image description

The Famine Blog

Confessions of a Lousy Parent Volunteer


By Kevin Alton

As someone with over 2 decades of local church ministry experience and countless contributions to youth and children’s ministry curriculum and literature, I feel I am uniquely qualified to make this statement:

I am a terrible youth ministry volunteer and an even worse youth parent. In a certain way of looking at it, you could say I excel at being terrible.

What’s really weird about it is that I remember putting up with people like me when I was the youth minister. I couldn’t stand me, back then. How could I be so inattentive and forgetful? Didn’t I care?

I left full-time church ministry about 4 years ago. My own children have now reached youth ministry age and I, at least in my head and heart, have every intention of being a faithful and dedicated youth ministry volunteer. Yet despite my relative expertise in youth ministry, I’ve noticed that some odd things have crept in to my behavior. See if you recognize any of these classics:

  • I don’t know the dates for the mission trip next month, nor what it costs, even though I’m going.
  • I’m not going to be at youth group Sunday night, but I’m going to forget to tell our youth minister until at least Sunday afternoon.
  • I would like for my son to be allowed to attend the trip he is a year too young to attend.
  • The youth leadership meeting was when?

I share this because whether you’re organizing a 30 Hour Famine event or just an average youth gathering, you’re almost certainly going to run into at least one of me among your adults. There are a few things that I wish me then had understood more clearly about me now:

Our church’s youth ministry isn’t my first priority.

That sounds cold and awful, but it’s a logical reality. I work full-time, I am a full-time student, and I work an additional 20 hours a week for my school as a graduate assistant. I am a parent, which trumps all of that. I am a spouse. All of those things necessarily come before I spend any mental energy on anything beyond our home and daily life. This doesn’t mean I don’t care, but if I seem unfocused it’s probably because something else has required my focus.

I’m tired.

This one I think I managed to keep an eye on pretty well as a youth leader, but it’s easy to forget that life has worn out your volunteers before the first minute they spend helping you. You’re at work. They’ve been to work already, checked in with the fam, and are now spending precious free time with you. It’s impossible to over-convey your gratitude for that gift.

I’m going to let you down.

I really don’t know when the mission trip is. I tried to find it yesterday when scheduling a dentist appointment. I am committed to go. I’m not looking forward to asking again because of the number of times I’ve already asked. It should be on my calendar. I thought it was on my calendar. Granted, none of that technically lets my youth minister down, but it certainly helps her feel like the letdown is just around the corner. It’s not on purpose. Just being human over here.

I really do care.

Really. It’s going to be imperfect, but my heart is with you. You’re looking out for my children. Don’t give up on me. 

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.

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)

Being the Person I Need to Be


By Alex Ruzanic

I am convinced that we often don’t live into the life we were meant to live. I don’t live into the life that I am designed to live. I need to work on and be faithful to becoming the best version of myself that I can be. 

I recently read a few books that have transformed my thoughts of who I am and how to minister to the students I work with. The first book was When Helping Hurts. I read this book a while ago but reread it to teach it to our youth and adults during a small group. It challenges us to attempt to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor. So much of what I used to do in youth ministry was just that. I was hurting kids (the book talks about the poor, but it works when I think of all teenagers). I wasn’t intentionally hurting anyone; but what I realized is that I was allowing programming to get in the way of relationships. I was focusing on youth programming and not thinking about how youth might be integrated into the life of the church. I came up with games, skits, profound talks (in my humble opinion) and teachings, incredible and outlandish fun times together that ended up getting in the way of building transformational relationships. Yes, we had fun and enjoyed the events; and these events are, at some level, transformational, because they build a foundation. But I was missing something. I realized that programming doesn’t change lives. Games, fun, and skits didn’t allow youth to begin the process of “becoming who they should be.” 

I do believe that one of the core values a youth worker should have is to help youth to develop into the “best version of themselves.” I needed to be invested in the youth in personal ways. Yes, I did go to the schools, visit after school games, plays, musicals, sporting events…so much of what I did was about building relationships. What I was missing was that I didn’t always understand the specific needs they had and more importantly what their dreams and passions were.  I was so busy programming and fixing (that sounds horrible, but I think we all do this) kids’ lives that I missed the point of just being present and caring in their lives. I helped to alleviate what was on the surface but failed to get deep and find the root to allow for true transformation. I allowed myself to think that I knew what was best and most important for the youth in my program. 

