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The Famine Blog

It wasn’t supposed to go like that


By Chris McKenna

IMG_1556After organizing maybe ten 30 Hour Famine events, I have a pretty good feel for how I want things to flow. We have some standard steps we follow every year to ensure an energetic but smooth event, keeping those hungry, tired kids moving as much as possible. This year felt no different. My key volunteers had completed all of their tasks, and unlike other years, we even had the music sets from the band a whole day in advance! (You know those creative types!)

Our Famine was March 27/28 (last weekend!). I’m writing this on Monday, March 30, and I’ve come up with a list of things that didn’t quite go how I had hoped.


Throughout the week leading up to the Famine, I was hearing story after story from parents about conflicts their kids had with sports, band, and life for chunks or the entire Famine event. We’ve never held the event on the weekend immediately before spring break, and I guess everyone else was trying to cram in one more game before vacation. As a result, attendance was down about 20%, and I knew it about 15 minutes into the registration process. I was bummed, because I had INCREASED our fundraising goal by 17% over last year! Initially, my heart sank a bit. I know that every dollar = help for a hungry kid.

Guess what? Those 20% less raised 18% more than last year. That’s God math. Earlier this year I blogged about setting a BHAG (a “big hairy audacious goal”). And, so I went for it when I set our fundraising goal, and HE showed up. And at $35/month, there will be 42 little people fed for a year. Hearts beating! Alive! All from our comparatively “smaller” 30 Hour Famine.


The evening devotion time is the peak of most Famine events. The kids are hungry and vulnerable to God’s promptings. It all flowed in my head, exactly how I wanted it to go. Each of us was holding a candle representing a life saved, forming a large circle around our student room, and then we were supposed to blow them out, participate in a simple station, and sing a couple of closing songs.

But, it just didn’t feel right. As the candles were still lit, it became clear to me that it wasn’t time to blow them out. So we didn’t. We all huddled up in the middle and started singing. No station. Just praising God. The room was glowing and FULL of glorious praise to our King. It was a moment that I won’t forget. Now, I have to be honest – I was vacillating between awe and absolute terror. What could possibly go wrong with 150 middle school students (emphasis BOYS) holding candles in close proximity to each other? My only water source was a damp mop in the corner. Not exactly effective fire safety. Now, I’m not promoting risky evening devotions. And, I’m probably over exaggerating, but it was AWESOME.


I needed something to motivate fundraising. Last year I kissed a cow, so this year had to be big. Bigger than the smooch! In the spirit of 2014’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we came up with the 2015 “Famine Freeze” and decided to rent a dunk tank. Any kid who raised $250+ got to pick a leader for the tank. We knew it would be cold, but we had no idea it would be 35 degrees. Turns out 22 kids raised  more than $250, so it definitely motivated some additional fundraising! About 15 of my leaders, including me, volunteered to be willing candidates for the tank, which by now was dangerously close to having a thin sheet of ice on top. And, then, the most amazing thing happened. The first 12 middle school kids who earned dunk tank rights picked their high school and adult leaders for the tank. They didn’t pick me! Their relationships were with THEM and not ME! I started youth ministry wanting to be everyone’s favorite. Now I’m WAY OK celebrating when I’m not.

I guess a left-brained, A-type like me needs to be reminded that there is still joy in the unexpected. Even if it wasn’t in my spreadsheet. May each of you experience something unexpectedly wonderful during your 30 Hour Famine!

What’s the Point of Teaching?


By Jake Kircher

What's the point of teaching?There are reasons we do the things we do in youth ministry (or at least there should be): from youth group lessons, to Bible studies, and to broader experiences like the 30 Hour Famine or mission trips. Usually, teaching has something to do with it. We want the teens we work with to get something out of their time with us; something that actually goes with them beyond the church basement and takes deeper root in their souls.

To accomplish that goal, I think many of us need to reassess how we teach and ask a deeper question: What is the whole point of teaching in the first place?

It may seem like an odd question at first glance, but the answer to this question (and more importantly, how we live out that answer) is crucial to reaching people with the gospel, especially in more post-Christian areas.

Take a minute and consider how you’d answer the question: What’s the point of teaching?

To help people understand the Bible?

