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The Famine Blog

Someone Else’s Shoes


By Emily Robbins

someone-elses-shoesI was asked over Labor Day, by a friend of mine who just took a job as a youth minister, about some of my favorite youth ministry tools and curriculum. We were sitting in North Carolina on the deck overlooking gorgeous mountains. I sat quietly for a long moment and then said, “I believe that the one of best things we can offer our teenagers is the chance to experience life in someone else’s shoes. To live for a moment outside the box teenagers live in.”

There are many tools that help us achieve that within our youth ministry context; but one of my favorites–by far–is the 30 Hour Famine.

For 30 hours our teenagers (and adults) are hungry. Maybe hungrier then they’ve ever been before! They are uncomfortable. They question why they are doing this. They learn about individuals in other countries who live with this hunger every single day. They realize that not eating for 30 hours isn’t as hard as they thought it would be. Or maybe it is just as hard as they imagined. Every single one of them is taking a risk to give up food for 30 hours: but they do it.

I use some of the 30 Hour Famine curriculum with my youth group – especially the TRIBE games.  During TRIBE, the youth take on the identity of a hungry child and join others to create a tribe. These tribes compete through the day with games that educate and challenge youth to survive while hungry. I ask them periodically to reflect on taking on the identity of a child that lives with less than we do.

We also spend our morning working at a local food pantry; we watch videos about world hunger; serve by offering Random Acts of Kindness around town; and close out our evening at hour fifteen with a candlelit worship service. We go to Sunday School and Worship really hungry and then we celebrate and break the 30 hour fast with a yummy meal together.

After the candlelight worship service I ask my youth to take some time in silence to write a letter to the child whose identity they took on for the day. Or if they’d prefer, to write a prayer to God for that child. It’s extraordinarily transformational for them to identify with someone else, and to realize just how much they have and to be grateful for it!  It takes my breath away to get to see inside my youth’s hearts through these letters and prayers. Here are a few real samples:

Dearest Zinabu, My name is Shelby. I am in a youth group at my church and I want you to know that you are not alone. There is no way that you having unclean water and no food is fair when people everywhere are wasting it. I don’t even know you but I know that you are loved by God.

Love, Shelby, 9th grader

Dear Tayitu, I just want to say that you are a very strong young lady. You are a beautiful person and need to know that you matter to me. Everything you go through in your life means a lot to me. I would like to pray for you and your family: Dear God, I thank you for Tayitu and her family.  I pray for a good life and good health. Tayitu, I hope you gain a strong faith and hope. I just hope you re-gain your strength even though you live with fever and chills. I just wanted to say – stay strong and healthy and you are great – don’t forget that! Amen.

Love, Ali, 7th grader

I know what I am experiencing amounts to nothing compared to the pain you go through. But I want you to know that I know what you go through is hard. And I want to help end it. I know I have little to give, but I hope that it’s enough.

Stay safe, Ben, 10th grader

I recently asked my youth different questions about their faith development at this church and 30 Hour Famine came up as something that has challenged and enriched their faith since they’ve been in the youth group.  We’ve already got our 2016 30 Hour Famine dates on our Youth Calendar!!  Do you?  Help your teenagers experience life in someone else’s shoes this year.  They will be forever changed.

Today is World Food Day. What a perfect day to announce your 2016 Famine date to your teenagers. Sign up and pick a date now!

World Food Day (A Perfect Time to Pick Your Famine Date!)


By Travis Hill

james-122-world-food-dayOver the last few years of leading a group through 30 Hour Famine, I’ve had seemingly hundreds of conversations with participants, parents, random adults, and those who are simply inquiring into the what and the why of this fantastic event. I love that despite the age of the person I’m talking to, whether they’re 12 or 75, the response typically goes something like this,

Me: We spend 30 hours without food to raise funds and awareness for the pandemic of world hunger.

Them: Huh…(thoughtful look)…30 entire hours?

Me: Yep. That’s the average time a person in a developing country goes between meals.

Them: Wow, that’s great. I could never do that.

I love those conversations. The problem with them is that they tend to end there, especially with adults or, occasionally, other youth workers. With students, once they get past the initial idea of not eating for more than a day, and they begin to realize the what and the why, they dive right in. With adults though, they want to love and support, but from a distance. Or maybe it’s too difficult to set it up, or it takes too much time, or possibly the vision isn’t there.

