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The Famine Blog

Fearing the Famine: How not participating is starving your ministry



By Sara Clark

“Students loving God and fighting hunger.” What’s to fear about that? That’s what our ministries are supposed to be all about –seeing our love for God radically transform our lives, and positively impact the lives of those around us. This sounds a lot like what Jesus did in his ministry. More than that, it’s what Jesus told us to do:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.-John 15:12 (NRSV)

I hear stories of the amazing ways youth are showing their love by feeding the hungry and advocating for the oppressed after experiencing the 30 Hour Famine. I have to ask myself why, in my four years as a Youth Director, I have not participated in this event.

It’s not that I don’t know about 30 Hour Famine, because I participated with my youth group in high school. We did an amped-up version where we decided to “go big” and do a multi-church 40 Hour Famine. Call us overachievers, but we committed to start fasting that day during school. Throughout the weekend we learned about world hunger, and stayed busy with different service projects.

I still remember the moment we completed the canned-food scavenger hunt. We were making our way back to the church, when we came to a stoplight. There he was, a homeless man, sitting with his cardboard sign asking for help. I decided to jump out of the car and hand him some cans of food. He politely thanked me, and I turned and got back in the car.

In the following weeks, I wondered if that was really what Jesus meant when he commanded us to love. I mean, did that man even have access to a can opener? Did I even look him in the eye or think to ask him his name? The straight answer is no.

I guess that’s why I fear the Famine. I fear that inevitably, teens will focus solely on the need, and overlook the person in need.

Unfortunately, I’ve allowed this fear to feed the ignorance of my teens, and I’ve starved them of knowing about a growing world issue that affects their very own classmates. You see, it’s not just about spending 30 hours without food. It’s about giving teens the chance to care; the chance to be a part of the solution. Because in order to care about the need, we have to first care about the person in need. Like Jesus said, it starts with love.

For me and the ministry I lead, it’s time to take the Famine off the shelf and dig in.

Ending Well: Breaking your Famine Fast



By Kevin Alton

After years of participating in the annual 30 Hour Famine, the most often discussed Famine how-to I’ve encountered among youth workers is the conclusion. What’s the best way to honor the gravity of the subject matter at hand and the commitment of those present? It was only 30 hours, but the intention to go without for any stretch of time is pretty foreign to most teenagers, unless they happen to have a robust practice of Lent. To break the fast, I’ve seen meager meals of rice to overloaded steak dinners and everything in between. I wanted offer 3 quick tips for breaking your group’s fast if you’ve been on the bubble about how to bring things to a close.

1. Maybe you should do nothing at all.

Simply releasing your youth to their homes is sometimes the best thing you can do. They’ll be pretty tired by the end of your event. An attempt to wring one last ounce of meaning from any given event often does more to pet the ego of the youthworker than it does to instill any new insight in the mind of a youth. If you’ve followed the basic game plan of the 30 Hour Famine, you’ve already done well, good and faithful servant. Take ‘er easy. If this is you, find (or create) a non-chaotic moment for final reflection on the experience and close in prayer.

2. Do nothing to excess.

An overblown meal at the end can undermine the experience your group has just journeyed through. 30 hours without food is just barely long enough to begin to open their eyes to the suffering and hunger happening in abundance around the world. If you throw them back immediately into the familiar context of all you can eat they’ll forget what they’ve learned before they even hit the door.

Conversely, excessive simplicity can trivialize the direness of actual poverty. Eating one poor meal before hitting McDonalds on the way home won’t be a memorable life experience. The 30 Hour Famine is meant to raise awareness, not experience. Your goal isn’t to have kids coming away saying, “I know what it’s like to be hungry.” You simply want them to be motivated to find means to provide for others.

3. Consider communion.

My absolute favorite way to end a 30 Hour Famine is by sharing in communion. I love the way it brings together our physical and spiritual needs being so simply and perfectly met. If this is the direction you go, you’ll want to check within your context about appropriate ways to do so.

Best of all, there’s not a wrong way to end a 30 Hour Famine. Know your group and work with your adult leaders to decide what’s best for you.