To understand Jesus’ teachings?

To make sure people know the right way to live? (And then, by association, the wrong way to live as well?)

To challenge people’s beliefs?

These answers are what I would have given a few years ago, and they are by no means bad answers. However, I’ve to come to believe they actually fall short of the ultimate goal that should be at the forefront of teaching.

At its deepest level, the point of teaching in youth ministry is to first and foremost point teenagers toward an encounter, and subsequently into a relationship, with Jesus. It’s to help teenagers understand their worth and value in the eyes of Jesus. This is not to suggest that we never challenge people’s actions or call into question how they are living, but this must be a secondary goal and not where we start.

The problem typically befalling teachers is that we fail to connect our listeners with Jesus and instead connect them to a theology, a denomination, a church or a specific youth group or program. Those things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but when they become the forefront or purpose of what we do in ministry, the result is nothing short of idolatry.

For many, this idolatry isn’t necessarily intended, but we must be more purposeful in our teaching and ask some tough questions about what we’re really winning people to. This is particularly important as we minister to those in a post-Christian culture, specifically the teens in our youth groups and young adults under 30. They have built-in crap detectors (1), and they are the first to be turned off when they feel like they are just a number or a consumer and not people we care for authentically. It’s why people like Julia Duin, author of Quitting Church, told back in 2008 that if things continued to progress as they had been, the church in America would decrease by half before 2023.(2)

Shouldn’t any goal of Christian teaching—whether live, online, or in book form—be to reach people with the message of the gospel and help grow the Church, not one’s individual organization or denomination? James warns about this kind of behavior in his letter to early Christ followers, saying, “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For were you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16). When we put ourselves, our organization, our denomination, or our specific theology first in our teaching, we miss the point—and we can be sure our students and listeners will miss the point as well. And worse, it will leave our hungry students wanting more, and they will subsequently fill that hunger with something else that feeds their need for belonging and a real-life experience.

As we work hard to teach our students through the various setting we use in youth ministry, may the number one goal always be to help point kids into a wonderful, messy, fulfilling, and real relationship with Jesus.

(this post is adapted from Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World)

  1. This has always been one of my favorite sayings from Mike Yaconelli.
  2.  Steven Todd, “Post-Church Christians: A Journalist Explores the Implications of Believers Who Are Quitting Church,” YouthWorker Journal (blog), February 10, 2009,

Bring a Few Students to the Student Justice Conference


By Mark Oestreicher, for the 30 Hour Famine team

SJC15-sunset-squareLast year, the 30 Hour Famine team spent some time thinking and praying about how we could provide Famine leaders and student participants with some “next level” stuff. We love hearing stories about students who become passionate about meeting the needs of others (whether it’s hunger, or other issues) as a result of Famine. And it’s for those students that we created the Student Justice Conference.

As much as a “30 Hour Famine Conference” sounded like it might be fun, we really felt you and your most passionate and justice-minded students would benefit from having other organizations, topics and expertise involved also. So we did something pretty unprecedented, really: we partnered with six other organizations to put together the best event we could imagine for high schoolers passionate about justice.

As a result, the Student Justice Conference is being collaboratively planned and hosted by:

  • World Vision (that’s us!)
  • The Youth Cartel
  • International Justice Mission
  • Plant With Purpose
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • World Relief
  • Nazarene Compassionate Ministries

Each of these organizations is bringing the full weight of their expertise, which means we’ll have speakers and seminars and learning tracks on dozens of domestic and global needs.

We know you probably already have your youth ministry summer calendar planned. And we’re not suggesting you cancel camp or a mission trip or something like that. Instead, we’re really hoping you will identify 2 – 4 of your high schoolers that are the most passionate about changing the world, and join us at the SJC this summer (in San Diego, July 30 – August 2).

The website is live, and has tons of info on it (with more info being added weekly). Early registration (really, the costs for this are very low and include accommodations and all meals) is through the end of April. And we want to offer a special deal to get a few more Famine groups at this event: The first 30 groups who use this link (a 30 Hour Famine-specific link) to register will get an additional 20% off their total registration cost.

Seriously, this thing is going to be amazing. And we really hope you’ll join us!

Dear Famine Leaders, Thank You!