Despite that, I’m reminded of what we read in James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

As “doers of the word,” we are called to a different standard, despite our reservations, despite our discomfort. I have seen a girl diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (an internal digestive issue) participate in 30 Hour Famine consistently because she understands she has healthcare here than can help her survive. I have let students with diabetes sneak out in the middle of the night to grab a quick snack so they can continue on, supporting their friends, and raising money for those who need it. I have seen families rally around their kid who is participating in the Famine, going hungry for 30 hours themselves. I have seen adults in the church not only partner financially with students, but also spiritually, praying for them, encouraging them, and even occasionally fasting with them. If participating in the Famine was too hard, then I have being grossly mislead by the fantastic students and adults whose lives have been transformed in the process of raising money, talking to friends and family about hunger, and simply becoming aware of a world outside of themselves.

I am grateful that 30 Hour Famine is not simply an event we do, but rather is ingrained into who we are as a church. The Famine itself is a time where we as a church get to lift up and empower the students to be even more selfless than many adults feel comfortable being. And how cool is that? This isn’t simply a fun student ministry event that involves gross food and messy games, but rather a place where students can hear, understand, and realize that their voices matter.

2016 is coming and I know we’re already planning our calendar, with 30 Hour Famine kicking off the year in February. Where does the Famine land on your list? Or does it even land on your list at all? Leave your students with a legacy of helping the poor, finding their voices in changing the world, and understanding that through ours and God’s love, that we can empower them to be doers of the word, and not merely listeners, doing nothing.

World Food Day is this Friday (October 16). Seems like a pretty good week to pick the date for your 30 Hour Famine and announce it to your teenagers! Sign up here.

The Greatest Two-fer Ever: How Solving Hunger Could Also Solve Human Trafficking



With an estimated 30 million people trapped in the modern day slavery known as human trafficking, it begs the question-how do victims end up there? What circumstances lead an individual into a life of slavery, and is it possible that obliterating hunger could also eliminate human trafficking from our world?

Various women and children at the shelter for victims of rape run by Mama Masika in Minova, DRC. Mama Masika has provided shelter and rehabilitation for 7011 men and women raped during the DRC conflict. Various World Vision offices have helped support her work. WVUS supports the feeding program for the children of these women. Africa digital b&w

So, what exactly is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the sale and transport of human beings who are forced to work against their will (or, involuntary servitude). Human trafficking is slavery. Millions of adults and children are enslaved and forced to work in a variety of ways—even today—including:

  • Forced labor
  • Sex trafficking
  • Bonded labor – where a worker’s debt is exploited.
  • Forced domestic servitude
  • Child soldiers

Who’s at risk?

Traffickers prey upon those who live below the poverty line because people living under the poverty line typically have what we call “food insecurities” that leave them vulnerable, meaning that there’s no safety net. If their crops fail that year, there will be no food to eat. Period. Maybe they don’t own their own land, so while they’re producing enough food to eat, they have to sell most of it to pay their rent for the land—leaving very little for their family to actually eat. Bottom line: people living under the poverty line are much more susceptible to hunger and desperation that causes families to make decisions they might never consider under other circumstances.

Think about it…

When you’re hungry—and not just I-forgot-to-eat-breakfast-hungry, but really truly I-haven’t-eaten-in-2-days-and-I-don’t-know-where-my-next-meal-is-coming-from-hungry—nothing else matters. Hunger controls you. Hunger forces you to make desperate decisions. A helpless mother who can’t feed her children, like most parents, would do just about anything to ensure that her children have food. Those feelings of desperation are what make the poor and hungry especially vulnerable to the devious ploys of traffickers.

For example, when a trafficker offers a child the hope of a good job—despite the risk of it being far away—many parents jump at the opportunity to give their son or daughter work, choosing instead the hope of provision for their child. When your choices are limited to the risk of danger and risk of starvation, it’s not an easy choice to make.

Hunger and poverty drive people to do things they would not normally do. It leads them to make uninformed decisions – choices that for some parents, lead their children to being sold into slavery. Battling human trafficking means not only going toe to toe with the perpetrators, but also attacking the root causes like hunger that often lead people into it.

Engage Your Students

Trafficking, like hunger, is significantly more complicated the closer you look at it! It’s impacted by so many factors and yet, there are still simple things that we can do that make a huge impact.

