It wasn’t supposed to go like that


By Chris McKenna

IMG_1556After organizing maybe ten 30 Hour Famine events, I have a pretty good feel for how I want things to flow. We have some standard steps we follow every year to ensure an energetic but smooth event, keeping those hungry, tired kids moving as much as possible. This year felt no different. My key volunteers had completed all of their tasks, and unlike other years, we even had the music sets from the band a whole day in advance! (You know those creative types!)

Our Famine was March 27/28 (last weekend!). I’m writing this on Monday, March 30, and I’ve come up with a list of things that didn’t quite go how I had hoped.


Throughout the week leading up to the Famine, I was hearing story after story from parents about conflicts their kids had with sports, band, and life for chunks or the entire Famine event. We’ve never held the event on the weekend immediately before spring break, and I guess everyone else was trying to cram in one more game before vacation. As a result, attendance was down about 20%, and I knew it about 15 minutes into the registration process. I was bummed, because I had INCREASED our fundraising goal by 17% over last year! Initially, my heart sank a bit. I know that every dollar = help for a hungry kid.

Guess what? Those 20% less raised 18% more than last year. That’s God math. Earlier this year I blogged about setting a BHAG (a “big hairy audacious goal”). And, so I went for it when I set our fundraising goal, and HE showed up. And at $35/month, there will be 42 little people fed for a year. Hearts beating! Alive! All from our comparatively “smaller” 30 Hour Famine.


The evening devotion time is the peak of most Famine events. The kids are hungry and vulnerable to God’s promptings. It all flowed in my head, exactly how I wanted it to go. Each of us was holding a candle representing a life saved, forming a large circle around our student room, and then we were supposed to blow them out, participate in a simple station, and sing a couple of closing songs.

But, it just didn’t feel right. As the candles were still lit, it became clear to me that it wasn’t time to blow them out. So we didn’t. We all huddled up in the middle and started singing. No station. Just praising God. The room was glowing and FULL of glorious praise to our King. It was a moment that I won’t forget. Now, I have to be honest – I was vacillating between awe and absolute terror. What could possibly go wrong with 150 middle school students (emphasis BOYS) holding candles in close proximity to each other? My only water source was a damp mop in the corner. Not exactly effective fire safety. Now, I’m not promoting risky evening devotions. And, I’m probably over exaggerating, but it was AWESOME.


I needed something to motivate fundraising. Last year I kissed a cow, so this year had to be big. Bigger than the smooch! In the spirit of 2014’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we came up with the 2015 “Famine Freeze” and decided to rent a dunk tank. Any kid who raised $250+ got to pick a leader for the tank. We knew it would be cold, but we had no idea it would be 35 degrees. Turns out 22 kids raised  more than $250, so it definitely motivated some additional fundraising! About 15 of my leaders, including me, volunteered to be willing candidates for the tank, which by now was dangerously close to having a thin sheet of ice on top. And, then, the most amazing thing happened. The first 12 middle school kids who earned dunk tank rights picked their high school and adult leaders for the tank. They didn’t pick me! Their relationships were with THEM and not ME! I started youth ministry wanting to be everyone’s favorite. Now I’m WAY OK celebrating when I’m not.

I guess a left-brained, A-type like me needs to be reminded that there is still joy in the unexpected. Even if it wasn’t in my spreadsheet. May each of you experience something unexpectedly wonderful during your 30 Hour Famine!