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The Famine Blog

Evaluating Your Youth Ministry

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Shawn Kiger

The schools in my area just let out for the summer a little over a week ago. Summer mode has begun in our church! Our youth program stops meeting weekly and we turn to week-long mission trips and local events. I also have turned my day to day work into summer mode. What that means for me is that I take some time evaluating our school year ministry. I look at what went well and what might need to be changed. I talk with the youth and get their thoughts. I also talk with parents, volunteers, and our sr. pastor. Through these conversations we are able to look at the ministry from many perspectives and evaluate how we are doing. Numbers are not our main motivator, but I do believe they can give insights into our ministry. So I look at all the attendance numbers:

  • How many did we average each week?
  • What was the average number of times a youth would attend?
  • Were there certain times of year that attendance was down or up?
  • How many total youth participated in the ministry for the school year?

Then, I compare these numbers to the previous year to see how we are doing.

After I take all of the information I have gathered from the conversations and from the numbers, I begin to look at changes I might like to make for the next school year. I research what others are doing by reading books and blogs. I talk to other youth ministers and run ideas past them. I pray for our church, community, and God’s plans for our youth ministry to be heard. Finally, after I have come up with some ideas, I talk to my sr. pastor and volunteers to get their thoughts on the changes. That way when September rolls around and the start of a new school year begins, we are ready and everyone is on the same page.

Typing this entire process out makes it seem like a long one, but I begin the conversations before the school year ends and continue the evaluation process and planning for next year throughout the summer. Sometimes we change very little, and sometimes we change a lot. We, as a staff, also do similar evaluations and planning for the church as a whole.  I believe constantly evaluating what we are doing helps us to make sure we are best reaching teenagers in our community for Christ. How do you evaluate your ministry?

Meet Team Peru!

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

We are so excited to announce the members of our 2015 Study Tour to Peru! We had so many exceptional students apply for this opportunity (shout out to all that applied), and it was difficult to narrow down the applicants to a small group, but these 7 students exemplify what it means to be world changers. They have worked hard to fundraise for 30 Hour Famine and be agents of change in their own communities. We are excited for them to represent 30 Hour Famine when we travel to Peru in August. You’ll be hearing a lot from them as they report back on what a difference the funds YOU have helped raise are making in the lives of children and families in Peru.

Team PeruWithout further ado (drumroll, please)… Meet Team Peru!

Deanna, CT

Deanna is about to start her senior year, and she loves to travel the world. In fact, she’s already been to 13 countries! She’s outgoing and motivated, and we’re excited to see how she helps bring our group together.

Jaime, TX

Jaime is a genuinely happy person, and he’ll add a lot of joy to our trip. A couple of things we’ve learned about him are that he makes a killer guacamole (we might have to judge for ourselves) and can make a cool frog noise without opening his mouth (that should be useful).

Kate, IL

Kate is a high schooler who loves the color yellow, wakeboarding, skiing, and working backstage in theater. She let us know in her interview that if she were to go to Hogwarts, she would be sorted into Hufflepuff, which we think is pretty rad.

Michael, NJ

Michael is a fun-loving guy who loves to spend time at the beach and has a strange fear of centipedes (why do they need so many legs?!). He also loves to write. We think he’ll be great at writing about the projects we see and people we meet in Peru to share with all of you!

Michaela, OH

Michaela is incredibly nice – she loves doing small things for people that can make a big difference in their day. She also loves animals, and at one point her family had 19 animals in the house at once! We can’t wait to see what interesting animals Michaela will meet in Peru…

Suzanne, OR

Suzanne is a driven and caring soon-to-be college freshman who aspires to study ministry and theater. She loves giraffes and the color blue, and is pumped about getting a chance to head to Peru before she starts college this fall.

Tanner, WA

Tanner is headed to college this fall, where he’s excited to study music, Chemistry, and Spanish. He loves to collect vinyl records, sing, play the violin, and run. Tanner is also an amazing fundraiser and is excited to see what some of the funds he has raised have gone towards!

