. Thank you for keeping on.

Note from the Famine team: This coming weekend is the second 30 Hour Famine National Date, and hundreds of groups across the country are hosting their events. We want to make sure you know a couple things: First, we are praying for you (really – by name). And second, we are available to you if you need any help or have questions – just call 800.7FAMINE.

Clean Water for Julia and Esperanza


By Andrea Sawtelle

Several years ago, I heard a radio DJ begin to talk about raising money for a clean water project in a third world country. Having just returned from Mozambique, Africa, where a good portion of our time was spent looking at clean water projects, I was immediately intrigued. The DJ proceeded to explain that for just a few dollars a month, you could bring clean water to a village in need. He then began to “put it into perspective” for his listeners. “Imagine this for a minute,” he said. “Imagine taking a cup of water, going outside, putting some dirt in the cup and mixing it around. Then imagine serving it to your child.” His co-worker began to contribute to the conversation, but their voices became faint as I found myself back in that remote village in Africa. All I could picture were the faces of Julia and Esperanza.

Julia and Esperanza were the names of the two little girls I found myself holding the hands of, as we embarked on a short, 1 mile hike to the very spot where their families had fetched dirty water over and over again. This water wasn’t just dirty, it was the host of life threatening bacteria and parasites that would place people at risk for disease and even at times death. It had been the only water available until World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine Funds were used to provide a water bore hole that would provide clean water for a community who was desperately in need.

My youth group and I had participated in the 30 Hour Famine for years, but it wasn’t until I found myself hand in hand with these two little girls that I realized the life long impact that one weekend could make in a person’s life. I thought about this as I found myself dancing and singing with little Esperanza, whose face lit up as she pointed to the new well that had been built, one that now gushed out endless supplies of clean water.

The well hadn’t just supplied clean water. It had supplied endless opportunities for 9 year olds like Julia and Esperanza, to do what 9 year olds do best…to be kids. They could now go to school, as their days wouldn’t be spent walking miles upon miles in search for a water supply. They could run, dance and sing, as their health was restored. They could dream about what they want to do and be, because future had now become part of their reality.

I’ve often wondered as I’ve spent countless hours planning and prepping for our own 30 Hour Famine events, “Is it worth it?” What if we only raise a few dollars? What if my teens complain all weekend? What is the point of going 30 hours without eating anyway? The truth is, we do it because of kids like Julia and Esperanza.

That day, as Esperanza pointed to the new water well and danced around me, singing at the top of her lungs, I couldn’t help but smile. A community that had spent far too many days struggling to survive were now empowered to do great things. Hope had come to that village as a result of a few teens who were willing to give up food for a weekend, and that hope would make a difference for generations to come.

Note from the Famine team: This coming weekend is the second 30 Hour Famine National Date, and hundreds of groups across the country are hosting their events. We want to make sure you know a couple things: First, we are praying for you (really – by name). And second, we are available to you if you need any help or have questions – just call 800.7FAMINE.

Limiting Spring Break Burnout


By Bobby Benevides

IT’S SPRING BREAK (or, depending on your area, it just was, and you can store up the truths of this post for that quickly approaching summer break)! That means, a period of time where kids are available for activities and hangouts. A perfect opportunity for you and your leaders to reach out to young people for coffee chats, ice cream, and other interesting events. It is prime time to experience sporting events, ultimate frisbee, backyard cookouts, campfires, and much more. It’s a great time for youth pastors and leaders to build relationships and memories with students and help parents who are unable to get the time off from work (you know that’s a part of it right?)

Although this is an opportune time for events and activities, there is also a high probability of burnout during this time. As youth workers, we want to be available and we want to take advantage of open doors into the lives of our students, especially during warmer weather. We plan for basketball and barbecues. We get pumped for bonfires and Frisbee. Yet, in all the excitement, we often forget about our own health.

It is vital for you as a youth worker to be a part of your student’s life and activities. It is important for you to build these relationships and memories. However, it is also important for you to find balance and be willing to say “no.” It is hard, but is so necessary. Spring break can be busy, but you need time for you. Choose your activities wisely.

Your students aren’t just learning about Jesus from you. They are learning margin. They are learning how to create boundaries. They are learning how to maintain sanity in a busy life. So many of our kids are overwhelmed by their calendars and they need someone to show them how to live with healthy time constraints.

