Carry the Bucket with You


By Keely DeBoever

One of the most overlooked elements of cultivating meaningful experiences for our students and congregations is finding ways to help keep those experiences alive long after the event has ended.  We tend to focus all our time and energy on the weeks leading up to the event and the event itself, and then collapse into a pile when it’s all over.  No one can fault us for giving into the exhaustion; however, once we are rested and recovered from the event, we need to remember the important task of follow-up so that we can maximize the outcome of the experience.  We need to provide opportunities for our students to remember their experiences and continue to grow into the lessons they learned.

For the seven years that I served my previous church, we took our students on a hiking trip every summer.  At the end of each weeklong experience our Staff Counselor would close our time together with a story about man hired to paint the white blazes on the Appalachian Trail.

The first day that he was hired, he was able to cover 10 miles of the trail.  His boss was so impressed that he had covered such a great distance and he couldn’t wait to see how far he would get the next day.  His second day on the job, he covered only 6 miles.  His boss was underwhelmed, but chalked it up to the fact that he must have been tired from the day before.  His third day on the job, he covered even less territory.  On his fifth day, he covered just 1 mile.  By this time, his boss was losing faith in his ability to fulfill the requirements of his job and called him in to discuss the issue.  The man’s boss asked why he covered so much territory on the first day, and so little by the end of the week? The man responded that the further he got down the path, the further he had to return to his bucket each time to get more paint on his brush.

This same story was told year after year, and many of the same students heard it over and over…yet, it never lost its relevance.  So often, we rely on the big moments to sustain us so that we must keep coming back to them to fill us up.  As leaders with youth, we should be setting the example and providing opportunities for students to “top off” their spiritual fuel tanks, rather than waiting for them to be on “E” before filling their tanks.

So, how can we do this?  When it comes to 30 Hour Famine, there are many ways to keep the mission in front of your students throughout the year.

HIGHLIGHT VIDEO: If you have worked with youth for any amount of time, you are no doubt familiar with the Highlight Video.  We have all been guilty of showing the highlight video at the end of the event or on Sunday morning after the event for the congregation, then never viewing it again.  Students love these videos, because they get to see themselves on the screen and be reminded of the memorable things that happened throughout the event.  I’m not saying we should show these videos every week, but we should be intentional about picking a time (maybe a few months after your Famine event) when you can show this video again and maybe have some of your students share about their experience.  This reminds those that participated in the event about all they learned and experienced, and may also create new experiences for those that did not participate or are thinking participating in the next one.

GAMES/ACTIVITIES: The 30 Hour Famine Resources come with many different game/activity ideas.  If you are like me, you don’t use all the suggested ideas as a part of the event itself…because of your context, scheduling, etc.  This means, you may have a couple of left-over activities that can be utilized later in the year, perhaps as a part of your regular programming to help keep the spirit of 30 Hour Famine alive.  If you do use absolutely all of the resources for the Famine event, then pick the one that went over best and find a way to re-create it later.

YEAR-LONG/SEASON FUNDRAISING IDEAS: You know your context better than anyone else.  Figure out what your students care about and then find a way to make that work towards your fundraising goals!  Do you have a group that loves to go out for coffee, ice cream, or dinner before or after youth group? Encourage them to pool their change each week toward your 30 Hour Famine Funds.  Make Famine your focus for Advent or Lent. If you have someone creative in your congregation; this would be a fantastic opportunity to have them create an Advent/Lent Calendar with information or growth challenges related to the Famine, as well as challenges for ways your students could give a little each day.

No matter what you do, just make sure you do not let your 30 Hour Famine event be a one-and-done experience.  There are a ton of resources available online to help you keep the Famine in front of your students all year long.  It is our job to make the most of those opportunities so that we can help our students carry their buckets with them wherever they go!