Tips for Successful Short-Term Missions

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Brian Mateer

Short-Term MissionsI love short-term mission trips.  I love being a participant and I love leading them.  A well-planned and executed mission trip can be a beautiful blend of education, serving others and transformation for both participants and leaders.  It can lead to deeper exploration of outreach and can also make a tremendous impact in communities where the mission is happening.

A poorly planned and executed trip does little more than make us feel good about ourselves and can be detrimental to areas and organizations we are intending to help.

I’ll own it.  I’ve been on, and I’ve led both wonderful short-term mission trips and also some not so good ones.  I have learned a lot over the years and vow not to make the same mistakes.

As the school year is coming to a close many youth leaders are turning their attention to summer mission trips.  Here are a few tips I have learned over the years to help make your summer mission trip awesome:

  • The number one priority for missions is to share the love of Christ to others
  • Plan and prepare thoroughly
  • Spend plenty of time prior in training and educating your students in what they should expect
  • If your mission project takes you to another country or across your city, learn together about the cultural context you will be working in
  • Encourage flexibility
  • Partner with established and reputable organizations
  • Debrief daily as a team
  • Adopt a servant attitude
  • Point out where God is moving and invite others to share where they have seen the same
  • Treat whomever you are in ministry with as an equal
  • Remember when the trip is over the experience, learning and ministry continues
  • Make sure to follow up with the team well after trip is complete
  • Encourage taking “next steps”

Following these guideline will help to ensure a meaningful and impactful mission trip for all involved.

Beloved

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

beloved

By Emily Robbins

I finished up summer planning this past week.  I’m finding that I have gotten more relaxed with summer plans since I moved to a new church two years ago.  My motivation is more about the relationships with my youth than scheduling lots of things to do.  It’s how I hoped ministry could be at this point.  It has just taken me a few years to move out of expectations of busy-ness.

When my summers were consumed with youth ministry busy-ness, I found that I would often lose sight of how God sees me.

Repeat after me:

I am beloved.   

So… right now know this, even if you…

  • haven’t planned a thing for the summer yet.
  • LOVE your summer plans but aren’t sure the youth will show up
  • planned something but already have parents, youth or other staff complaining about your plans
  • aren’t sure what summer plans are
  • are questioning your call to ministry these days
  • aren’t sure you make enough money for the work you put in
  • are exhausted because of personal situations
  • are new to ministry
  • have had half of your youth back out of the mission trip just yesterday

…remember that  you are good enough.

Beloved.

Ministry has its ups and downs – filled with peace and uncertainty and hope and mystery and heartbreak and beauty.  And somehow many of us in ministry let our insecurity drive how we serve instead of our beloved-ness.

It’s pretty amazing and exhausting to be a youth worker.  So remember your own beloved-ness and give yourself a break.

And have a great summer!

No Food and Limited Food

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

No Food and Limited Food

Matt Williams

There is a dimension of global hunger that easily resonates in the minds of the students doing the 30 Hour Famine: no food is a bad thing.  One of the reasons it resonates is because of the photos and information shared by World Vision.  All you have to do is see the images of a starving child feebly trying to eat some Plumpy Nut to understand the devastation of hunger.  Another reason it resonates is because of the fasting the student undertake themselves.  They experience how quickly the lack of food starts to impact their bodies after just 30 hours, and it makes it easy for them to feel for others with no food.

But here is a concept that is harder for students to grasp: limited food can be a bad thing too.

After returning from a World Vision trip to Ecuador, I naturally shared stories and photos from my trip with our youth group so they could better understand all the different ways their Famine funds were used.  After sharing some pictures from one village high in the Andes Mountains, one student with a very puzzled expression looked at me and said, “I don’t understand… those people don’t look like they are starving.”

She was right.  The people that we met and the kids that we played with were not starving.  There were no distended bellies.  There were no desperate parents.  There was no stack of food bags waiting to be distributed.  My pictures were very different from what this one student expected to see, and she was not sure how she felt about that.  It was not until I shared the menu from the “feast” that the local villagers shared with us that the student began to understand.