My realization was, “I am getting paid to develop a team of leaders to hang out with kids and build trust.” Then and only then was I truly able to minister and transform lives, and in turn they can transform their communities. I had been thinking that I was called to change these lives, but I realized that is what God is responsible for. God will change and transform lives. I am called to make myself, the church leadership, the families and parents available to build lasting and transformational relationships. I know we have all heard that youth ministry is incarnational; this is nothing new…but when reaching out I needed to know what the needs of the youth were. So, like any good youth pastor, I spend time trying to understand youth culture (which is a good thing). I thought I knew what the youth needed, but I was wrong. I had to ask the youth what they needed. What did they want, what were their dreams and aspirations? Whatever my youth are passionate about? What did they want to do with their lives? It didn’t matter what I thought they should do, I had to engage them in what they dreamed about.  

It has taken me time to realize I’m off balance in life (read Matthew Kelly’s book, Off Balance). I ask myself now “what is the best version of me that I can be?” and I try very hard to live into that. Conversely I ask myself how I can foster the “best version of the youth that I know.” One of the key things I love to do is to teach other adults how to be available to kids. When I am doing this I encourage leaders to ask the youth “what is the best version of you?” The power and reassurance this enables in lives of young people is incredible. I remember being young and desperately wanting to be known and loved. I desired to have someone ask me what my dreams were. If we know what youth want and desire then we can help them live into those dreams. I have seen more youth get connected to the church because they are living into the best version of themselves. When caring and committed adults spend time with kids, mentoring occurs. The adults share their lives and care for the youth. It is youth ministry at its most basic. We don’t worry as much about programming anymore (though we still program events), but we make it a core value to know our youth and their dreams and passions. 

Here is an example of one such student: I have one youth that went to a trade school to become a welder. He is now welding full time and finds great joy and peace knowing this is what he was meant to do. He loves welding. If I didn’t ask him “what is his best version of himself,” I would have missed this opportunity to encourage him down this path to head to trade school and not college. He is engaged as a young adult in our church with incredible support of other older men and women to pursue his life for God. He leads prayers, comes to Bible study, and is engaged fully in the life of the church.  

So, when you think about what the role of a youth pastor, volunteer, or parent is: it’s simple. How can you bring out the best version of the youth you are called to serve? We need to look at ourselves as missionaries reaching out in loving and caring ways to transform lives by knowing what they want and enabling them to achieve it. 

Remembering Your 30 Hour Famine


By Brad Hauge

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast last Friday. Really, I don’t. I’m also not entirely sure what I taught at youth group 6 weeks ago, and if I’m being honest, I can’t remember exactly what outfit I sent my daughter off to school in just this morning.

Does it matter? Probably not. I haven’t incurred any brain trauma (at least I don’t think…) that would cause short-term memory loss. I’ve never dealt with amnesia before, and there is plenty about my week I can remember. So, that’s good.

But if I can’t remember the things of my fairly structured and low-key adult life, how much can we really expect the students in our ministries (who are stressed to the max) to fully remember; let alone digest and reflect on what it means to their lives.

Which, as youth workers, is actually pretty frustrating, right? We agonize over what we teach, craft perfectly worded small group questions, and invent brilliant Scripture illustrations all to realize that 30 minutes after the kids get home, and hop on their phones or start their homework, there is seemingly little leftover residue from our program on their lives.

And the frustration we often feel when lessons and moments don’t seem to have much lasting impact on student’s day-to-day lives is only compounded when it follows an incredible and important event like 30 Hour Famine.

Some things are worth remembering. Your 30 Hour Famine experience is worth remembering. The thousands upon thousands of children struggling with hunger-related issues are worth remembering. And the fact that your students have the power to do something about it is worth remembering.