The Hard Work of Bringing Good News



By Brad Hauge

There’s this incredible scene in The Gospel of Luke where Jesus delivers his first public sermon in his hometown of Nazareth. Having just come back from the wilderness where he dealt with extreme hunger and temptation, Jesus stood before those gathered at the synagogue where he chose to read the words of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll that was handed to him and preached,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

After realizing that he had their attention and that every eye in the place was still fixed upon him, he added his own mic drop to the words of Isaiah, saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke goes on to write of how well Jesus’ words were received and how amazed and excited those gathered at the synagogue were by these powerfully hope-filled statements. Amazed and excited for a few moments, that is.

Jesus continued his teaching and told his now-adoring crowd some hard truths about what he’s up to and how his reign probably won’t go as they expected or desired. There’s much that could be said of this exchange, but just know that in the blink of an eye the crowd’s reaction went from amazement and awe, to conspiring to throw Jesus off of a cliff to his death!

Jesus began his public ministry by telling the world he has come, today, to bring good news to the poor. How cool is that? And how cool is it that, today, we can be a part of that work through the 30 Hour Famine? Advocacy for the least of these around the world, monies raised to battle unnecessary hunger through both emergency food rations and long-term development, and awareness raised around the globe for hunger-related issues is indeed good news.

It is good, and right, to sit back in awe and amazement of the Jesus-centered work we can be a part of today. But, the hard truth, the sort of thing that may make us want to throw Jesus off a cliff, is that raising money and awareness through 30 Hour Famine isn’t the fullness of what it can mean to bring good news to the poor.

Jesus made it clear with the words of his sermon that he came to bring good news to the poor, but he also made it clear with his actions that he would live his life among the poor. His good news didn’t come from an arm’s length or from the other side of the world—it came from shared stories, communal meals, and eye contact.

In his book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne describes a survey in which those who identified as “strong followers of Jesus” responded to some questions about bringing good news to the poor. 80% of those who responded said yes, Jesus spent time with the poor. However, when asked later in the survey if they regularly spent time with poor, less than 2% of folks responded affirmatively. Less than 2% of those who call themselves strong followers of Jesus knew those who were poor. Shane goes on to state that he had “come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”

Do you and the teens in your ministry know the poor? We have to ask ourselves this difficult question because it’s difficult to bring good news to the poor if we don’t even know their names.

  • Do we serve food at the homeless shelter but fail to learn the names and stories of those who are hungry?
  • Do we pray often for those in our communities who are struggling to make ends meet without actually meeting with them to see if we can be bearers of good news to their situation?
  • Do we donate to worthy causes but fail to show the hurting neighbors in our backyard that they are also worthy children of God?

This work is, admittedly, harder than 30 hours of fasting and fundraising. This work demands vulnerability, trust, and an expectation of awkwardness. But, if we trust in the life and words of Jesus, it will be good news to those who most need it.

Let me make myself abundantly clear: I love the work and mission of World Vision and the 30 Hour Famine. It is, undoubtedly, bringing good news to the poor. I just think Jesus would include a little mic drop to say something like, “If you aren’t also living life among the poor in your neighborhood and bringing good news to those whose names you now know and whose stories you now share, you aren’t experiencing the full measure of life as you could be. Today.”

May we see this hard truth, even in the midst of celebrating so many beautiful Famine-related stories, not as a reason to push Jesus off a cliff, but as inspiration.

A Peaceful Demonstration of God’s Love: Engaging the public during 30 Hour Famine


carper.a peaceful protest.2Ross Carper 

The light bulb went off during a student leader meeting to brainstorm ideas for making our Famine season special and effective. Rab Greenup, a brilliant and beautifully quirky 8th grade guy in our group, noted that it was Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. He wondered aloud, to no one in particular, if we could emulate some of Dr. King’s practices during our 30 Hour Famine season.

“What if we did some sort of peaceful protest or something, like the marches and sit-ins Martin Luther King, Jr. led?”