To celebrate our visit a feast was prepared, and people from many villages brought things for the feast, just like family members coming to Thanksgiving dinner or a big reunion might do in the United States.  We were each served two types of potato, and half an ear of corn.  There was an onion and herb “salsa” and a dish of beans to share.  And as honored guests, we each had a small piece of salted meat.  This simple fare was the best these villages could muster.  And frankly, our bellies were full: eating two potatoes has that effect!

Yet the people in this region survived on that menu: corn, potatoes, beans and onions.  Day in, and day out.  Not much more.  It was enough to prevent starvation… but not malnutrition.  You can live on potatoes, but it is not a healthy diet.  We took another look at my photos, and I asked my students to look again at the pictures.  Then they started to see things they missed before: the fact that our team from the United States was much taller and stronger than the local people; that the local people exhibited evidence of past injuries that did not heal well; that many of the kids had signs of eye and skin problems.  And that is when they began to understand that limited food is a bad thing too.

I then shared the work that was being done in World Vision to help communities like the one I visited.  For these villages, World Vision can identify new crops that will thrive in the region and add nutritional diversity.  World Vision can introduce chickens, goats, and other livestock to bring a stable supply of eggs and milk.  In short, just as World Vision can intercede to fight starvation, they intercede around the globe every day to fight malnutrition and hunger-related diseases too.

So as you are undertaking your 30 Hour Famine, remember that you are doing far more than fighting the urgent starvation that comes from having no food.  You are helping people to find and develop healthy and sustainable foods for the long run.  And it is this sustained effort in villages in Ecuador and Thailand and Mali and elsewhere that we will one day be able to eliminate hunger around the globe.

In the Midst of Wolves

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Travis Hill

Wolf HowlSometimes the world can be overwhelming. Like any other “job”, ours as pastors, youth leaders, high-capacity volunteers, or interns goes through the same highs and lows as any other.

But there is a unique challenge in what we do: our work often leads us to weariness; and we feel when we are weary (or the event or program didn’t go as well as it could, despite our planning) the business of ministry often ends up in the way of communion with others and God. And then we feel ashamed, that we’re not good enough or we should move on to something else.

Do you ever stop to think why the turnover rate for youth workers is so abysmal? Is it simply that churches are hiring subpar youth workers? Or are youth workers simply being run off by church politics and unspoken expectations? Of course there are numerous factors, but couldn’t one of them be this tension: when we feel dissatisfied with some aspect of our ministry or internal lives, we run? I think so.

Yesterday, I came across this statement from St. Ignatius of Loyola, I would rather have God’s servants remarkable for virtue than for numbers, and manifest rather by the reality of their service than their repute for it. And while St. Ignatius seems to be speaking specifically of numbers of people, what if he isn’t? A major internal revolution that has hit me over the last few years is the idea that God’s not about numbers, but about hearts. And not hearts in the “let’s all turn to Jesus” way, but hearts in the way of “overflowing with love that slowly infects the corrupted world around us, changing it from the inside out.” What if St. Ignatius is telling us that it is more desirable to be a virtuous, remarkable youth worker than one who is constantly going, beaten down and worn out, frazzled beyond measure and on the verge of quitting?

These thoughts remind me of this passage from Luke 10:1-3, After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

We have been appointed to go forth and proclaim this revolutionary love of God. We are few, but the lives we have changed through out efforts in the 30 Hour Famine are incalculable. Rely on that. See the incredible smiling faces of the students who finally get to eat on hour 30. Imagine the faces around the world, standing in the midst of the wolf known as world hunger, as they experience the problem being slowly chipped away. It’s not perfect, and we’re nowhere near finished yet, but we are the few laborers. And through this, we are in the midst of wolves ourselves. Don’t worry about numbers; be concerned with hearts. Don’t fret about programming; fret about life-change. Be blessed, so you may be a blessing to others.

An Antidote to Stress

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

an-anidote-to-stress

By Brad Hauge

We’ve all probably heard some version of the line, “Well back in my day…” where some older, supposedly wiser, person in our life is gently mocking us for our perceived hardships or trials.