By Tess Cassidy   

tess.Reine and I-1000During a recent sermon in church, the pastor mentioned world hunger. Suddenly I perked up from my peaceful, relaxed state. My passion for fighting world hunger and poverty started to consume my mind. My focus faded from the pastor’s words as I began to reflect on what world hunger means to me.

Fighting world hunger and poverty is more than just a lofty proposition carelessly tossed around; it is part of my identity. It’s a topic that gets me going. You know, one of those topics that the person you are speaking with can tell there’s more than plain conversation behind your words–there’s heart.

As I reflect now on my passion for fighting world hunger, I find it hard to imagine who I would be without it. I did my first 30 Hour Famine when I was twelve. The 30 Hour Famine provided an avenue for me to learn the real facts and have the real feelings of hunger. It gave me leadership and public speaking experience as I became the student leader of the 30 Hour Famine at my church for three years. I then received the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia on the Study Tour in 2013. There, I met incredible people on the other side of the world that were not only living, but thriving because of funds raised by people like me. Last fall I ran my first marathon with Team World Vision in support of clean water in Africa. I hope to some day work for World Vision or a similar organization.

When I was a hungry 12-year-old doing the Famine, I had no clue the impact it would have on my life. Without a doubt, I know God placed the 30 Hour Famine at my church to reach me.

I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for my youth group leaders that chose to put on the Famine that year, and continue to do so. Even more, the utmost thanks goes to the Famine Team at World Vision. Without their passion and drive to mobilize youth on this issue, the resources would never exist for us to do the 30 Hour Famine. I am amazed every day by the drive, commitment, and effort each member of the team puts in to make this a national movement.

Thank you youth leaders around the nation that choose to put in endless hours of preparing and holding a 30 Hour Famine for your group. I know it’s an exhausting process, but you are making more than just an impact to hungry children. You are sparking understanding and passion in your youth. You’re exposing them to the world–a world they can help transform. You are on the front lines with the potential of impacting youth for life. Your hard work is building the compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

Youth leaders and Famine Team alike, never stop planning, sharing information, and sparking passions. I’m a living example of your impact.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Better Than Green Bagels


Mark Oestreicher

Saint Patricks Green BagelToday is Saint Patrick’s Day, of course. And maybe, like me, you’re not only thinking about parades and shamrocks and green beer, but also have at least a passing thought about good old Pat himself. I grabbed a green T-shirt out of my closet to wear today; but then: it has Jesus riding a T-Rex on it, so I’m not sure if it really counts as Pat-festive.

This is the guy who was raised wealthy, in England, but was taken as a slave to Ireland. After escaping and returning home to his family, he felt the call to return to Ireland—this time as a missionary (a very poor missionary). Patrick and others like him have often been credited with “saving” Christianity during the dark ages. They actually sent missionaries to continental Europe to re-introduce the gospel.

There are very few written prayers that both challenge me and encourage me like the words of the prayer often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. The words comfort and encourage me as they remind me of the presence of Jesus. And because I’m wholeheartedly convinced that love is the motive for everything Jesus does, his presence is always a good thing.

But the words challenge me also. They challenge me because my intellectual desire for a vibrant faith isn’t always matched by my heart. I aspire to this sort of faith, even if I don’t completely live it every day.

Take a moment, now, to read this selection from Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, slowly. Read it more than once. Allow the words to encourage and challenge you.

Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

Ok, now you can go have that green bagel.

Let them fight!


By Sean Garner

Doppio ammasso di stelle nella costellazione del PerseoA long, long, time ago (when I was young and hip) in a church far, far away (from where I’m serving now), my wife and I were invited to house sit and “teen” sit for a family of four boys.

Of course, over the weekend an argument began that transformed, as was normal for them, into a ten minute wrestling match. Then, they walked away…content with their conflict resolution.

It is strange and confusing that God built IN us the tendency to fight.

Everyone does it in their own way…

Some of us, like these boys, wrestle our way through life.

Others fight for an issue.

Many of us are constantly wrestling internally with our thoughts, feelings or God’s work in our lives.

So, this year, with 30 Hour Famine, it’s time to allow yourself to embrace the FIGHT.

