Addressing Parental Concerns


By Jen Bradbury

“I can’t do the Famine,” one of my active, never-miss-an-activity students informed me.

“How come?” I asked.

“My mom doesn’t want me to starve myself,” she said.

It’s something I’ve heard a lot over the years. For many students, fasting – the practice on which the 30 Hour Famine is based – is a barrier to participation.

Part of this is because for some people, fasting – the practice of abstaining from food for a limited period of time in order to draw closer to Jesus – is totally foreign. It’s not always a regularly practiced spiritual discipline in churches.

Even churches where fasting is regularly practiced may have parents who are uncomfortable with the idea of teens fasting. Parents fear teens will grow hungry (which they will) and that fasting will negatively impact their health (which it won’t).

For this reason, it’s important that when you begin promoting the 30 Hour Famine, you also address safety concerns head-on.

Let parents know that junior high and high school students can fast safely. Then specifically delineate those steps you’ll take to make your fast safe. In particular, let parents know you’ll be drinking juice (or if this is the case for you, broth) throughout the famine. Remind parents that juice contains a LOT of calories.

Also let parents know you’re willing to work with students who, for whatever reason, cannot fast. I’ve stood in the kitchen many times on Famine Saturday as someone devoured a bowl of oatmeal or inhaled a granola bar so they could take medication. I’ve also periodically snuck kids food at regular intervals who couldn’t medically fast for 30 hours, even with juice.

Be up-front with parents about students’ hunger during the Famine. Admit students will be hungry. Explain how that hunger enables teens to empathize with and learn about those who are actually hungry everyday. Talk about how the growling of our stomachs turns into a call to prayer. Remind parents (and students!) that one reason you retreat together during the Famine is solidarity. Being with others who are also hungry enables teens to not only bond with one another but to support one another as they fast, especially during those moments when their hunger might get the better of them.

Once you address parents’ safety concerns about fasting, talk about the spiritual discipline of fasting. Reference Scripture passages like Isaiah 58 and share stories of how fasting has impacted previous Famine participants. Use the information World Vision provides to talk about the tangible difference the money from the Famine makes in the lives of hungry children around the world.

As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” Once parents understand teens can fast safely, they’ll be much more willing to allow them to participate in the Famine. Once a teen participates in the Famine, their testimonies will speak for themselves. It’s then that they – and parents – will truly begin to understand the value of fasting (and the Famine!)