Your Role and Theirs, part 2: The Teenagers


bowl full of rice on white backgroundBy Travis Hill

Earlier this week, my friend Matt Williams wrote about our role of encouraging students in the Famine, how you are an integral part of the story. Today, let’s talk about the other half of the story: the teenagers.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, the pressure given to students to perform, excel, succeed, and be the best at something is overwhelming and constant. Teenagers’ egos have been laid with the foundation that self-fulfillment is measured incrementally via social media popularity or becoming a reality show contestants or YouTube star. Increasingly, we witness teens losing hope in themselves that they can achieve any modicum of self-worth, simply due to their faces not appearing on TV or getting enough likes through a posted digital picture.

But we know teens can succeed. We know it because we work with them and we’ve seen it. We know it because God has never shied away from using the very old or the very young to accomplish great things.

What happens when you give students a problem they cannot beat alone?

One of the beautiful aspects of working with students (and specifically middle schoolers in my case) is the way they get excited and fired up about things. You remember Kony 2012? Regardless of your own thoughts about the campaign, it was built on the popularity and excitement produced by young people. Every student pastor should have learned this valuable lesson, that even though students could not fix the problem of Kony, they believed they could. And if we are to truly exact a demonstrable force of change in this world, then we must harness that energy and power, guiding it in an appropriate manner through avenues that not only encourage and empower teenagers to “succeed,” but in ways that cause them to see how important helping others can be.

When I ask the middle schoolers in my student ministry why they do 30 Hour Famine, it’s not because they want to go hungry for 30 hours. Of course, I always have to fight to get students to participate. “I can’t do it,” one will cry. Or I’ll hear, “That’s impossible!” But when I really start to get them think, they start answering in ways that surprise me.

“I have so much and they have so little.”

“But what if I don’t do it? Then a kid won’t be able to eat tonight.”

They know it’s impossible for them to fix the global pandemic of hunger, but they know they can affect one person. And how valuable is it for teenagers to learn that each and every person matters, that each person (here or abroad) they come in contact with is a creation of God? Akin to what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me,’” our role is to love those we can with all that we have.

This year’s 30 Hour Famine theme is: Make It Your Fight. So let’s focus on our teenagers, encouraging and empowering them, finding that desire to affect change across the world through 30 hours of solidarity with the world’s hungry.