Coming Back to the 30 Hour Famine


By Jen Bradbury 

Most youth workers I know are familiar with the 30 Hour Famine. Many have even done it… at least once.

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you did the Famine years ago but then, for whatever reason, stopped.

That’s what I did.

For over a decade, the 30 Hour Famine was a staple in my ministry – one of its go-to, yearly events.

But then, the Famine lost steam – not because it was a bad event, but simply because we’d done it so many times and also because February, the month we’d traditionally participated in the Famine, became the worst month to hold an overnight event in my context. Between sports, forensics, and math team meets, virtually none of my kids could participate in the 30 Hour Famine.

So, in 2014, my leaders and I made the difficult decision to take a break from the Famine. At first we thought we’d just take a year off. But then one year became two and two became three and eventually three became four. That’s when something interesting happened.

At a brainstorming event over the summer, one of my high school seniors – who’d never participated in the 30 Hour Famine himself, but whose siblings had – suggested we do the Famine. Since many of his peers were completely unfamiliar with the Famine, he explained what it was based on what he’d heard from his siblings. After doing so, the people in the room got excited.

Really excited.

So, we scheduled a date for the Famine in October, far from the national Famine dates but on a weekend that worked for the teens in my ministry.

After four years off, when I sat down to plan the 30 Hour Famine, I realized I was excited about it in a way I hadn’t been in years. I wanted to teach teens about global hunger, poverty, and even the discipline of fasting and was thankful for the forum the Famine gave me to do so. I pulled from past years and recycled some of our greatest hits – teachings and activities that proved effective year after year. Then I supplemented those ideas with new ones, uniquely designed to minister to my specific group of teens in this specific time and place.

Our actual Famine event was everything I dreamed it would be and more.

Teens grew closer as a group. They participated in an important, transformational spiritual discipline for the very first time. They dove into Scripture and wrestled with God’s heart for the hungry. They served our local community and learned how hunger exists, even in affluent suburbs like ours. They also got acquainted with the organizations committed to fighting hunger in our community. What’s more, they learned to articulate what hunger is in a way that I hope will make them empathetic to those who are hungry and more committed to serving them. In all of this, they encountered Jesus – in each other, those who are hungry, and those who serve the hungry.

So, friends, what are you waiting for?

If you’ve never done the 30 Hour Famine, or it’s been a while since you’ve done it, try suggesting it to your team and see if there’s any energy behind it.

If there is, seize it.

Schedule a Famine date – even if it’s not one of the national dates – and then do it.

Then watch as God uses the Famine in the lives of your students, in ways you dreamed of as well as ways you never dared to imagine.