The discussion moved forward after the group explored the idea, but as we talked later, the adult leaders became more and more excited about Rab’s brainstorm. In the weeks leading up to our Famine event, we crafted a way to publicly protest extreme poverty, hunger, and injustice in a way that our city would actually notice. The students became excited when we announced that our plan would unfold at River Park Square, a popular mall and movie theater downtown, on Friday night during 30 Hour Famine (the mall had agreed to allow our peaceful demonstration). The students were clearly energized by the plan, and shouted out more ideas, helping refine the protest and make it their own.

When the night came, each Famine participant donned a bright orange t-shirt that read WE WON’T STAND SILENT. We arranged ourselves in the mall’s main atrium in the shape of a peace sign, visible from the escalators high above. Our arms were linked as we faced out. In a twist of irony, each student also wore a piece of orange duct tape over their mouths, signifying the ways our most vulnerable global neighbors are often voiceless on the world stage. The students each chose a word to write on their duct tape—either something that they believe keeps the poor silenced (hunger, injustice, war, etc.) or something positive that the student was fasting/praying for (peace, justice, hope, freedom, love).

carper.a peaceful protest.1

Our high school work crew members were available to answer questions and distribute flyers that explained our effort and linked to our 30 Hour Famine website. There were envelopes and laptops and iPads ready for cash/check/online donations toward our goal. We had written a simple press release, and a local news station showed up to videotape the demonstration and interview Rab. The students were pretty proud of the brief report that was included on the late newscast of both the Fox and NBC local stations.

In all, our group stood still and silent and together for just 30 minutes of our 30 hour fast. In that half hour, we raised a few hundred dollars from passersby, and even met one woman who was moved to tears over the students’ willingness to fast and advocate for the sake of kids they had never met from across the world. At the mall and through the media, we also helped thousands of other people take a short moment to consider their global neighbors who are affected by extreme hunger. And we showed them the passion of a worldwide 30 Hour Famine movement of students who are loving God, loving neighbors across all boundaries, and fighting hunger through World Vision. For our middle schoolers, this was an opportunity to take a cue from the Civil Rights movement and do something simple, peaceful, and symbolic. The experience further reinforced that we can’t and won’t stand silent when our call is to speak up for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8).

The 24 Year, 30 Hour “Mission Trip”

Danny Kwon

Danny Kwon

By Danny Kwon

When I was recently asked to be part of the team of writers for the 30 Hour Famine blog, I was like, “Sure, we love that event. Been doing it for 24 years now.”  I didn’t know at that time that this is actually the 25th anniversary of the 30 Hour Famine. I thought, “Wow,” and wondered if that was some kind of record.  Thinking more soberly, I thought to myself, “Why have we done the 30 Hour Famine for so long?”  So I started thinking about that for my first blog post.  And I came up with a few reasons.

First, as a long time youth (and family) pastor at my church, I love all the ideas and suggestions that come with doing the 30 Hour Famine.  It is not that I have used and done every event or activity that came with the materials that World Vision sends for the Famine.  But they certainly give this youth worker quality choices of things I can do with my youth group for the event.  Some years, we used only the videos they sent us.  This year, we used two of the games/activities as part of our event (and those two activities took 90 minutes!).  I also really like the materials that are provided for in-depth study and looking at scripture more in depth, as well as learning about hunger issues worldwide.  My favorite activity ever was when, one year, our youth group made shelters out of cardboard and slept.  Overall, the variety of activities and material gives students various ways to experience so many different things about hunger, brokenness, the needs in our world, and how students can be change agents for God’s kingdom.

Second, with recent critiques about the value of youth ministry short-term mission trips, I understand where some of these critiques are coming from.  Probably one of the biggest critiques of STM trips is that they are “short” term.   In other words, our churches and youth groups must have a healthier missiology and more than just a “short-term” summer thing.  The 30 Hour Famine has provided for my youth group a way to do “missions” more than just as a “short-term” or summer/spring break event.  It is a time during the school year where I can emphasize to our students that a life of missions and service is not just a summer or “short-term” thing.  Just the timing of the 30 Hour Famine, as we do it in the spring of each year, reminds our students that we are called to a life of missions and as Christians, we are always on God’s mission.  So for us, the 30 Hour Famine is more like a 30 Hour “mission” trip, where mission is not just a summer thing, but something to remind us that Christians are called to mission as part of their whole lives, year round.