You will have kids ask for you to join them for movies, all-nighters, or concerts. If you can, do it. However, if you know that you are tired, don’t be afraid to say you’re tired. We all need rest and you deserve it too.

So, what should you do when you have said no? Pray for the kids and their families. Lay down. Read. Spend time with friends or family. Do something that allows you to breathe, something that rejuvenates your spirit.

Your ministry can only be healthy if you are. Limit your Spring Break burnout by creating healthy space for yourself. Your students will benefit more from a whole and healthy version of you, which means you will make it to the end.

Ready to Go?


By Kim Collins

I am a lifer in the church.  During the first twenty years of my life, if there was a church function, I was there.  As my mother fleshed out Christ for me, I grew from a church baby…to a child…then to a tween who began to intentionally flesh out Christ for others. And that continued through my teens, my twenties, my thirties and now in my forties.

I answered the call to vocational ministry at the age of 36.  What was I thinking starting another vocation at that age?  And of all things, ministering with children and youth?  I spent quite a bit of time in prayer, wondering, “Why now, Lord?  Am I too old?”  And after more time in prayer and beginning seminary, I answered the call to ordained ministry at the age of 38.  Again, “Why now, Lord? Am I too old?”  And each time I have written a paper or went through an interview with my denomination, I have often wondered if I am too old.

HOWEVER, for every time I have asked or wondered, the Lord blesses me with a wonderful moment in ministry.  Like the time a mother told me that her child asked her if I really meant it when I told him I loved him.  She replied, “Yes, Pastor Collins really loves you.”  To which the child replied, “Good!  I love her, too.”  The mom went on to tell me how much her family has been embraced and nurtured by the church.

Or the moment a high school student, after spending the year keeping a blessing jar, sent me a note at the end of the year to share a few ways in which she had spiritually grown and what she learned.  And then there’s the time a mother came to me asking me to pray with her regarding some decisions she had to make; wow, what a sacred trust!

There are so many wonderful moments in ministry that are written upon my heart.  So, I’ve learned to stop asking “why” or if I’m too old, or if I’m _______ (fill in the excuse blank). Instead, I’m learning to answer, “Here I am Lord, send me.”  Age has nothing to do with calling – ordained or laity; after all, Abram was seventy-five when God called him (Genesis 12:1-4).  And what did he do?  He went.  Abram is a wonderful example of radical obedience to God, and faithfully going where he was led.  As Christians, that is what we are called to do: GO!  Our faith is active, not stagnant.  We listen to the Lord calling us, knowing that when we go and minister in the name of Jesus, there are blessings upon blessings.  We step out in faith, trusting in the One who created us to also guide us on the path, and, realizing that sometimes the path is a new direction.  God can (and will) use anyone for ministry; we just need to be prepared to answer and go.  Where is God calling you to go today, my friend?

On Your Way to Easter Sunday, Don’t Miss Good Friday


By Becky Gilbert

Growing up, Easter was just another holiday. New clothes, new shoes, dinner at Grandma Brooks’ and fun with my cousins. Yes, we did go to church, too. The hymns ‘Up from the Grave He Arose’, ‘Majesty’ and ‘Because He Lives’ will always bring to my mind rural Pennsylvania churches that we attended when we had Easter with my Grandparents.

Fast forward several years. My calling to be in ministry with youth led me to a denomination that follows the liturgical calendar. Although I was in my twenties and had finished Seminary, I was experiencing my first season of Lent and at the end of Lent, Holy Week. Being a highly educated Seminary graduate, I thought that I knew all that it was possible to know about Jesus and his life and death.

Holy Week is an amazing time. On Palm Sunday, we echo the praises of the people who saw Jesus enter Jerusalem. Children and sometimes adults enter the sanctuary with palm branches they wave the branches and sing and you cannot help but imagine how joy-filled the people in Jerusalem must have been. On Thursday, the church family joins together for a Seder meal. I must admit, at first I did not know what to think about this idea but as the Seder meal is shared and the story of the people of God is retold, it becomes a beautiful celebration of how God has cared for his people throughout history.

Good Friday. The first Good Friday service I experienced left me awe-struck. My eyes began to tear up when I entered the sanctuary and saw everything covered in black. It was so final. It was eerily quiet. For a few minutes, I could sense the despair that Jesus’ death caused. Then the scripture was read:

 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

Hearing those words again, in that dark, quiet, desperate place my heart gained a new understanding of just how much Jesus understands the times in our lives when we feel lonely, full of despair, sad, overwhelmed by grief, or abandoned. In that moment, Jesus knew what it was to be separated from God.