  1. Talk about it. We know you want to equip your students to be world changers and we want that too!! How does  justice become less of a buzz word and more of a way we live? It all starts from a good foundation: an ability to talk about complexity, to talk about the constraints that people different than us are under, and to have compassion for them. Without that it’s really hard to move into action that’s more than just a nice idea, but truly changes the world. Are there resources you’d love to have from us to help you in those conversations? Let us know! (
  2. Sign up for 30 Hour Famine. The funds that you raise through 30HF go directly to making sure that families have enough to eat and giving them the resources to produce their own food—keeping them from having to make desperate decisions that would leave them vulnerable to traffickers. There’s plenty of time to talk, and we’ll acknowledge that talking is important, but alone it won’t bring this crisis to an end. Hunger impacts every area of life—if we eliminate hunger, we can start to eliminate things like trafficking that are a result of hunger. Talk about a two-fer…

This spring, we’re going to be standing on our soapboxes and beating our drums LOUDLY about hunger and why it matters that we end it (and we CAN end it! How cool is that??). We hope you join us.






















For young girls in Thailand, the pressure to provide for the family forces many into the sex industry. In fact, Bangkok, Thailand is known as the prostitution capital of the world and nearly half of all tourists visiting the country are “sex tourists” – individuals looking to engage in sex trafficking.   Living in a rural area, with little education and few job opportunities, the sad reality is that many girls and young women see prostitution as their only practical option and look to this form of tourism as the answer.

I recently saw a documentary about prostitution called Nefarious. In the filmthe crew interviews prostitutes in Bangkok, finding selflessness and pain behind their flirty façade. With siblings who are hungry and a mother who’s sick; prostitution was the only way to help those they love. These girls have an obligation to care for their family and they aren’t taking their own feelings into consideration.





Today, effect change. Follow the links below to read more, educate yourself, and learn how you can change the course of history by attacking hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

World Vision ACT:S: Read more stories of human trafficking around the world.

Not For Sale: Find tools, resources, and creative ways to engage your community in ending slavery.

World Vision: Learn how you can take action.

The CNN Freedom Project: A national movement to end slavery.

– See more at:

Set Aside Judgment


 judgmentJen Bradbury

Whenever we come into contact with other people, there’s a temptation to play the comparison game. This is true of theology as much as anything else.

Theological differences are often especially apparent during events like the 30 Hour Famine, when serving others brings us into contact with people from different religions, denominations, races, or cultures. As we interact with people, we often notice differences in the way we pray; in how we worship; in how charismatic we are or aren’t; or in whether we emphasize serving others or evangelizing them. In conversations or during sermons, we might also notice differences in how literally we view Scripture or in what we believe or how we talk about Jesus.

Whenever we encounter such theological differences, the temptation is to judge others: to declare (even in our own minds) whatever we believe to be right and whatever someone else believes to be wrong.

The problem with this is that as soon as we decide someone’s theology is wrong or even a little bit off, we speak and interact from a position of arrogance and fear. Such a position prohibits us from listening to and learning from others. What’s more, it might inadvertently wreak havoc on the experience of our teens.

Imagine, for example, that you’re serving at a homeless shelter as part of your group’s Famine experience. Before dinner begins, shelter staff leads a worship service for all in attendance. As part of worship, an altar call occurs, something that is not a part of your congregation’s tradition. Even so, when given the opportunity to do so, several of your teens go forward during the altar call.

Later, you and another adult leader express frustration over a theology that emphasizes a one-time conversion rather than a lifetime of following Jesus. Unfortunately, one of the teens that went forward for the altar call hears you and fears she’s done something wrong. Her experience is now at odds with the faith tradition she’s a part of. As a result, she feels forced to either disregard the genuine encounter with Christ she’s just had – an encounter which, for her, might very well be the most significant experience she’s ever had with Jesus – or to begin questioning her place in your tradition, a tradition which to her, suddenly feels stale and irrelevant.

Certainly, neither of these options is good.

So what if, instead of judging the theology of others, we began viewing the theological differences we encounter in various places as opportunities to learn?

Take, for example, the altar call illustration. What if, instead of commenting on it with another leader, you processed the experience with your entire group? To do so, you could wrestle with the pros and cons of asking homeless people to attend worship before receiving the meal, comparing and contrasting this practice with how Jesus met the needs of people he met.

