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The Famine Blog

Finishing the Famine


ending-the-famineBy John Sorrell

I love planning food for the Famine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Hour Famine + your voice = Feeding hungry children


Did you know that Advocacy is a really important part of what World Vision does? When combined with the fundraising awesome people like you do through the 30 Hour Famine, advocacy is a powerful tool for change. We sat down with from WV’s advocacy team to talk about how they are advocating on behalf of kids who are hungry.

Christina, give us the quick download on what you do at World Vision

Basically, whenever the U.S. government is working on something that affects the places where World Vision works, or the people we work with, we want to have a voice in that. World Vision has offices in Washington, D.C., where we work with members of Congress and sometimes even the White House. However, Congress really wants to hear the voice of the everyday people they represent – so a lot of what I do is show people easy ways they can serve the poor through advocacy.

Ok. What do you want to tell Famine leaders and Students?

You just did something amazing completing the 30 Hour Famine. My question for you is, ‘you didn’t have to fast for 30 hours. Why didn’t you just give money?’ The likely answer is, you wanted to be a part of something bigger, multiply your impact, and achieve more than you can achieve on your own.

The 30 Hour Famine gave you a great reason to talk to your friends and family about something you are passionate about. Now, I hope that you’ll go one step further and talk to your leaders in Congress.

So, in a nutshell, what is the Global Food Security Act?

The Global Food Security Act is a bill that provides long term solutions to fighting hunger by –

  • Training farmers and providing tools;
  • Giving women opportunity to grow their own food and provide for their family;
  • Providing nutrition programs for young children.

Why is it important?

Around the world, one in nine people do not have enough food to eat and 45 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5 can be linked to poor nutrition. It will take more than one person or organization to change this, more than one church, more than one community. Changing and creating new laws is the first step to put all the pieces in place – but it needs to start with your voice!

What can we do?

Advocacy can be your next step in fighting hunger. Sending an email or making a phone call is easy! You have a story to tell and an experience to share. Members of Congress work for you (no matter what your age) and care about what you think.

Don’t let your experience end after just 30 hours. Send an email and ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act.

You raised money for hungry kids. Now use your voice so your elected officials can also work on behalf of hungry kids around the world. By combining advocacy with fundraising, we are able to work even harder to create hunger free world.

Bacon Cheeseburgers and the Holy Spirit


Bacon Cheesburger Sub 2005By Amanda Leavitt

In all our planning, in all our doing, are we making space for sandwiches—I mean, the work of Holy Spirit?

In the early hours of a spring Saturday eleven years ago, I made a monumental decision that set my priorities in a new order and which has impacted my life every day since. I decided to end my first 30 Hour Famine by eating a bacon cheeseburger sub. This was monumental because I was a devoted vegetarian (eight whole months devoted)! I can remember the deciding moment vividly: it was about 2am and I was sitting in small circle of new friends, the hardcore six who decided we should suffer the hunger pangs all night long awake, instead of allowing sleep to mask them. I had become a Christian two months earlier and right away joined the leadership team for The Famine. But at 2am, united against world hunger and against sleep, came the moment where these people really became my people, and when the church youth ministry became my family. It was also the moment when I became such a hungry vegetarian, I not only wanted to eat a cow, but a pig too, all smothered in cheese and wrapped in soft bready goodness. We decided we would all cap off the 30 hour fast by eating bacon cheeseburger subs. Later that day, when the fast ended, a small crowd of tough anti-hunger warriors gathered in my parent’s basement applauding my first bite of meaty sub before they all chowed down on their own. I laugh as I think back on how that weekend we all fasted in the name of starving people and in the end stood up for carnivores everywhere by gorging on meat.

In my current position as a youth pastor, if I heard students impassioned over a bacon cheeseburger after a hunger awareness function, I would probably be discouraged, wondering if they had missed the point. When a student says they made a life changing decision, I want to hear that someone put their trust in Jesus or turned from sin, not that they decided to become an omnivore (although there is perhaps something sinful about not eating steak. Let’s be real).