You know, times when we might say:

“Ugh! I texted Jimmy 28 seconds ago and he hasn’t responded yet! I hate him so much!” And they reply, “Well, back in my day we had to walk 28 miles just to get to Jimmy’s house and tell him he left his suspenders on the playground!”

Or we might say, “Come ON! I’ve been trying to post the selfie I took in my bathroom to Instagram and it is taking for-ev-er!” And they reply, “Well, back in my day we didn’t know what cameras were so we just drew pictures of each other’s faces on tree leaves using dirt and spit mixed together for ink!”

Or we might say, “Give me a break! I can’t get this graphing calculator to work no matter what I do! I’ve even googled it and read three different threads on reddit and nothing is working!” And they reply, “Well back in my day we had to invent math. Because I’m old and numbers didn’t even exist yet!”

Here are two things that are true:

* In a lot of ways those “well back in my day…” responses are fair. Truthfully, in many cases we have it so much easier than our elders ever did. They didn’t even have selfie-sticks!

* At the same time, kids you are working with are dealing with hardships and burdens their elders were blessed not to have experienced.

Standardized testing, the pressure to get perfect grades, be class President, volunteer with both elderly folks and abandoned kittens, know four languages, ace your ACTs and SATs while starring in your school play just to eventually have your transcript looked at by a college—while knowing that one bad grade on a test could take that opportunity away in an instant.

And this doesn’t even touch on the stress of navigating social media and creating an acceptable replica of yourself for the world to cyber-stalk. If you work with teenagers you already know this. Their burdens are real, and it can feel like they are robbing them of life.

Here is where we come in: kids are desperately searching for something different. This is good news! And here are three truths that will hopefully leave us both convicted and energized as we walk alongside burdened teenagers.

1. Students are looking for an antidote to their stress-filled lives.

I recently had the opportunity to guest-lecture in a youth ministry class at the local university on the topic of “experiential and service learning.” I’m pretty sure I was asked to come speak simply due to the volume of ways we experiment with that concept in our specific high school ministry context. But as I prepared for the lecture I couldn’t shake a feeling that we needed to talk more about the why than the what.

And as I reflected on why we provide the many experiential and service-oriented opportunities we do, such as 30 Hour Famine, I ran through all the usual suspects: getting kids outside of their comfort zones, expanding their worldviews, introducing them to realities of the world they haven’t yet been exposed to, and so on. But what felt different about this year, about this time, about this group of truly burdened students, was that they are looking for a break. They feel stuck on a treadmill, going through the motions of what is expected of them. They are looking to be part of something bigger than their transcripts. They are thirsty for a reason to matter than goes beyond their social status. And the good news? They are finding a partnership with Jesus within service to be a compelling reason to step off of their treadmills.

2. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This is a fairly well known chunk of Scripture, but at times I think we allow our familiarity with certain texts to rob them of their power and beauty. What Jesus is offering here in Matthew 11 is an invitation to come to him, to be like him, and to then receive rest. Is that not truth that will resonate with kids who feel stuck on the treadmill of expectation and success?

The Message translation puts it this way, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”

It is important to note that rest does not equal sloth! There are only so many days we can lay in bed watching Netflix before we start to feel like amorphous slugs. Real rest comes when we allow Jesus to help us recover our life, when we allow our lives to be filled with the Jesus-y things of justice, mercy, love, and service. Much like the kid at the end of an impactful 30 Hour Famine who is completely exhausted, yet completely at peace.

3. Opportunities like the 30 Hour Famine can be the exact antidote kids are looking for.

If you are reading this blog, more likely than not you a part of leading a 30 Hour Famine weekend, so don’t miss this piece. In the midst of the Tribe Games, hunger, and sleeplessness, make sure to provide time for rest and reflection. Give students opportunities to play connect the dots with what they’re feeling and experiencing. Give them space to connect their “Famine dot” of experiencing usefulness, peace, and purpose with the dot of truth that this is who God created them to be. This is the life Jesus wants us to recover. This is the rest that Jesus promises when we step off our treadmills of expectation and participate in bringing heaven to earth.