Beyond that, you could invite people to reflect upon what they saw and experienced before specifically asking those who stayed in their seats to talk about why they did and about how, if at all, the experience made them uncomfortable. You could then invite those who went forward as part of the altar call to share why they did so and how they encountered Jesus through that experience. After hearing directly from them, you could affirm and validate their experience. You could also invite teens to reflect on your congregation’s traditions and how they compare and contrast with the altar call they experienced. As part of this, you could talk about why your congregation does or does not utilize that experience and what other opportunities people have to commit to following Jesus. You could also dig into what Scripture says about following Jesus.

When we take time to process the different theologies we encounter while serving others, we show teens that rather than fearing or judging differences, we can learn from them; that we can grow spiritually even when (or perhaps especially when) something makes us uncomfortable; that the God we worship is much bigger than we might first imagine; and that even those who disagree with one another can still work together to bring God’s Kingdom here to earth.


Why Our Youth Ministry is Rethinking Service Projects


By Morgan Schmidt

Rethinking Service ProjectsIt’s October, and it’s avalanche season. The seasons are changing, and well-intentioned adults in congregations around the country begin their mad dash to request and secure teenage bodies for their various organizations and causes. There is so much good work to be done, and the assumption is that teenagers will be chomping at the bit to join in and help make the world more whole. And, since most adults in our churches don’t actually know our youth, they come to the be-all-end-all-gatekeeper-of-volunteers-and-free-labor: the youth worker.

What an amazing problem to have. Seriously. How great that there are so many people doing so many cool things that they want to invite young people to participate with them. Practically speaking, however, it can be a problem.

It usually goes like this:

The phone rings. “Hello?! Youth worker?! We have this (insert project/event) coming up for (cause/organization/committee). We need (number of students) on (insert date) to volunteer the whole day! What a great service project, right? The kids will LOVE it!”

Will they, though? Will I?

I find that many don’t understand the realities of youth ministry, the limitations of teenagers’ schedules, and the awkwardness our youth experience when they’re used for someone else’s agenda, as good as it might be. To top it off, often my youth simply don’t care; they are doing these projects out of a sense of obligation, guilt, or to fulfill their service hour quota for graduation.

Service is a natural part of youth ministry. I want to form students into the kind of people who are on the lookout for ways to be creative in love and participate in the restoration of all things. The question I’ve been pondering is: does every one-off service project really help us achieve that goal? Will my teenagers be more compelled to follow in the way of Jesus as a result of this volunteer work? I’m sure any volunteer opportunity won’t hurt; but I also don’t want to spend anyone’s time simply doing things that won’t hurt – I want to invest all the energy and resources of our ministry in gatherings, practices, and experiences that are meaningful and formational.

So we’re rethinking service projects.

Instead, I’m taking what I’ve learned from the Do-Nothing Mission Trip and my work with the Global Immersion Project, to create Flourish, a series of immersion tracks with our students. We’ve found that the most impactful experiences – the ones that aren’t just memorable, but formational – are ones that connect our creative acts of love (service) with the stories of actual people affected by the injustice which necessitates the service. Justice, for us, is founded in the belief that everyone is good, and made in the image of God, and deserves to be treated with dignity. Any service experience which keeps people at arms length, which doesn’t allow us to see the faces and learn the names of those we’re serving, only serves to affirm our preconceptions, biases, and keep the other person as just that – other.

Once there is a relational connection, a chance for us to meet other human beings face to face, hear their story, and recognize their dignity as people created in the image of God – then we can truly imagine ways to respond in love and serve in ways that are appropriate, contextual, and self-sacrificial. Over and over and over, when my youth group has had the chance to look someone in the eye and listen to them – we find ourselves changed.

We’re setting up opportunities for our youth to learn from peacemakers already at work in our community, whether they’re connected with the church or not, so that they can learn best practices that actually make a difference over the long run. And only after we have set aside our anxiety about getting too close, getting too involved, getting our hearts broken – then we dream together about how to get creative in love and respond.

Do You Have a Perception Problem?


By Jake Kircher

perception-problemA few years into the role with the church that I have now been with for eight years, I became more and more frustrated, due to some criticism I was starting to hear from a number of different leaders at the church. Sure, criticism isn’t always easy to hear, especially for someone who is naturally defensive. However, it wasn’t the criticism in and of itself that caused my frustration. It was the fact that almost all of it wasn’t applicable!

