Rethinking Your Calendar


Travis Hill

Football huddleJust over a year ago, I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Seattle with a few other student pastors and World Vision employees. We were on the eve of a glorious adventure to see World Vision’s work in Zimbabwe, excitedly discussing and reveling in the fact that we could talk Famine and student ministry without abandon. Then the conversation briefly halted on an awkward question posed by one of the 30 Hour Famine staff guys, “Do you do the Famine on the National Famine Dates or choose your own date?”

There was silence. Everyone shifted in their seats, some looking at the wall, others at their cups of coffee. We had come to find out that only one of us ever really did the National Famine Dates. It wasn’t that big of a deal, as it says right on the front of the 30 Hour Famine website, “2014 Famine Dates, or Choose Your Own Date!” Still, we all felt we had to explain why we never used the official dates: “We do large outreach events in my church that weekend;” “I have to plan the year 16 months in advance;” “It simply doesn’t fit in my schedule.”

What was my excuse? Football.

Here in Texas, an unspoken aspect of student ministry is that not many churches plan events in the fall. Between football, volleyball, drill team, trainers, band, and the many other organizations that either help run or do Friday night/weekend activities, most people would not dare create a fall event. Some student ministries build on the fact that tons of students will be present at these games, but not all of our kids go to sporting events, like them, or care. So we create events at games that don’t reach students who don’t go to games, when there is a uniquely large population of students who would rather go to a church event than a game.

Because of this mindset we had no fall events, cramming a weekend retreat and 30 Hour Famine within weeks of each other, with summer camp happening a few months down the road. This was unacceptable. Why couldn’t we have fall events?

Last year we began rethinking our calendar and made fall events for middle and high school. This freed up room to move even more things around. We started going crazy, “Why not move the discipleship retreat from March to December?” “Sure!” So we went from two major events in January and February to four events (October, December, January, and Summer camp). This way, the four major events have a flow of outreach, discipleship, outreach, discipleship.

Then we finally asked, “Why don’t we just do the National Famine Dates?” It would make sense. We can move our Famine back to February now. Our main reason: Unity. Our group, along with hundreds of others, will all be doing the Famine together. Doing things together with other churches, other denominations, and other students is a great thing, even if we’re not in the same room together. In fact, it helps reinforce the idea that the pandemic of world hunger can only be solved in unity.

Do you not know any other student ministries nearby your church? Call and meet the senior and/or student pastor; tell them how the Famine has impacted your ministry. Are there no other student ministries around? Use technology to coordinate with other groups. It’s possible! Don’t know how to do that? Call 30 Hour Famine and see what groups are signed up in your area. Maybe they are rethinking their calendars as well for next year. You never want to just do the Famine to do it, but use it as a catalyst in the lives of students. Make it important; make it special. The only way to get fresh ideas is by reaching out to others.

Sometimes as youth workers, we fall in line the school calendar and allow it to dictate our ministry, instead of focusing on the ministry that our students should lead outside of the church walls. If we are built to live in community with one another, why not break those boundaries that stop us from doing so?