We’ve seen again and again—you’ve seen again and again—that the 30 Hour Famine matters. It matters for those who receive the funds raised, and it matters for the communities that are changed by them. But don’t miss the truth that the Famine also matters for your students because it allows them an opportunity to step off their treadmills and, well… matter.

Jesus Wouldn’t Have Met Our Youth Ministry Standards

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

right-belief-main

By Morgan Schmidt

By our standards, Jesus was a terrible youth pastor. And I want to be like him when I grow up.

I didn’t realize just how ill-equipped he is until I was reading through the stories of his last week on earth, in preparation for holy week. As I’m reading his final interactions with the disciples, it’s as if they’re just meeting him for the first time. Three years into ministry together, you’d think they would know who he was, what his mission is, what the gospel means, how that shapes their identity, and what it calls them to do in the future. You’d think they would have covered this ground.

They are still clueless. They do not have it all figured out. One minute they are convinced Jesus is from God, the next they are denying they’ve ever met him.

This is not good youth ministry, as the church sees it today. We have been obsessed with right answers and right belief, with sinners’ prayers and professions of faith. These are precisely the things Jesus never requested from his followers. John even writes that Jesus was intentionally using clouded and confusing language in his teachings, so that they wouldn’t quite understand what was going on.

The thing about Jesus’ ministry is that he was always on the lookout for faithfulness, for people who were willing to follow even when they didn’t completely understand. What was his benchmark for success? He never says, except something about loving God and loving your neighbor.

Jesus was clearly not out to make people Christians, or to get them to sign on some dotted line of dogma. It’s as if Jesus was more interested in helping people become whole humans on a journey with God, through faith and doubt alike, toward the way of love and the restoration of all things.

One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten for my work with students is that we “treat them like people.”

There is nothing new under the sun, just new arrangements of deep old things. This is not some sort of Gnostic secret wisdom that only the enlightened can attain. It’s for everybody because everybody already knows how to do it. We just need to give ourselves permission and then practice a bit.

We get so bogged down in everything that youth ministry is supposed to be, that we forget it’s as simple as treating teenagers like good human beings and reminding them that God thinks they’re good human beings too.

The other word for this is love…

After all, we’re not trying to make teenagers into mini clones of Jesus; we’re trying to help them figure out how to follow Jesus in their own way.

There’s plenty of holiness to go around.

And I think maybe Jesus knew this in the core of his being, and he didn’t need to worry about programs or right answers or that his disciples were even staying awake. They would get there, because they are image bearers of God and they’ve had a mysterious, transforming encounter with the person of Jesus. He didn’t worry about games, or fundraising, or how to structure a gospel presentation, or ask them where they thought they’d go when they died, or hit the right chord on his guitar to help them feel emotional just before asking them to pray the sinner’s prayer.

He spent time with them, told confusing stories about what the kingdom of God is like, reminded them of their dignity as human beings, and invited them to love their neighbors.

May we all be such terrible youth pastors.

(small portions of this blog post are from the author’s book, Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus)

Get out of the Way!

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

Get out of the Way-featured

By Kali DiMarco

I always try to thank God for all the blessings and good stuff in my life; but I also thank him daily for the challenges that He gives me as well, and for the strength to face them. I believe these struggles and challenges are what make us strong, both in our faith and in our everyday living. I was on a retreat this past weekend with 40 teenagers and I had some time to spend in prayer. As I prayed – in thanksgiving – for all the challenges and struggles that had been placed before me, I got a vivid memory of our very first 30 Hour Famine, and I also got a small flash of the sheer terror I felt going into the event.

Someone had told me about this amazing event for teens, which included being with them for more than 24 hours and not eating. Both of these sounded like terrible ideas to me, but made me curious. I asked around and did some research and then the Famine packet came and I was hooked.  That first year we had 29 kids and two adults. My most vivid memories are turning to the other adult, Jim, and asking him, “Now what do we do?” He would reach for the little booklet that he had rolled up in his back pocket and feverishly flip through it as if it would magically guide us through the event.