No youth pastor could have ever planned the moment that connected me to that group of students. Eleven years later and hundreds of miles away I am still walking through life and faith with those same people. That bacon cheeseburger sub I craved with that small group of students in the middle of the night, built the foundation for me to stay connected to the body of Christ and growing for years to come. My choice to follow Jesus was huge, but the moment where I discovered a community that connected me to Jesus for life was vital.

In youth ministry we are space makers in an overwhelmed crowded world. We are leaders who are tasked with conjuring atmospheres where students encounter God and share Him with one another. There are moments where we feel pressure to have each moment prepared and every student doing what we have planned.  Sometimes I need to remind myself to allow space for students to just be themselves, un-programmed, unplanned. Without this vital space our students could miss out on experiencing the unpredictable work of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it He who binds their hearts together and teaches them through one another? Leaving this kind of space allows them to have bazaar God moments they can point back to. Because really, who except God would have imagined the Holy Spirit working through a bacon cheeseburger sub?

Two Relational Practices I’m Starting


By Emily Robbins

relational-practices-startingI feel like the past few months have been a bit crazy!  It’s almost surreal to look at my life and realize that I am actually living in it. Last fall, after a lot of prayer and thought, I made an extra-ordinarily hard decision to change youth ministry positions so that I could work closer to where I live. After I got married in 2014, I had been driving 45 minutes to my church every day. It was so hard to maintain community, both personally and within the youth ministry!  I didn’t feel like it was time for me to leave my youth ministry yet but I also felt like it was time to pay attention to my personal needs as well. I am so grateful that a church close to my home ended up needing a Youth Minister!

I started as the Director of Youth Ministries at my new church on Sunday, January 3, 2016, just 2 ½ months ago. I am getting to know new teenagers, new staff, new parents, new rhythms and definitely new expectations!  These youth were excited to participate in the 30 Hour Famine for the 4th or 5th time – so that happened last month.

In this new context, I committed to try a few new things to build relationships to break down walls during this time of transition:

  1. Ask all of the youth and their parents to invite me over for dinner or games with their entire family.  In the spring of 2013 while leaving a youth ministry in Florida, many of the families had me over for dinner to say goodbye. I learned so much about the youth and their families during those dinners together: how they interact, expectations, personal jokes and so much more!  I also realized that as we broke bread together, I was allowed to become more than just a youth minister in their lives.  I sat at the table as part of their family. Crazy that it was happening at the end of my ministry with them!  And what a GREAT way to start at a new ministry! To build relationships with families–the entire family–from the very beginning, that’s the kind of ministry I want to be a part of.  So far some of the families have invited me over for dinner or for lunch after church.  It is working. I meet both parents and pets and see how the siblings get along.
  2. Use the phone. As in make actual phone calls.  I have had the blessing of being a distributor for an essential oil company for the past year.  One of the things that I do as part of my job is make “care calls”.  Not texts and not emails. I make these calls to check on the individuals on my team and to ask if there is anything I can do to help them.  I’m going to be honest – the calls feel risky until I’m actually on the phone with someone.  Anyone else feel this way? I always wonder what they think I am calling for.  But it is so good to catch up with them. Such a simple way to build relationships! I’m not sure when I stopped making phone calls (not just send texts) regularly but I’ve been challenging myself to call parents and youth to connect. Many times the youth do not answer their phone so I get to leave fun voice messages and follow up with a text!

There are always ways to do new things in our ministries especially when we’ve been in ministry for a longer period of time. We just need to pay attention. Where have you learned to try something new lately?

The Thin Place of Questions


thin-space-questionsBy Shawn Kiger

The other night at the high school Bible study that I host at my home, we were talking about the thin spaces in our lives: those times when the distance between heaven and earth feels thin, and we are experiencing the presence of God in the moment.

At first it seemed like things were not going to go well with this topic. I asked them to share about a time when they felt like God was at work in that moment and was close to them. The room was mostly silent, which never happens with 20 teenagers in my living room. One youth raised his hand and mentioned a mission trip we recently went on but couldn’t name a specific moment. I reworded the question but still nothing.   This was going to be a long night!

So I decided to ask them if they thought God is actively involved in the world. This opened up a 45-minute discussion that first led me to believe I was failing at my job. Some stated they believed God created us but after that left us to our own desires. One said God planned out their entire lives including the day we die. This opened up a conversation on free will. One wondered why God chose Jesus to come to earth along time ago instead of now.  Which wasn’t really on topic but still an interesting question.

