30 Hour Famine: A Four Year Journey (part 2)


Bob Ferretti

(Click here to read Bob’s observation from his first two 30 Hour Famine events)

Year 3 of 4

Success breeds success. At the end of the previous 30 Hour Famine we identified a small group of teens that we targeted to be part of our 30 Hour Famine teen team. We started meeting in December to put the event together. Each team member was assigned a video and we worked together to develop their witness talk. We still set a very high fundraising goal (and a challenge) but the event was more about the experience than it was about fundraising.

Throughout our regular youth ministry meetings, we touched on the Famine and the impact our fundraising makes. We championed the work the group has done—the difference we were making. It’s a powerful statement to be able to say to a group of teens that 25 children are eating this year because of the work they did.

The materials that the World Vision 30 Hour Famine team created again provided the structure for the Famine event for us. As our group continued to grow—now over 45 participants—the materials, while helpful, were not perfect for our group. Our four tribes had 11-12 members and each of the games became harder to play. It made for some fun but there was a definite cost paid—the teams were just too large and less cohesive.

We still hit our fundraising goal (knocked it out of the park actually). And the teen team really brought the experience ‘home.’ They owned it. It was a beautiful thing.

Learning from year three:

  • The materials that World Vision provides are just a guide. A wonderful guide, but just a guide. It is not the Bible.
  • The impact that you make with the fundraising does more to raise funds than offering to shave your head (although that does work too).
  • “Small” tribes of 12 are way too big.
  • Building prayer opportunities into the time together is invaluable.
  • Remembering that we are trying to develop teen leaders should never be lost. Allow the teens to lead (and help develop them along the way).

Year 4 of 4

I’m still in recovery mode and I am sure additional insights will develop over the next few weeks and months. But before some of the ‘good stuff’ is forgotten I thought I’d write it down.

This year I did something I don’t do too easily. I admitted that I don’t know everything. I reached out for help. I contacted some of the top teams doing the Famine and spoke to youth pastors and youth ministers around the country. I was particularly interested in how some larger groups structured the 30 Hour Famine in their churches. I learned that some are middle school groups and have a whole set of different challenges than mine.

I did get some great advice from some youth pastors and youth ministers about things I could try this year. Some things not ‘in the book.’ The suggestions ranged from having a worship band be part of the experience to renting inflatable sumo-suits. We kept what worked in the past—especially having the teen leadership—but we made some fundamental changes. Our team met and decided on the following changes.

Tribes of 6 – 8 teens. Each tribe had a teen team member.

  • We decided on a theme that we would carry through all of our talks—a deep focus on the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
  • We invited a motivational speaker from our church. We shared the Famine materials, videos, and theme with him and gave him free reign. Since he’s someone I trust I wasn’t worried. I was as surprised and inspired when he spoke as the teens were.
  • We invited someone who works with refugee families right here in the New Jersey. Our goal was to bring it “home.” It did.
  • Instead of going out to an all-you-can-eat buffet we did a potluck supper with the families. Our reasoning was that many of our teens were not able to eat at the buffet due to peanut and gluten allergies.

The results were tremendous. Small groups mean no one gets left behind—each person is needed. Having a theme and supporting it with outside speakers helped the Famine group feel like they are an important part of a large mosaic. And, as simple as it sounds, inviting families to break the fast with us allowed the teens to shine. Even with our largest group ever (55 teens), the actual event seemed to flow so much better. That’s not to say there were no glitches; but in youth ministry, that’s the norm!

We hit our fundraising goal, and I get to keep my hair! At 52 years old that’s a precious commodity. I’ll let you know if it is worth it after viewing “Frozen” for 24 straight hours.

What’s in store for 2019? The planning has started. The team is already being identified. Our teen leader has passed on the reigns. Much like I have tried to do here, we will meet to do a full post-mortem of the 2018 30HF experience. We will determine what worked and what didn’t. We will be honest with our assessment and make changes. And we will continue to reach out to other youth pastors and youth ministers to see what we can do better.

I’m a believer in miracles—I see them all the time. Miracles of birth, miracles in nature, miracles in conversion. Our 30 Hour Famine experiences have been filled with what seemed like a never-ending supply of the miraculous. I should expect it by now, but each year I am still transported to that place of awe in the power of Christ and the way our teens become His hands and feet.