Now, as I’ve already admitted to being a bit defensive from time to time, let me explain. For the most part, the criticisms that I was receiving at that point seemed to fall into one of two categories:

  1. They were opinions of people who had never even been to the youth program, didn’t have kids themselves and hadn’t consulted any parents or students for actual feedback.
  2. They were criticizing aspects of youth ministry programming that I had actually changed months prior.

Naïve. Ignorant. Stupid. Those were the growing angry thoughts on my mind every time another person shared feedback about how the youth ministry should be run. I had plenty of days where I was tempted to just walk away and let these “experts” run the ministry since they were so sure of what we should have been doing.

I very quickly understood that I had a pretty big perception problem on my hands. The way that some leaders in the church were viewing my leadership and the youth ministry programming wasn’t accurate. It’s really easy to get angry and defensive because of someone’s bad perception; but that doesn’t change the fact that the perception exists. Instead, I learned that what’s important is to take a step back from the emotion and take the time to understand why people are seeing things they way they are.

As I did that in my situation, I eventually began to figure out that I was as much a part of the perception problem as they were. Sure, leaders in my church were sharing feedback of a program for which some of them had no context; but part of that was my fault for a few reasons:

First, I realized that I needed to do a better job with including others in the process of making or evaluating changes in the programs we were running. I am a very driven, get-it-done type of a person, which comes in handy quite a bit. But the downside is that sometimes I incorrectly assume that everyone is on the same page as I am. If I had been more proactive about talking with different people on leadership about potential changes, their perceptions wouldn’t have been off.

Second, I learned that I needed to do a better job of telling stories. Again, because of my task-oriented personality, most of my reports in leadership meetings were going through my checklist of accomplishments. That’s all well and good. However, taking the time to share a couple of stories from student or parents experiences would have helped provide a better context.

Third, it was immature of me to want adults to respect my leadership when I dressed and acted more like a teenager than an adult. Of course people were questioning what I was doing because I carried myself like someone that needed to be questioned! It’s all well and fine if you want to dress a certain way when you are with students (honestly, I don’t think it really matters how you dress when you’re with students, but that’s another blog post…), but you can’t expect other adults to see or treat you like a peer if you don’t look the part.

Now, these three things that I learned about myself may not apply directly to you, but the fact of the matter is that throughout ministry we will always find people who have a different perception about our leadership and our ministries. Instead of getting angry the next time that happens, I’d challenge you to take it as an opportunity to humbly evaluate yourself and figure out the ways that you can grow as a leader.

A Simple Way to Live the True Fast


Ross Carper 

isaiah-58One thing we talk with students about at the end of 30 Hour Famine is the “true fast”—that passage in Isaiah 58 that makes it so clear that one day of fasting isn’t what God is after. The goal is to have an everyday lifestyle of love for God and others. A love that compels us to seek justice for all, rather than always making everything about us. Here’s verses 5-6.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord?

 ‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

I love how challenging this passage is. But as a youth director, it’s not easy to help students stay engaged with seeking justice for the oppressed throughout the rest of the year. We need simple ways to connect with our mission to love our global neighbors as ourselves.

One brainstorm I’m having is based on the current global refugee crisis and the research-based fact that we need to connect youth group students with the broader, intergenerational family of faith. I’m planning something that is the least complicated thing I’ve ever tried. It’s revolutionary. It’s a prayer.

During the course of a Sunday worship service this fall, my hope is for our middle school students to lead a prayer for those who are being displaced by violence. With help from World Vision, we will gather information to educate ourselves about the crisis. We will prepare, and then we will simply pray. We won’t ask for money from the congregation. We won’t promote a trip or event. We won’t show a video or do a skit. We’ll simply pray, because as full-fledged members of the faith community, that is what we do. But it’s not all we do. If we’re praying in the Spirit of God, to whom every child is precious, then actions large and small (giving, advocating… anything) will follow words.

Creating New Rhythms


By Brad Hauge

creating-new-rhythmsAhhh, yes. Fall. Apples, football, new episodes of TV shows and so, so, so many pumpkin-flavored things. A season that also speaks simultaneously of new beginnings and re-acquired rhythms that is especially true for those of us in the youth ministry world. We watch kids go back to school, begin planning Sunday school lessons for bleary-eyed youth, and try (sometimes way too hard) to create a youth group kickoff event that will somehow find a foothold in a teen’s world where entertainment exists around every corner.