Finally, I love the 30 Hour Famine because it has become, for our students and me, an opportunity to serve.  This may take some work for the youth pastor and adult leaders.  But we have made the last 24 years of doing the 30 Hour Famine a time to partner and go and serve a community or group as part of our Famine event.  For example, our youth group has gone to a local mission organization to do a clean-up day for their missionary compound, served at a home for neglected and abused children, and gone to food banks; and this year, we helped serve Easter meals to those in need with other churches in our area.  And one note on this, every few years, we also stay at our own church to do service projects and clean-up for our own congregation.  Any youth pastor will know that their Senior Pastor (and church) will love that.

Ultimately, there are a lot more reasons why I love the 30 Hour Famine.  There must be, because I can’t believe it has been 24 years of doing it!  But what I can say as a long time, veteran youth worker is that if you take some time and a little effort, it can be an amazing blessing for your church and youth group.

Graduating Leaders, Not Just Seniors



By Chris Luper

In Youth Ministry, just as in life, there are certain inevitable truths that we must come face to face with. One of the most joyful, yet painful, of these truths is having to saying goodbye to the senior class every year. I always find myself asking, “Did I do enough? Did our Youth Ministry Team pour enough of their own souls into the souls of the students so that they’re prepared to live into their faith?” Granted, it’s not like you have to say goodbye forever when a student graduates; but at the same time it is undeniable that there will be a change in your relationship.

Having served in youth ministry for several years now, I have found that it is crucial to your ministry to celebrate your students as they prepare to move into the next phase of life and young adulthood. I remember early on in my ministry looking for just the perfect gift to give a student (typically a Bible) so that they would remember the love of both the church and myself for them. After a few years, our team moved into a phase of “practical” gifts (let me clarify, I fully believe the Bible to be PRACTICAL). The rationale here was that our students had already received at least two Bibles from the church: one from the Children’s Ministry and one during our confirmation program in our United Methodist tradition. Because of this, the team landed on the idea of a college survival kit (school supplies, iTunes gift card, fast food gift cards, etc.).

All of these gifts were great, but I quickly realized gifts weren’t what mattered most. After just a few years of youth ministry, my attention shifted to the stories that many of our students were sharing as they returned home from college over fall break, stories of struggles to find a faith community where they felt belonging. It was during this season of my own life that I realized it didn’t matter much what we’re gifting our seniors; and I turned my attention to raising up young leaders who have been gifted discernment to boldly live out their faith no matter where they are.

In my current ministry setting, as with any other, this is a process that takes several years. We introduce our students to the Christian faith through the historical lenses of the church in sixth grade as they participate in confirmation, which specifically focuses on the history and theology of our denomination’s tradition. This becomes the foundation for our entire youth ministry as it teaches youth why we believe what we believe. Throughout middle and high school, we continue to build on this foundation as we teach practical ways to experience, but more importantly, live out one’s faith through our weekly gatherings and special events such as retreats and mission trips.

But the question still remains, how do we prepare to say goodbye to the senior class? In our local church we have found three things to be crucial:

  1. During the second semester of any student’s senior year, they are invited to participate in a multi-week spiritual discernment class. The main focus of this study is to help students identify their spiritual gifts and begin to look for ways to live into these gifts.
  2. We celebrate our seniors (and, yes, we give them a gift). In early June, we will have our traditional Graduation Sunday. This is a very special day in the life of the church as each senior and his or her family is recognized by the entire congregation. It is an astounding occasion as the church celebrates the importance of each young person and their vital role in our community. And just in case you’re wondering, it is during this time that we present the seniors with a gift – our congregation has chosen a blanket, woven with symbols special to our church family, which can symbolically wrap the love of our church around each senior wherever they may go in life.
  3. Finally, we celebrate our seniors at our annual summer beach retreat.  At the end of this week in July our seniors officially become a part of our college ministry. It is in this moment that the culmination of everything we have worked for over the past seven years of youth ministry takes shape. With years of lead time, each member of the senior class is asked to share during a very special closing worship service what it has meant to them to be a part of our youth ministry and church. How have their lives been transformed and shaped by their faith? It’s in this moment that we tend to witness each student have that pivotal “Eureka!” moment where their faith becomes their own…they transition from a senior to a leader.

