30 Hour Famine: A Four Year Journey (part 1)


Bob Ferretti

As I write, I’m 48 hours removed from the end of our 2018 30 Hour Famine and I am both still on a high and still in recovery mode. They say the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I don’t know who “they” are but “they” are correct! (Oh, yeah, it was Jesus…) I decided it would be helpful (for me, and hopefully for you) to jot down some notes and thoughts about these last four years of Famine events, while the current experience is still so fresh in my mind.

Year 1 of 4

I’ve been running the 30 Hour Famine at our church for the past 4 years—limited to our high school aged teens. I knew conceptually what the program was but I can’t say with any honesty that I understood just how impactful it would be for the youth, the adults and for me. That didn’t stop me from proclaiming to the members of our youth group that it would be a weekend they would remember for the rest of their lives.

Throughout the beginning of the school year, I used the upcoming Famine as a recruiting tool for our youth ministry program. “If you join the youth group you get to be part of our 30 Hour Famine team.” Our high school youth program blossomed from four teens to twenty – all of them doing the 30HF.

All I can say is, thank God (and the 30 Hour Famine team at World Vision) for the Famine leader kits, the video resources, the sample agendas, etc. Without them, I would have been lost. We watched the videos and I led each discussion. We learned a ton about water, food, healthcare, education, faith and economic empowerment. We came out of the Famine ready to make a difference.

Learning from year one:

  • The 30 Hour Famine is a great recruiting tool but it really is about changing the lives of the poor and under-served in the developing world. I didn’t focus on fundraising (at all) but participation.
  • It takes more than a couple of people to pull off all that is needed to make a Famine event successful. No one wants to hear from the same person for the entire event even if it is me.
  • In our climate, the February date didn’t allow us to complete any outdoor service projects so we were limited to working indoors.

Year 2 of 4

In our second year, our program started to expand. We were able to capitalize on the great work that we started in the previous year. Our youth ministry leadership team started to grow as did the number of teens. We moved our date to April and focused on getting kids registered. With a better awareness of the reasons we actually participate in the Famine we started our fundraising early and with a vengeance. I challenged the teens to outrageous fundraising goals, committed to kissing a pig, running a 5k in a tutu and shaving my head. We were going to raise lots and lots of money.

The actual Famine event was great—the 30 or so teens had a great experience, they learned a lot, they did a lot. They hit every fundraising target that I put in front of them. But the 30 Hour Famine felt like work. They did a good job. They met their fundraising goals. They were relieved when it was over.

Learning from year two:

  • Don’t let fundraising get in the way of ministry.
  • Christ is going to work in and through you and your teens. Rejoice in that.
  • Service projects outside the church have a phenomenal impact on the community. It raises awareness of the teens to what is going on in their community and it raises the awareness of the community to what great work is going on in the church.

(Check out part 2: Bob’s learnings from years 3 and 4)