Finally, it was Sunday! Resurrection day! I can only imagine that hope that must have been in the hearts of the women as they realized that Jesus was no longer dead. New day, new life, new hope. Jesus has overcome death. He is no longer separated from God and because of his resurrection, neither are we!

Now, I do not claim that my denomination has it all figured out or that these experiences are the only ones that can help you grow. I am grateful for all I learned from the rural churches of my childhood and the suburban church of my youth these were the places I began to hear God’s call on my life. Good Friday experiences, like the ones I have been a part of, have helped me to continue to ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling…’. When we understand the darkness of Friday, the hope of Resurrection Sunday is even brighter.


Holy Week Justice


By Tash McGill

It’s Holy Week, my favorite time of the liturgical year. I love that the Passover has begun for my Jewish friends and life is sliding towards a few days of rest and reflection. In my part of the world (New Zealand), everything closes on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In a largely post-Christian culture, these are sacred days. Stores don’t open, restaurants stay closed. Only churches, hospitals and gas stations stay open – so you can get to church and the hospital. But the innate sacredness of Holy Week is still there, just under the surface. There’s something about this time of year that is held dear.

‘Sacred’ has a variable definition – for some, it’s sacred family time before the school term break. For many youth groups, Easter is the highlight of the event season with youth camps and special events happening all over. For others, it’s just a welcome respite from the beginning of the year.

On the first night of Passover, my friend Kate wrote that this is the annual reminder that where this is still slavery, there is no justice or freedom. This sentiment is thousands of years old but is still as true today as it ever was. Across the world this Holy Week, thousands live under slavery and fear while we will gather our youth ministries for Easter pageants and Easter egg hunts in the church yard.

On Easter Sunday, we will break bread and share wine (more likely, grape juice) and remember that Christ is risen and we hold within us a promise of justice, of peace, of freedom. We eat and drink, sharing in the world’s most hopeful meal. One that was formed from another, older sacred meal. Both carry the cry for justice, the prayer of hope.

When we participate in the 30 Hour Famine, we participate in this sacred, hopeful prayer. We willingly experience hunger because of those who experience hunger. When we share in the communion meal, we ought to come to it as hungry as we come to that first meal after Famine. Hungry not just for nourishment, but for the risen Christ to restore justice and freedom to the earth.

The Passover meal became the hopeful prayer of the Jewish people and their expression of that prayer – that God would rescue them from oppression and slavery. This Easter, I pray you and your ministries would engage again in a holy hunger for freedom for slaves and from oppression. Read again the story of Holy Week, of the Jesus who threw merchants and money traders from the temple grounds. The Christ who offered sanctuary and redemption to the thief next to him and shared a meal with his disciples. As you share a sacred meal together, may you pray for peace, freedom and justice.

Towering Cedars, Eventually


By Russ Polsgrove

My first paid youth ministry job was a church that had not had a full time youth worker for the eight years prior to my arrival. Although I was greeted warmly by most of the teenagers and families in our church, some people did not like me. At all.

There were a few teenagers who for some reason just didn’t want me to be there, and they were determined to do anything to get me to leave. My office was huge, but because of limited space in the building it doubled as a college-age Sunday School room. The computer sat on a desk in the corner opposite couches and a coffee table. It wasn’t really a bother considering I wasn’t in there during Sunday School.

Until one morning.

Being in a small town, there were multiple doors, no security system, and lots of keys dispersed among members and former members of the church. It was quite common to walk in at any hour of the day or night and see people milling about. One of the teenagers REALLY didn’t like me, and used the easy access to sneak into my office on a Saturday night. So when the teacher for the college class came in Sunday morning he saw my computer screen turned around to face the door. The screensaver was changed to a myriad of expletives to describe just what some people in the church thought of me. I was hurt, I was embarrassed, and I was angry.

At the time I was reading in the Psalms, and this one came to light.

My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.
But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
(Psalm 92:11-12)

I’ll be honest about my thought process. That teenager was my enemy, my wicked opponent. I was the godly who was going to flourish like a tree. In my head it was that simple. At the time I took great comfort in the fact that I was the better person.