Don’t worry about avoiding the awkwardness of letting your group express what they’re frustrated, angry or fighting against in their life as a PART of your discussion (not as a distraction).

Soon, you’ll find (like Israel) your kids are looking for a champion (David), as they’re full of fear from a world that is big, bold, bragging and broken (like Goliath).

That kind of authenticity changes people. Being able to share their world opens their hearts to being able to change someone else’s world. Sometimes sharing facts or figures is the way to change a group’s perspective, but this year God has opened the door for you to aim right for their HEART.

Dig into YOUR passion book: what builds up a righteous anger in your life?

How do you fight: fair, unfair, cheap shots? How do you train for a fight?

How do respond when you lose a fight?

How do you cheer or jeer when you win a fight?

All of that is a great storehouse to bring out teaching about fighting hunger alongside World Vision.

With the opportunity that this year’s theme provides, dig deep into your world and help your group dig deeper into theirs to FIGHT the FIGHT!

So What Happens Next?


By Tash McGill

One Tree HillI live in the valley under One Tree Hill, in Auckland, New Zealand. Yes, the one from that U2 song and nothing to do with the TV show. I was born on the side of this mountain, grew up in its shadow and I always return to it as soon as I can after I’ve been away.  Once a week I climb to the top where I can see the oceans and the land that surrounds me.

It’s my weekly ritual of reflection and preparation before the week ahead. I stare out on the view I’ve known all my life and out to the ocean beyond the harbour I know as safe. Because the mountaintop is the place I go to imagine and prepare for the future, I wonder often, sitting there ‘what happens next?

Here’s what I’ve learned at the top of the mountain. You can see the view but you don’t feel it the same way as if you were standing right there – on the sandy beach or in the water. On the hot city streets or in the shadow of a city tower – when I go to the top of the mountain, I can see the city but I stop experiencing it’s reality for a moment. In order to engage with it, I have to go back down.

Being on the mountaintop orients us. It gives us a view of where we are, but from a distance. We are slightly removed from the city up close and personal. It’s like a compass to decide the way forward, but you have to come on down the mountain in order to keep moving on.

How do you orient yourself after an event like the 30 Hour Famine? How do you move on? For me, it’s similar to reconnecting with the city. Once I’ve seen her from a distance, then I need to go and feel her warmth, experience her ocean, walk on her sand.

Big events, camps, mission trips and even Famine weekends can be just like mountaintop experiences. It’s hard work to get to the top but from there, you can see everything you’ve accomplished. The adrenaline buzz can feel pretty good too.

When you journey through something like the Famine as a group or as an individual, choose to orient yourself to something you can keep engaging with – whether it’s regular acts of generosity, sacrifice or service.

Great experiences should leave some sort of mark, change or habit with us. Maybe it’s just new language or a commitment to pay attention to poverty issues but we have the opportunity as leaders to integrate our Famine experiences into part of our regular shared stories.

So for those of you who have just finished the 30 Hour Famine – where are you going next? How will you engage with the view you got at the top of the mountain? And for those of you just about to get underway… pay attention when you get to the top. Set your sights on where you’re going next.

5 Reasons to Apply for the Study Tour


Abby_StudyTourThere are hundreds of reason why you should apply for the Study Tour – Or, if you’re a leader – why you should encourage, nudge & inspire your students to do so. We could go on and on about how we’ve seen it transform their lives (an in turn, the world). But we won’t. We will let you hear instead, from previous Study Tour rock stars:

Lauren, Team Bolivia, 2010: Their capacity to love was endless. I knew meeting these people, seeing their faith, watching the differences being made, that I had to do whatever I could in my power to make a difference, maybe not in their lives but their children and their great grand children’s lives. Jesus Christ gave me this opportunity to look through those children’s eyes, those hardworking mothers and fathers, and see my purpose.

Tiff, Team Zambia, 2012: “Do not abandon us” these were the words of Zambian natives that still echo and influence my life today. The Study Tour challenged me to see the world through God’s lens, expanded my heart of compassion for the poor and saw poverty and hunger as a real problem that I have the potential to change. The Study Tour plucks you right out of your comfort zone to grow and fall more in love with God’s kingdom”

Tess, Team Ethiopia, 2013: “I expected to go on the Study Tour and have my heart broken by what I saw. Instead, an immeasurable amount of joy, happiness, and passion for these people consumed my heart. I’m no longer fighting for children around the world, but people I call friends.”