The final piece of this puzzle for us has been to offer students opportunities to return home and lead within the youth ministry they grew up in. We allow college sophomores to return as Counselors-in-Training (CIT’s). So as you prepare to send off your next batch of seniors to the world that awaits, how are you raising up a generation of Leaders, not just saying goodbye to seniors?

A Lesson in Defining the Win



By Travis Hill

When’s the last time you failed? And it was entirely your fault? You see, I’ve been in the middle of a pretty interesting transition at my own church over the last few months, one that has stretched and changed me, going from one position of comfort to a position of leadership, tough decisions, and more. I was excited when it was happening, when the suggestion came to me, but I was also scared. I could potentially fail in this new endeavor, but fortunately I have been surrounded by some of the most incredible people.

And what made all of this more difficult? It happened right at the beginning of our 30 Hour Famine kickoff. The dates were set, the brand new, super awesome packets were in, and we were ready to rock and roll here with Student Ministry. Each year, we try to do something a little different to bring in the congregation. Two years ago our senior pastor donated his old beat-up truck so that we could literally sign it to raise money; last year we created sponsorship packets where adults could engage with students. And this year? Well, because of the transition, so far I had nothing. One student approached me about hosting a benefit show, and I was quite leery. Have you hosted a benefit concert before? Boy, is it tough work! So, I let the student run the show. Did I mention that this student was a mere 14 years old?

I told her if she was wanted a benefit concert then she would have to do the work to put it together. Obviously, I told her that I would help her through the process with some of the logistics, but it was really going to be her doing. She began asking the worship leaders at our church, boldly going up to people she had never met to get them involved. And remarkably, they all said yes. The stage was set (quite literally), the music was picked, and the musicians were ready to go. The last bit fell on me.

Three weekends before, we had decided the benefit concert would actually be during the 30 Hour Famine event. It was the first time we had truly invited the congregation into our space during our event. I got on stage to do announcements, bringing the student who organized the show with me, and we discussed why we do 30 Hour Famine and why the show was important. She did such a fantastic job of explaining the “why”.

Fast-forward three weeks and the show was about to happen. And weren’t many people around. In fact, aside from our group of super hungry teens, pre-teens, and leaders, there were maybe a dozen other people there. And it was disheartening, honestly. Was it my fault? Probably, to a degree. The music was still great and the student speakers shared from their hearts. How about the 8th grader who learned to play the ukulele a couple of months before, but really wanted to sing and play “Oceans” by Hillsong at the concert? Let’s be honest, she was the highlight.

But did we raise hundreds of dollars at the benefit concert? No. Honestly, I don’t think we raised even one hundred dollars. And in the world’s eyes that would be a failure.

But what happened instead? Students got on stage and lead when they could have said no. Teenagers could have been more concerned about what other people thought of them and decided that they didn’t want their voices to be shared. The 9th grade girl could have opted out of putting together the benefit show because it was too difficult. So sure, we didn’t raise a considerable amount of money, but the real win was in the empowerment of students. I failed them in bringing in loads of money and people, but I would like to think that I really helped them succeed even more through giving them the control we typically don’t.

30 Hour Famine Participation as Heroism



By Matt Andrews

Personally, I think adult hunger is a lot more complicated than teenage hunger.  Nowadays when I get really hungry I think boring adult thoughts about it: thoughts about calories, or saturated fat, or processed ingredients.  Long gone are my days of slaying the Taco Bell dollar menu with a few crumpled bills and as much change as I could scrounge from around the house or under my car seats (and still weighing 145 pounds no matter what I ate).

As an adult I remember that trip to the doctor when he said my cholesterol was too high.  What’s a more boring adult word than “cholesterol?”  And strangely, I find I actually have some self-control now.  I mean, I’ve been hearing about it my whole life, but now I really have some of it.  As a teenager the only thing stopping me from eating everything after sports practices was an availability problem: there just wasn’t enough food available (ever).