Fall forces us to experience that dichotomous feeling of both the new and the ordinary. We have the names of incoming students to learn, newly recruited leaders to train, and slightly intimidating parents to get to know. But we also have returning teenagers and calendars and events that feel as familiar as the pair of sweatpants you just put on for the first time since summer started.

One familiar rhythm for many of us is the 30 Hour Famine season. Or the mission trip season. The season where promotions and fundraising and parent questions and kids flaking out and fund raising and big event planning and creativity and fund raising and sleeplessness and fund raising take up nearly every waking minute. A season and rhythm that can be both incredibly draining and all things beautiful. However, for better or for worse, it is a season that usually lasts a couple months, if not just a few weeks.

But what if the rhythm of these seasons, minus all (well, at least most) the stress and anxiety and sleep deprivation, lasted all year long? Lasting transformation rarely happens within a 30 hour time period, let alone a week. It sure could, and certainly does on occasion, but what if you took the heart and purpose of the event and made it part of your ministry’s rhythm all year, every year?

I know blog posts don’t lend themselves well to interaction. Mainly because you are looking at a screen of some sort and not actually communicating with me, or anyone really, at the moment you are reading this. But let’s give it a try:

Grab a pen and paper, or pull up a blank document on your computer/tablet/phone, and write down as many reasons as you can think of as to why your group does, or is thinking about doing, The 30 Hour Famine, or mission trip, etc.

Seriously. Do it.

Ok, good job. Thanks for playing along.

Now take a look at your list. Most likely there are responses such as, “raising money to help provide food for those without,” “creating empathy within our youth toward those who survive with so much less,” and “capitalizing on serving side-by-side to help create greater community within our group” or something similar to be found on your paper.

Those are good reasons! Those are worthy goals! They are the things of Jesus! So let us not limit those reasons and goals to one season, to one weekend, to one event? Let’s change our rhythms.

Events are important. They build a critical mass of momentum and presence and awareness. But as we experience over and over, the energy and passion created from even the best events can quickly fade in the world of a teenager. So why not take a spectacular event and allow its DNA to usher in a new rhythm that becomes part of your group’s DNA.

A worthy event can lead to a new rhythm, but it takes intentionality. You have to do it on purpose- you have to make the decision to prioritize it as a goal worth fighting for. You may even have to put some parts of your current rhythm to bed so there is space for the new. So, what might that look like?

Here are four simple ways I could imagine it working in your ministry. Though, keep in mind those of you reading this each have entirely different contexts from each other. This is not a one-sized-fits-all situation. However it is a you all can do something situation.

  • Take something you probably already do (fall kickoff event, Christmas party, Halloween bash, etc) and add a “cover charge.” It doesn’t have to be a steep price or anything prohibitive. But if the reason for the cover charge is well communicated and explained, I’m certain you will have little to no pushback on the idea.
  • Tithe. Seriously. Simply take a collection each time your youth group meets, allow it to become part of the rhythm of your time together. Make it fun- pass around KFC buckets or cereal boxes to serve as a reminder that you have endless food options and opportunities compared to those who you are collecting money for.
  • Make use of the great resources organizations like World Vision have curated over the years. You don’t even need to plan a entire night or series around poverty and hunger. When it’s a part of your rhythm you can simply watch a short video, hear a story of hope and health from those who receive the funds to remind your youth the needs of others didn’t disappear when your event ended.
  • Advocacy. This is a big one, and it couldn’t be simpler. World Vision has begun highlighting both how important, and how easy, it is for youth use their voice to advocate for a better world. In fact, World Vision has even created a website for students to help them (and your group) do just that. Please take a few moments and poke around here and see how advocacy can be a simple part of your youth group’s rhythm.

My hope is that as you reach the end of this post you don’t feel any added burden to what your program calendar looks like. This is not about running more programs at the level that you run The 30 Hour Famine or a mission trip. This is about taking what is good, what is right, and what is beautiful about those events and allowing them to become a new rhythm throughout the year that breathes life into both your youth group and those benefiting from the raised funds and awareness around the world. Trust me, they’ll take donations any day of the year.

Why Corran is a Gift to Our Youth Ministry


By Shawn Kiger

corranA year ago I began planning for our first Haiti mission trip. I had a feeling Corran, who at the time was a middle school boy, would want to sign up and go because he wants to go on every trip. Corran loves youth group, church, and especially mission trips. If we are going somewhere, most likely Corran will be going with us.