This entire time I was thinking to myself, Where have I gone wrong? I thought of all the times I have pointed out God at work in their lives. I thought of all the experiences I created and the many times I felt God show up during those experiences. How can they not see God at work?

But I quickly realized that we were experiencing a thin space right there in my living room. The Holy Sprit was present in their questions. They were in a safe space where they felt comfortable asking tough questions and knew they would not be judged. I resisted the urge to stop them and correct them on what we believe. Instead I encouraged them to dig deeper and think more about what they believe. I asked lots of questions and let them talk.  At the end I was asked what I think and I was able to share with them the places I have seen God at work in my own life and some of the thin spaces I had experienced.

This conversation was a good reminder for me that sometimes God shows up in the questions and doubts of teenagers. My job is not to merely give them the right answers but to create a space for them to be able to talk through their own questions.

Dealing With Senior Fade


By Keely DeBoever

It’s that time of year again. Students everywhere are ordering their caps and gowns, sending out their invitations, and readying themselves for what comes next. At home, their parents are complaining that they already have one foot out the door. For youth ministers, it is the time of year when we are tirelessly working to perfect our slideshow transitions and to find the most emotionally touching/least cheesy graduate-themed song to send them off. As we do this, we suddenly realize that the students we are making such a fuss over have barely darkened the doors of the church lately. How we handle these precious last few months can make a huge impact on these students moving forward. So what can we do to best serve our students during this time?

    As ministers (and human beings, really), it can be incredibly easy to take personally the actions of others: to perceive them as a direct result of our performance, relationship, and so on. Our students, who once asked “What are we doing tonight?” with excitement and anticipation, now ask the same question with a tone that really says, “Does any of this matter?” We often take these words as criticism, instead of taking them as a challenge. It isn’t personal. It is a natural part of their development. They are at the age when they are looking for quality over quantity. Your seniors may have been at every event or study you ever offered when they were younger, but now they are looking for maximum meaning in the small windows of time that they have between studying, working, playing sports, socializing, and everything else. Our task is to make the most of those few moments we have. Let them know you’re glad they are there…and not in a, “Wow! I haven’t seen you in AGES” kind of way. Stress is a real thing for our students, and high schoolers are feeling it now more than they ever have before. Don’t add to that. Rather, let church be a place of rest and renewal. Lean in and find out how you can help them in these few months. And, most of all, be glad they made the time to be there, and acknowledge that effort often.
    High School Seniors are 18, going on 30. They think they know everything about everything. Of course we know differently; however, the truth is they do know a lot more than they ever have before and can relate to other students in a way that youth leaders simply cannot. Lean into that. Treat them like adults and leaders. Allow them to lead the other youth in small groups or even in the large group study. Tap into their strengths and interests in a way that communicates to them that what they have learned over the years actually matters. Plus, we all know that one of the best ways to learn and retain information is by teaching it to someone else. Give them the opportunity to do this and they will also learn as a part of the process.
    Sending them out brings what you are doing in those first two steps full circle. We must acknowledge that moving forward is a natural part of their spiritual growth. We have all surely experienced that one kid who never really wanted to leave youth group. And, we get it…it’s comfortable, it’s fun, and it’s easier to be a follower than it is to be a leader. However, at a certain point we must let go and trust the process. Jesus knew this all too well, when he prepared his disciples for his departure. It would have been easy for him to think that they needed more time, or that they weren’t ready to take on such a big responsibility. However, he knew that they were capable of more than they could ever know. Our students need to hear this from us. They live in a world that says teenagers can’t do much. We need to remind them of all that they are capable of and that they are created in the image of a God who will walk beside them every step of the way!

Once Upon a Time…


once-upon-a-time-30-hour-famineBy Luke Lang

Once upon a time we changed the world…

We came together on a humid, north Texas night in a church gym that smelled like sweaty corn chips.

It was a small group, but we were about to change things.

It was a lock-in.

Honestly, I wasn’t super excited.

I’m not a fan of lock-ins.

AND, we were doing a lock-in WITHOUT food!!