Which makes the 30 Hour Famine experience all the more mysterious to me.  I mean, I can remember that intense, insatiable teenage hunger just like it was yesterday.  There’s no reason for me to believe that teenage hunger is different nowadays.  And when I remember my teenage self, I don’t see how I possibly could have gone 30 hours on juice alone, all while participating in high-energy activities and service projects.  But nobody ever asked me to… so who knows?

For every Famine I’ve led as a youth pastor, I have as many stories as there were participants about ravenous teens putting themselves second in order to be a blessing.  I’ve seen kids waver in the early hours of the Famine, and I was sure they would tap out, but they never did.  I have literally never had a kid fail to complete all 30 hours of the Famine, and believe me, I’ve had all kinds of teens show up to participate!  I remember my teenage hunger, my teenage selfishness, and my teenage inability to think critically, and I just marvel at how…well…heroic an effort all of these students are willing to make.

Which brings me to this important thought: as your group participates in the 30 Hour Famine, and you celebrate their selflessness for making it through, consider the possibility that there might be a whole lot more potential in your group than you even realized.  Unlike most adults, teens are often willing to just go for it in ministry situations if you ask them to.  When I was teenager in church, no one ever asked much of me at all; no one ever challenged me.  I wish they would have.

Instead of just being a great event for your group that fills a slot in the calendar, maybe the 30 Hour Famine can be the beginning of a new season in your group, a time of growth and challenges for teens who have shown they will go to great lengths to serve others.

12 Ideas for Service Projects During 30 Hour Famine


service-project-ideas-30-hour-famineby Jen Bradbury

The first time I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was a rookie youth pastor who’d never before participated in in it. I worked hard to cobble together some discussions and activities about global hunger and poverty, some of which used the awesome materials provided by World Vision and the 30 Hour Famine.

Despite this, our hunger got the better of us and by the time we got to hour 27, everyone (myself included) was DONE. We simply had no energy to play another round of Tribe or dive into another Bible study.

Nevertheless, God moved in incredible ways and my students learned a ton about hunger and poverty. So the second time I did the 30 Hour Famine, I basically repeated what I’d done the first year.

Once again, that worked fine until we got to the 27th hour and everyone crashed.

For that reason, the third time I did the Famine, I drastically changed our schedule. Friday night we did Bible study and played Tribe. Then on Saturday, we participated in a daylong service project.

That service project made the Saturday of 30 Hour Famine downright enjoyable. It kept teens and adult leaders engaged, not just through the 27th hour, but through the 30th hour and the conclusion of the Famine. It shifted the focus from exclusively learning, to learning by doing. That, in turn, helped the Famine learnings to stick.

Whenever I talk about the impact of this aspect of the Famine with other youth workers, I hear something along the lines of, “I’d love to include a service project as part of the 30 Hour Famine. But I don’t know how. I don’t know where we can serve.”

With that in mind, here are 12 ways you can serve as part of the 30 Hour Famine or for another service project during the year.