I worked for that church for five years. It was the most formative ministry experience I’ve ever had, but I never had an honest conversation with the teenager who did that. In fact, I’m not 100% sure who did it. I can narrow it down to three or four, but we eventually just moved on as the self-righteousness subsided in me.

A few years after I left (about 7 years after the expletive filled screensaver) I got a Facebook message from one of the teenagers who assuredly hated me at the time. He told me he was sorry for the way he treated me when I first moved to his town, and he was thankful I was part of his church and part of his formation. Two weeks after that I randomly bumped into another one of the students that had become a college student. He echoed almost the exact same sentiment.

I started thinking about Psalm 92 again, particularly the image of a tree. A tree isn’t strong and towering the second it’s planted. It has to grow. A lawnmower would kill a sapling, but would be destroyed if it ever went up against a towering cedar. In order for trees to get strong, they have to grow.

When we think of our ministries, we often think this is what we’re doing. This is what we talk about when we reference the long view. We “plant seeds” with the hope that one day our teenagers will grow into committed followers of Jesus. But when I think about growth, I think about myself. I was the sapling that needed to understand that teenagers will be teenagers. I was the sapling that needed to grow into a person of perspective. I was the sapling that needed to trust that the work I was doing was valuable and noble and a calling. I was wasting time by being angry and self-righteous towards some teenagers who were working through their own personal spiritual growth.

I don’t think I’m a towering cedar now, but I like to think I’d handle that situation much differently today. I wouldn’t be immune to the pain, but I wouldn’t pretend to be better than they are. They’re just growing.

And so am I.

The Three Kinds of Relationships That Fill Up Our Days


by Matt Wilks

The ability to manage the different relationships you will face both inside and outside of the church will be a challenging juggling act for you. You will be faced both with people who long for a relationship with you and with others who will frustrate you as you try and build a relationship with them.

Many of the relationships you develop will lead to lifelong memories of people who stepped into the gap with you, or people who valued your contribution to their life. These people will make up the art of your life, a collection of images, stories and memories that define who you are. At the end of the day ministry is all about relationships and helping one another be all God has created each of us to be.

There are three groups of people who will come across the calendar notifications on your iphone on a regular basis. Take a moment to evaluate the different kinds of relationships that you have.

Draining Relationships
In ministry, the people who need extra grace will always find you. God will never give you more people who need extra care than what your ministry can handle. These people are some of the main reasons why your ministry exists, so try to never view them as a burden in your ministry.

The “draining” people in your life need to have boundaries that are clearly set for them by you. Make sure to have a set amount of time you will give to them each week and do not let them dominate your schedule.

The issue with draining people filling up your calendar is that you can end up depleting your relational tank, leaving you with nothing left to contribute to others (including yourself and those critical non-ministry relationships family and friends). Simply evaluate what percentage of your past week was spent with draining people.

Neutral Relationships
In our weekly routine of life, so much time is spent with neutral people. These types of people dominate our calendars and neither contribute or take away from our energy levels. The issue here is less about whether these relationships are life-draining or life-giving, but more about the quantity. Large expectations of time spent with neutral relationships can crowd out the space you need for live-giving relationships.

Evaluate your past week, what amount of time was spent with neutral people.

Refueling Relationships
Unfortunately in our ministry calendars, we often think of the need we have for meaningful relationships last. Our calendars are chock full of relationships where we give and give, yet very few relationships that will refuel us. These relationships are relationships that speak into who we are and give us the strength to work through the struggles that come into our weekly routine of being a youth worker.

A refueling relationship is a relationship where we leave with a smile on our face, or feeling full, and we feel ready to take on the challenges of the day. These relationships are not necessarily dependant on the quantity of time, but rather the quality of the time.

Refueling relationships are relationships we must proactively put into our calendar.

People have the ability to bring you the most joy as well as the most pain. As we deal with people, we open ourselves up to pain, rejection and frustration, but we also open ourselves up to joy, redemption, and restoration. You and I have been given the opportunity to be Jesus to a world that needs to see love and hope and a future. So monitor the mix of time you spend in these three kinds of relationships, so you are able to be your best self and give most productively.

My prayer for you
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full or let me be empty.
Let me have all things or let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your disposal.
And now glorious and blessed Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
Let it be ratified in Heaven.
(John Wesley)