There would be no late night pizza or Mountain Dew fueling the festivities.

There would be… water, lots and lots of lukewarm bottled water.

We were doing the 30 Hour Famine with some students who usually couldn’t go 30 minutes without food.

It was an action packed night designed to keep students from thinking about the absence of Doritos.

We did some real life role-play; students drew cards that told them who they were.

They became someone other than themselves.

There is a liberating AHA in that.

They were each assigned a hurt or hurdle that they had to deal with for the next 30 hours.

Some were given a limp, some a backpack with rocks they had to carry everywhere, some blindfolds.

We became OTHER.

We built shelter from cardboard boxes.

We had really good intentions for a canned food drive. We loaded up the church van and set out in search of lima beans and potted meat.

But, our attempt to drive around town collecting canned food was thwarted by all the water we had consumed. We had to stop at a gas station or fast food place every 6 minutes for a bathroom break.

The Famine deposited some forever stuff in the lives of our students.

It gave students pause to SEE the other.

There is nothing like living in a box–even for a couple of hours–that forces you to look outside your everyday box.

They walked in the shoes of someone OTHER than themselves. It forced them to think and to feel.

Their hearts got bigger that day. They saw things they had never seen before, things that can’t be unseen.

It gave students permission to BE the other.

Walls came down.

(And not just cardboard walls).

Walls between US and OTHER.

Strange things can happen at 2:00 am when you’ve had no food.

Stomachs rumbled and so did emotions.

Students (and leaders got cranky).

And somewhere in the middle of the night, students started to let down their guard.

Real tears flow and raw stories are shared.

One of our students had been homeless and we had no idea. Several parents were out of work.

We discovered that WE were OTHER.

The world is forever changed when our perspective is changed.

It gets bigger and smaller at the same time.

Suddenly, the world is closer than you thought.

We walked away from the Famine tired and hungry and forever different.

There is a freedom in stepping outside of yourself that changes everything.

It changes you.

It changes your attitudes and perspectives.

It changes the world.

The world is changed when you see it with OTHER eyes.

Once upon a time we changed our world.



By Jake Kircher

called-30-hour-famineAs youth leaders and pastors, the aspect of being “called” comes up time and time again to talk about the specifics of where and how we are doing ministry. When I left my first church, I stood before the congregation and explained that I was no longer “called” to that church and it was time to move on. Then months later when I stood before my new church, I explained how God had now “called” me to them. No doubt, this is probably something you have seen and heard numerous times from pastors or ministry leaders, and there is a good chance you’ve probably done it yourself.

But what if the way we use calling like that has nothing to do with the Biblical idea of what it means to be called?

More so, what if using it that way actually has a negative impact on our students and congregations?

The more I have wrestled with the idea of calling in my life and searched the Scriptures and what it has to teach on the topic, the more I have come to the conclusion that the answer to both of those questions is yes.

Two of the most frequent Greek words translated as calling in the Bible are klētós and klésis. Both are roughly translated by Strong’s Dictionary as, “Divinely called- focuses on God’s general call – i.e. the call (invitation) He gives to all people, so all can receive His salvation.” If you go and read the entry in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on “called” it will tell you the same thing: being called by God has solely to do with the invitation he extends to be in relationship with him and then the opportunity that we have to help others respond to that same invitation. Period.

More so, looking at Romans 11:29 Paul writes that, “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (NIV) In other words, our calling has been extended and it’s not going to change. It doesn’t shift from church to church, or town to town, and it doesn’t end in one place and then start somewhere else. It’s the same no matter where we are or what vocation – secular of ministry related – we have.

So what’s the danger of using the terminology of “called” the way we do?

First, as youth leaders and pastors, using “called” like this can undermine the fact that everyone has the same exact same calling to the Gospel. By not directly teaching people to understand that God has called everyone to participate in the work of his Church, we allow people to think that being called is something special and unique. This a-ha moment where God leads someone into a specific ministry role in the church, whether for a season as a volunteer or vocationally. We’re then left living out our “calling” to the church we’re serving at, meanwhile hoping and praying others will receive their “calling” so we can have some help. No wonder the role of pastor is said by some to be one of the most stressful vocations to be had today!