  1. Volunteer at your local food pantry. Ask if you can stock shelves or hand out goods to clients. Serving around food when you’re fasting is definitely a challenge but it’s also a time in which God will show up in some incredible ways.
  2. Do a food scavenger hunt. Send youth out in small groups with a list of canned goods and supplies commonly needed by your local food pantry. Then have them go door-to-door asking for those items. Afterward, deliver the collected food to your local food pantry.
  3. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Ask if you can shop for, prepare, and serve a meal. If a shelter already has a group to serve on your specific date, ask if you can serve in another behind-the-scenes way. If you’re willing to do things other than prepare and serve meals, most shelters can put groups to work.
  4. Make sack lunches. Then take them to an area in your community where you know homeless people live and deliver them. Bring lunches for your group as well so that you can eat with and get to know the people you meet.
  5. Serve at Feed My Starving Children (or a similar organization).
  6. If your community has refugees, host a refugee fun day. Invite children (and their parents) to come for a meal, games, and crafts.
  7. Bake cookies for your congregation’s shut-ins. Then go in small groups to deliver them, taking time to actually visit and converse with each shut-in and learn more about their story.
  8. Bake cookies or take plants to your congregation’s neighbors but don’t use these visits to try to get people to attend your church. Instead, explain that you’re participating in the 30 Hour Famine and that as part of that, you’re serving the neighborhood. Thank each person for being a good neighbor to your congregation and apologize for any inconvenience your church may cause them (like congestion on Sundays, parking woes, or noise during outdoor summer events.) Then give them your gift and leave.
  9. Clean up your local park, forest preserve, or bike trail. As with all service projects, don’t forget to arrange this in advance! Call whosever in charge of volunteers and ask about any permits you might need as well as what’s most needed. Sometimes forest preserves would rather have you do seed collection or trail maintenance than picking up trash.
  10. Serve your congregation’s property team. Find out what needs to be done at your church. Then, regardless of what it is, do it… and do it well.
  11. Adopt a soldier. If your congregation has people serving in the military, assemble care packages for them. If not, connect with one of the many organizations through which you can adopt a soldier (Google “Adopt a soldier” and you’ll get a great list!). Write letters to soldiers and pray for them.
  12. Serve at the humane society (or a local animal shelter). Again, if you’re willing to serve in any way, many animal shelters can put you to work – walking dogs, playing with cats, doing a mailing, or cleaning cages.

Without a doubt, serving locally during the 30 Hour Famine will make it a better experience for everyone. What’s more, it will teach youth that they don’t have to choose between addressing global and local issues. Instead, they can do both.

Finishing the Famine


ending-the-famineBy John Sorrell

I love planning food for the Famine!

Does anyone else like planning food for the 30 Hour Famine? It’s the best part! Just a whole lot of juice, water and cups and you are set. Simple. Although, the whole time the Famine is happening and even before it starts, everyone is thinking about what they will eat after.

We have always kept our Famine-breaking segment a little mysterious. As anticipation builds for filling our bellies it has become one of the most effective teachable moments during the event. My favorite was the year when we broke the Famine by passing out different colored poker chips to each student. They ran down the stairs turned in their chips and were met with one of three meals based on global statistics: 60% received a bowl a rice; 25% received a bowl of rice with meager vegetables; and 15% were handed a value meal from McDonalds. It was a social experiment playing out right in front of us.

One student would be handed a bowl of rice as he watched the person in front of him given a large drink and fries. I could hear the complaints from two floors up. Some students screamed or yelled, a few cried. The reactions were raw. We knew there would be a response, but not like this. After so many hours of imagining a smorgasbord of their favorite foods, and this is what they were getting?!

After everyone was served, we watched. Some students shared fries or parts of their burger. Some gave out of their small bowl of rice to those who were still hungry. Cokes became community drinks. We didn’t prompt it. We just ate the meals given to us along with the students and waited to see how they processed it.

After a few minutes we debriefed. We simply pointed out that at home each one of them had food in their fridge. No one in the room was going to starve that night. We talked about why we do the 30 Hour Famine. Life looks different outside of our bubble; let’s be as affected by that truth as we are that we didn’t get the best meal. We had their attention. For a few moments we had their elusive undivided attention. Students continue to talk about how we ended that Famine and others since. We haven’t repeated methods yet, because we know that at the end of the famine we have more of their attention than most of the time throughout the year.

Attention is a great gift in youth ministry. Students don’t have to listen. There are enough voices, images and videos that vie for their eyes and ears at any given moment. I’ve noticed that the Famine opens up an area of their attention we don’t usually have. Phones and electronics are set aside (those are collected at the beginning), meals aren’t expected, and we struggle together not to worry about the fast. Their attention from their eyes and ears is heightened as the rumbles in their stomach desire to be filled. Over the past almost decade of participating in the Famine, we’ve learned to take advantage of what seems to be the elusive undivided attention.

How will you end your Famine in a way that seals the meaning of what the experience represents? If they could take away one thing from your 30 Hour Famine, how can you use that final part of the time to instill it in their hearts, minds and even bellies?