One other thing about Corran, other than that he is a typical squirrely middle schooler: he has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.

One of the unique things about our youth group is that we have several teenagers with special needs. In the 17 years I have been in youth ministry–only the last two at my new church—I’ve never encountered this number of special needs youth in one group.  I have learned (and still have a lot to learn) over the past couple years how to make accommodations for Corran and others in youth group and on trips.  But a trip to Haiti concerned me a little.  I knew nothing would be wheelchair accessible and it would be tough to get around. But he has great parents and his father said he would go along so that Corran could go.

While in Haiti we served at a home for disabled girls and helped with construction of a new home. Everyday Corran went to the home to hang out with the girls and their leaders.  They all sat around the table and did crafts and played games. What started off as awkward because of the language barrier and not knowing what to say soon turned to Corran entertaining the whole group. The Haitian girls loved Corran! They had never seen an American with disabilities like they had.

One day the girls asked him if it was ok to ask him questions. He loves to talk and be the center of attention so he was happy to answer any questions they had. One of them asked him if he ever got discouraged because of his disability. He immediately said no. He went on to say he doesn’t get discouraged because he has great parents to take care of him, and a great church where all of his friends in the youth group are willing to include him and help him when needed. Then Corran told the girls that we would be there for them and that God was always with them so they didn’t need to be discouraged either. That moment was a kingdom of God moment that everyone could feel.  He was bringing hope, maybe just for a moment, to a group of girls that had none.

I was nervous about taking Corran to Haiti because of what I thought he wouldn’t be able to do. But what I relearned that day is that God calls all of us, including a squirrely middle school boy in a wheelchair, to reach out and to serve those most vulnerable amongst us.

Facing an Awesome Angry Mob



By Matt Williams

Don’t you love it when your youth group suddenly turns into an angry mob? I sure do! (Note: sarcasm.)

You would have thought that I uttered some blasphemy about Zane or Selena or Taylor, or that I announced the cancellation of our Fall Retreat, or that I thought the local NFL quarterback was over-rated. No, my words were apparently worse than any of these scenarios in the minds of the youth group. In an instant, my simple words turned the youth leadership team into a frenzied ball of indignation and outrage. And please don’t think me a poor youth minister, but I confess that I enjoyed watching it happen.

What was my sacrilege? What made me glad I had hidden the pitchforks and torches? What was the unspeakable thing that I said to my student leaders? It was this simple question: “Are we sure we want to do the 30 Hour Famine this year?”

While I remain a great supporter of the 30 Hour Famine and of World Vision, I noticed some signs of complacency from my students at our last Famine event. And it is predictable that this would happen. After all, our church has done the Famine for sixteen years now. None of the youth can remember a time where the Famine was not part of our parish life. To paraphrase a line from the character Syndrome in the movie The Incredibles: when every year has a special Famine event, it is easy to perceive that none of them are.

So, I asked the unspeakable question. I pointed out all that had been done, and asked if it was time to change our involvement and support something new. After all, World Vision has lots of different ways for youth to make a change in the world around them. And I highlighted the fact that it was getting harder to find youth willing to commit to the planning team that puts our Famine together. Was it time to stop doing the Famine?

Immediately after the question of my sanity was put to rest, the youth began articulating their reasons why the Famine was important. “We know it makes a difference for so many people.” “Everybody does the Famine, even the people that don’t come to youth group that much.” “There are still hungry people, so we still have work to do.” “Besides, the Famine is fun.” And after they concluded their defense of continuing our Famine tradition, they started contemplating ways to fire people up about the Famine this year.

It made my spirit happy to see the youth respond in the way they did. It would have been the easier path for them to switch to some cause that was new, or easier still, to just stop doing anything at all. But these young people jumped in and rallied to speak up not only for themselves, but for all of the people who remain hungry each day. I doubt you could find better evidence of the impact the 30 Hour Famine has on the teens that participate than their reaction to my unspeakable question! Neither could you find a more faithful response to the call Jesus makes to each of us when it comes to loving “the least and the lost”.

That’s why I loved the angry mob. It was a passionate response to something too many people are complacent about: the fact there is hunger in this world. I am glad they got angry when it was suggested we stop trying to do something about hunger. I pray that my youth always have this passion to fight hunger. And I pray that yours do too.