12 Ideas for Service Projects During 30 Hour Famine


service-project-ideas-30-hour-famineby Jen Bradbury

The first time I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was a rookie youth pastor who’d never before participated in in it. I worked hard to cobble together some discussions and activities about global hunger and poverty, some of which used the awesome materials provided by World Vision and the 30 Hour Famine.

Despite this, our hunger got the better of us and by the time we got to hour 27, everyone (myself included) was DONE. We simply had no energy to play another round of Tribe or dive into another Bible study.

Nevertheless, God moved in incredible ways and my students learned a ton about hunger and poverty. So the second time I did the 30 Hour Famine, I basically repeated what I’d done the first year.

Once again, that worked fine until we got to the 27th hour and everyone crashed.

For that reason, the third time I did the Famine, I drastically changed our schedule. Friday night we did Bible study and played Tribe. Then on Saturday, we participated in a daylong service project.

That service project made the Saturday of 30 Hour Famine downright enjoyable. It kept teens and adult leaders engaged, not just through the 27th hour, but through the 30th hour and the conclusion of the Famine. It shifted the focus from exclusively learning, to learning by doing. That, in turn, helped the Famine learnings to stick.

Whenever I talk about the impact of this aspect of the Famine with other youth workers, I hear something along the lines of, “I’d love to include a service project as part of the 30 Hour Famine. But I don’t know how. I don’t know where we can serve.”

With that in mind, here are 12 ways you can serve as part of the 30 Hour Famine or for another service project during the year.

  1. Volunteer at your local food pantry. Ask if you can stock shelves or hand out goods to clients. Serving around food when you’re fasting is definitely a challenge but it’s also a time in which God will show up in some incredible ways.
  2. Do a food scavenger hunt. Send youth out in small groups with a list of canned goods and supplies commonly needed by your local food pantry. Then have them go door-to-door asking for those items. Afterward, deliver the collected food to your local food pantry.
  3. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Ask if you can shop for, prepare, and serve a meal. If a shelter already has a group to serve on your specific date, ask if you can serve in another behind-the-scenes way. If you’re willing to do things other than prepare and serve meals, most shelters can put groups to work.
  4. Make sack lunches. Then take them to an area in your community where you know homeless people live and deliver them. Bring lunches for your group as well so that you can eat with and get to know the people you meet.
  5. Serve at Feed My Starving Children (or a similar organization).
  6. If your community has refugees, host a refugee fun day. Invite children (and their parents) to come for a meal, games, and crafts.
  7. Bake cookies for your congregation’s shut-ins. Then go in small groups to deliver them, taking time to actually visit and converse with each shut-in and learn more about their story.
  8. Bake cookies or take plants to your congregation’s neighbors but don’t use these visits to try to get people to attend your church. Instead, explain that you’re participating in the 30 Hour Famine and that as part of that, you’re serving the neighborhood. Thank each person for being a good neighbor to your congregation and apologize for any inconvenience your church may cause them (like congestion on Sundays, parking woes, or noise during outdoor summer events.) Then give them your gift and leave.
  9. Clean up your local park, forest preserve, or bike trail. As with all service projects, don’t forget to arrange this in advance! Call whosever in charge of volunteers and ask about any permits you might need as well as what’s most needed. Sometimes forest preserves would rather have you do seed collection or trail maintenance than picking up trash.
  10. Serve your congregation’s property team. Find out what needs to be done at your church. Then, regardless of what it is, do it… and do it well.
  11. Adopt a soldier. If your congregation has people serving in the military, assemble care packages for them. If not, connect with one of the many organizations through which you can adopt a soldier (Google “Adopt a soldier” and you’ll get a great list!). Write letters to soldiers and pray for them.
  12. Serve at the humane society (or a local animal shelter). Again, if you’re willing to serve in any way, many animal shelters can put you to work – walking dogs, playing with cats, doing a mailing, or cleaning cages.

Without a doubt, serving locally during the 30 Hour Famine will make it a better experience for everyone. What’s more, it will teach youth that they don’t have to choose between addressing global and local issues. Instead, they can do both.