Obviously, there is no magic. But we are certainly guided! My best advice for first time leaders is to plan as much as you can beforehand… and then step out of the way and let the Holy Spirit take over. It is amazing how and where the Spirit can lead us when it is invited and when we make room.

We spend hours and hours planning every aspect of our Famines, which have grown to hundreds of participants. We have committees and meetings, we make tight agendas, gather supplies, order materials, run over the plan again and again and then again. And then we do the most important thing we can. We step back and we offer the entire event to God. We pray and we sacrifice in the days leading up to the event, and we ask God to lead us and take it where He would like it to go. And we surrender.

So, first timers, prepare and go over every detail and scenario that you can. Ask others for help and share the work – and the excitement. Do everything in your power to make sure that you are ready. And then move out of the way and see where the Spirit takes it. You will be amazed.

“Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God.” St. Ignatius of Loyola 

Being Led To Become A Leader

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

brien-famine-featured

By Brien Bell 

Sometimes you just do something because it’s there.

That was me when I was younger. I was the “church kid;” my parents brought me to church when I was three years old, and I pretty much never left. I was there for their worship meetings and their fellowship gatherings. I was there for Sunday school and children’s choir. I was there for the ground-breaking of new buildings, the Eagle Scout projects, and the Easter egg hunts.

For younger me, “doing church” was a whole lot easier to grasp than my faith. When Jesus blessed the little children and said “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15), He knew that children trust and love and do because they haven’t been conditioned not to trust and love and do. I had faith because I knew God through the people of my church community, the people I saw every day, and the work I saw them do.

Growing up at my church eventually led to a growing of my faith, as those people and events and things I’d just done over and over as a child took root in the power of the Cross. And of all those things I did, few had more impact on my growth in the understanding of Christ’s love than the 30 Hour Famine. Five out of my six years in the youth program, the affectionately named Munchies (Jr. High) and CREW (Sr. High), I spent 30 hours in solidarity with people around the world who don’t always get to have a meal before bed or when they wake up. I spent those hours preparing meals to give to those in need in our community. I spent those hours playing games and drawing with chalk on sidewalks and taking naps, because after all I was still a teenager.

I spent those hours in community. I spent them learning, about who God is and how God works — not just through us, but in us. And I spent them watching our leaders, brave souls who, for some crazy reason, wanted to spend their Friday night and weekend shepherding a bunch of hormonal, cranky, hungry adolescents around Sacramento instead of doing, oh, just about anything else.

And that’s part of the reason why I decided to be a youth leader when I grew up.

Graduating from high school in 2003, I could have moved on from my life at church and in faith; some statistics says that as many as 50% of children who grow up in the church end up leaving the church. That would’ve been easy. But I hung around. I wasn’t involved, at first, but I was there. I watched as my younger friends did the Famine, or went on mission trips, or had epic games of whatever you can imagine on the lawn. I watched as they grew up and moved away and left the church. I watched as new youth came in, and left, and came in, and left.

And then something clicked. I was asked to help with our middle school students by our new youth pastor, began in January, went to an event, sprained my ankle, and then couldn’t go back to youth group for the rest of the year. Maybe I would’ve stayed away for good; spraining your ankle on a trampoline your first month on the job might be God’s way of saying “this might not be for you!” But then there was the Famine — and I remembered why I wanted to do this. To be a youth leader and mentor.

I was there for that Famine, five years after leaving the youth program that had ‘raised’ me. I’ve been there for each Famine since. And I’ve never once walked away saying “oh well, maybe something transformative will happen next year.” I see it all the time. Every time one of our students has that “ah ha!” moment during a service project or in TRIBE, I remember why I do this. Why I give up my Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings and Saturday afternoons and 30 hours once a year that I could be eating. And in the 20 years that my church has participated in the Famine, I know that God has been at work throughout it all.

The Famine makes a difference. The Famine invites change, in ourselves, and in the world. The Famine provokes us, challenges us, and encourages us that “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Isaiah 25:8).

The Famine changes lives — it absolutely changed mine.