How to Keep the 30 Hour Famine Fresh



By Jen Bradbury

The first year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was super excited about it. It was a new event to me – one I’d never participated in when I was in high school. It sounded fun, engaging, and impactful. And it was!

The second year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was still super excited about it. Since last participating in the Famine I’d begun ministry at a new church. So even though the Famine was no longer new to me, it was new to my students, who were super excited (and also a little intimidated) by it.

The third year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was a little less excited about it. It was still hugely impactful for my teens but it felt a little old to me.

The fourth year I did the 30 Hour Famine, I was even less excited about it. By then, I knew how to run a Famine. The problem is, it just felt tired to me. I feared that after multiple years of doing it, my students were also growing tired of it. How, I wondered, do you keep the same event – especially one as important as the Famine – from feeling stale?

Over the years, here are 7 strategies I’ve used to keep the 30 Hour Famine fresh each time.

1. Focus on a different region of the world each year. To help teens understand hunger is a global issue, each time you participate in the Famine, focus on a different region of the world. Study that region. Play a trivia game about it. Show a movie featuring that part of the world. If possible, invite someone from that region to come do a Q&A.

2. Find different ways to communicate the scale of global hunger. Part of the beauty of the 30 Hour Famine is how it exposes students to the extent of global hunger. Each year, help teens visualize this issue differently. Some of my favorite ways of doing this have been

  • Extinguishing candles or dropping rocks in a jar (the sound is haunting). Each represent a certain amount of children who die from hunger-related diseases each day.
  • Creating a mural of handprints or a pot of crosses made out of pipe cleaners. Each represents a certain amount of people who are hungry everyday.

The scale of global hunger makes it hard to comprehend. Creatively representing the problem’s scale makes a meaningless statistic real for students and your congregation, since most of these things can later be displayed in worship to draw even more awareness to the issue.

3. Investigate different Scripture passages. The Bible has a LOT to say about justice and serving others. Yet, the only passage we use at the Famine is the separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. Instead of revisiting the same passage every year, mix it up. Here are a few of my favorite passages to explore during the Famine:

  • Isaiah 58: True Fasting
  • John 6: Jesus as the bread of life
  • Matthew 14:13-21: Jesus feeds the 5000
  • Luke 14:15-24: The parable of the great banquet
  • James 1:19-27: True religion
  • James 2:14-26: Faith & deeds

4. Do a different service project each year. Doing the same service project can help you cultivate relationships. But it can also start to feel predictable. So change it up every once in a while. Alternate between two projects. Or every third year, do something different.

5. Invite students to share their experience in different ways. One year, invite students to share their testimony in worship. The next, create a video of your event featuring student testimonies and share it in worship or on social media. Another year, have students post live updates to your congregation’s social media accounts. Another year, print pictures and have students create a display showcasing your event.

6. Break the fast differently. Eat different foods at your break the fast meal (when possible, eat foods from the region you’ve been learning about). Some years, conclude with worship and communion. Other years, finish with a party. Some years, invite participants’ families to join you. Other years, open your celebration up to your entire congregation.    

7. Utilize student coordinators. Nothing can breathe new energy into a tired event faster than a student’s energy and passion. Each year during the Famine, keep your eyes open for a student who’s particularly engaged. Invite that student to work with you to coordinate next year’s Famine.

By tweaking your Famine in minor ways each year, you can keep it fresh and help ensure students will take away something different each year. That way they (and you!) will remain eager to participate in the Famine year after year.