Second, looking at calling as the specifics about where we are serving and what we are doing, can actually destroy our ability to live into our true calling, as The Navigators put it, “to know Christ and make him known.

At my first church, I was working 80-hours a week (not being paid for all of them!) between three different jobs and my wife had to work a job she hated, all to make ends to meet because, “I was called to that church.” Meanwhile, in our first year of marriage and living at that pace, I began to watch my new marriage fall apart and realized that I was seriously burnt out emotionally, physically and spiritually.

The fact is, my dedication to honoring my “calling” to that church left me with no energy to pursue my own relationship with God. Truth be told, being on empty meant I had nothing to really give the students I was working with either. Nor was I helping my wife deepen her relationship with God or share her faith with others in the ways that God had gifted her as an artist. Neither of us were actually honoring our calling, all because we were so focused on the “fact” that God had “called” us to this specific church.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God leads (key word) us to jobs or situations from time to time that aren’t easy. But Paul’s expression of being content whatever the situation has more to do with taking life as it comes, not the situations we choose to put ourselves in to. More so, he actually writes to Timothy saying, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” If your current role (whether you’re a volunteer or in a paid ministry position) is leading you or your family to reject your relationship with God and/or detracting you from truly helping others connect with God, you can rest assured you’re not “called” to your specific role; and maybe it’s time for a change so you can better live out the calling that truly matters, the one that won’t change no matter what.

Tell the Truth


by Mark Oestreicher

Slide1I recently came across this quote from my old boss, friend and mentor, Mike Yaconelli (Mike was something of a godfather to modern youth ministry, and the founder of Youth Specialties. He passed away in 2003.)

“What characterizes followers of Christ is that we tell the truth…. We talk about all of life. We’re not afraid that teens will see life as a struggle every day—and that it will always be so. Most of all, we point them away from us and toward Jesus…. What’s so disturbing about youth ministry today, however, is how little truth telling there is. I’ve been in youth ministry for 40 years, and I wish I could have some of those years to live over again. Oh, God, forgive me for causing your little ones to sin. Oh, God, help me to learn from my mistakes. Oh, God, in spite of me, cause all of your little ones to run into your arms. Oh, God, help us all.”

Maybe it’s with the best of intentions; but we youth workers have a tendency toward dishonesty, if we’re being honest. This is paradoxical, since we’re often the one ministry in our church most committed to honesty and authenticity (teens will not stand for less). But it’s often tempting to sugar-coat things. It’s easier, at times, to tell partial truths that preach well.

Easy answers and partial truths don’t lead to a sustainable faith.

That’s a fantastic aspect of the 30 Hour Famine: it takes an honest look at complex issues and doesn’t simply offer a band-aid.

Let’s commit to live honest lives alongside teenagers. Let’s talk honestly about the joys and struggles of the Christian life. Let’s help teens develop a robust faith in a complex world.



Your Intentions Determine Your Actions


Your Intentions Determine Your ActionsBy Tash McGill

At the end of each day, I ask myself 5 questions.

  • What happened today?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What am I hoping or praying for?
  • Where did I excel?
  • What did I learn?

I’ve started writing the answers to these questions in a journal at the end of each day.

Writing it down helps me to see patterns, to see where I’m growing, to see how days are being shaped by my thoughtfulness about them.

But there’s more to it than that.

My intention, about who I want to be and how I want to live, becomes easier to recognize in the actions of my day to day life. And in reverse, I’m able to see where the actions of my life are not in alignment with my intention. What I am grateful for and what I learn each day is helping chart my course towards my life being completely aligned with my purpose or my intention.

Why does that matter? Well, your intentions are more powerful than you realize at times. If you lose sight of your intention, it becomes easy to get lost in the mundane and end up feeling disconnected. From the life you want to live and from yourself.

I’ve recently changed jobs to one where I can be more aligned to my purpose in my day to day life. Already, I feel more connected to myself again and I can feel the momentum of my learning, my strength developing and my sense of vision.

So examine whether or not your intention is clear. Can you put it into words?

Then pick up a pen tonight and ask yourself those five questions.

Is your intention clearer?

Keep asking the questions. Keep answering.

Refine your intention and let it refine your actions.