Preston Goff, Team Burundi, 2011: I believe that by accepting God’s call for me to spend a period of time in Africa, I was also entering into a contract or covenant with the people that I met while in Burundi. I know to this day that I have been charged with a responsibility to all of the people of the Earth who live without social justice.

Adam Sticca, Team Ethiopia, 2013: “As I began to really listen to all of the stories of the people here in Ethiopia, I also began to understand just how their lives have been changed by World Vision… There are beautiful lives, beautiful places, and beautiful people waiting to change everything you think you know about yourself and the world you live in.”

And finally, from former Study Tour participant, Caitlin: The Study Tour is a chance to see what God is up to, listen to people’s stories, and learn about World Vision’s programs. When it’s over, you don’t just pat yourself on the back and continue life as usual, you tell others about what you saw and how they can join the cause. It’s educational and beautiful, and probably nothing like anything your students have done before.

P.S. Applications are due MAY 7 and students must raise $500+ to apply! Watch our promo video and share with your group, here!

5th Day Slump


By Paul Martin

sleeping catIt never fails. Every single weeklong trip I’ve taken with teenagers. Every one. I plan ahead, push for sign-ups, have information meetings, I even schedule the debriefing sessions for after the trip. I rally prayer support, start the trip with a group picture and get the team buzzing with excitement. But, by the afternoon of the fifth day, I’m done. My mind has changed. I no longer think this trip was a good idea. I’m not even sure trips in general are a good idea. Maybe I should just quit.

I don’t know if it can be completely laid at the feet of exhaustion. Certainly I haven’t slept as much as I could have. It also couldn’t be blamed solely on that one person on the trip who has a sixth sense for peace-breaking in my life. Certainly there is an element of spiritual fight going on. These are the thoughts crawling through my mind as I strive toward the goal of finishing strong on so many trips.

It wasn’t until I confessed these feelings to a fellow youth worker that I found release. It turns out, through many similar confessions, I’m not the only one to have the Thursday afternoon slump. After being encouraged from several conversations with youth workers, I’ve come to realize that most of the people I was leading on these trips also felt that despondent pull of doubt come Thursday. This understanding changed the way I lead mission trips forever.

I started small in my changes. The next trip I planned a Thursday lunch break. We loaded everyone into our vehicles and went for ice cream. It wasn’t a major event, but it sure felt like a big deal. It helped our team press through the afternoon sinkhole of energy. The next trip I took it farther. We had our ice cream and later in the day, a surprise visit from another team. Another trip we had a water balloon sneak attack on another group, which was very welcome in the heat of South Georgia pounding out everyone’s energy. Every trip after that, I always tried to have a special surprise sometime between Thursday lunch and later that night.

I also realize that my connection suffered during these trips. All of my support was miles away. To remedy that, I try to take at least ten minutes to call someone Wednesday night. It’s usually my wife or children who are always glad to hear from me. I’ve found that those few minutes help restore my connection for the rest of the trip.

Look, I know I may be pushing my introverted tendencies here. That’s not an excuse. You might be completely energized by trips and never want to leave. If so: good for you. Anyone who has been on one of these trips will know the value of them. We keep doing them because they are so enriching for our groups. Whether you feel the Thursday morning blues or not, talking to other people will only deepen our experiences from these trips. You can also help others on your trips by breaking up the monotony of the mid-outing stall out.

A prayer for you.


IMG_667430 Hour Famine Team

Starting TODAY, 1,700 churches and tens of thousands of teenagers will have their last meal for 30 whole hours. As one student said last year during her fast: “As our stomachs grow emptier, Jesus grows more abundant.” – Tess Cassidy, Ohio. That is our hope for your group as well.

Thank you again to all who are making hunger YOUR fight this weekend! We ask that you lift each other up in support & prayer, and know that our team is doing the same – along with our colleagues at World Vision! As you can see in the photo, we have posted the names of specific churches all around our buildings so you’re your brothers and sisters at World Vision (Seattle, WA), can pray for you by name.

With that, we will leave you with this benediction.

Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this week in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.