Many of us are currently planning our year-end youth groups and gatherings, so let’s ask: how might we use those moments together to remember? To look back and raise Ebenezers to the moments God showed up and was at work in and amongst your students. And specifically, through the work of your 30 Hour Famine this past winter or spring. Here are some ideas to help you help them remember:

    • Create a 30 Hour Famine-themed prayer station your students can use to remember the passion they felt for being a part of something bigger than themselves. Use specific photos and information that was taught during the Famine to help guide them as they pray for those still hungry.
    • Celebrate! Use the end of the school/program year to celebrate what the funds raised during your Famine might be up to currently. Reach out to World Vision and see if they have some (probably not specific to your team’s actual funds) stories and photos of actual action happening on the group providing food, hope, and resources for folks around the world that wouldn’t be possible without your student’s activism.
    • Sponsor a child through World Vision and make it part of your group’s weekly rhythm. Take up an ‘offering’ each week when you gather and use the 2-3 minutes while you “pass the plates” to talk about, or show videos depicting, the work that is ongoing around the world to raise awareness and funds for hunger related issues.
    • Designate 5-10 minutes on the first week of every month as “30 Hour Famine Check In” time, where you can raise awareness for struggles around the world from starvation to the refugee crisis, share fun and meaningful memories from your most recent famine together, and spend time praying for the hungry both at home and around the world.

Forgetting is natural—especially in our current cultural climate of immediacy. However, that doesn’t mean we have to forget—and it doesn’t mean we have to let our students forget. Especially when remembering means God is at work in the world, that we get to be a part of that work, and that the work we’re a part of with God can change the world. That’s worth remembering. 

Great Youth Ministry Requires Vulnerability


By Beth Ruzanic

Lately I’ve been thinking about what best motivates young people. As a 25-year veteran of youth ministry (volunteer and paid) and a mom of four kids (17, 16, 14, 10), I have spent an untold number of hours talking to, praying for and worrying about teenagers. There is no doubt that our culture has gone through massive transformations in the last 2.5 decades, but I’m not at all convinced that the hearts and lives of young people have.

When I was a teenager (which, in my mind, doesn’t seem like that long ago) what I wanted more than anything else was to be deeply known and even more deeply loved. There’s no way that I could have communicated that to anyone but I think I knew it myself. I wanted meaningful connections with people—connections that plumbed the depths of life and didn’t just remain on the surface. In my conversations with young people today I hear that longing still and maybe even more strongly than ever before. The yearning for a connection with someone that taps into what is really at stake in life, that doesn’t let them off the hook or give up on them when things get tough. These are the kind of connections that young people need and the connections that will motivate them to greatness. Not greatness in the typical, American sense but the greatness that comes from knowing they are meant for something more than this world has to offer.

So, how can we accomplish this in our youth ministries? It all starts by nurturing an atmosphere of VULNERABILITY. Having adult standards for kids is the wrong way to build resiliency within them. We have to be nurturing to build up strength within the kids we minister to. In the last few years GRIT has become a buzzword in our culture, and there have been countless conversations in school and at home about how to develop grit in young people. Grit in and of itself isn’t a bad thing at all but I believe most people are thinking about in the wrong way. Tough love isn’t how to develop grit—parents, teachers and youth workers have to be nurturing, empathetic and vulnerable in order to develop grit and resilience in kids today. We need to provide them with a connection that is stable, reliable and unconditionally loving. This will motivate them to growth, trust and depth in all areas of life.

Vulnerability gets a bad rap. By its very nature it is leaving yourself open and unprotected—and that isn’t a comfortable place for most of us. Perhaps we can tweak that narrative a bit and create spaces where we help kids learn that being vulnerable is much closer to how we were meant to live. Spaces that will make them want to leave their phones at the door so they can be unencumbered enough to let their guard down and be loved in ways that are transformational. There is no magic formula but there is a catch: you have to embrace vulnerability yourself first. We cannot take anyone to a place we aren’t willing to go ourselves. The journey towards vulnerability isn’t an easy one—it requires us to get real on every level. It insists that we let go of the idea that we can do things on our own. This road is relentless in its pursuit of tearing down the walls we have built up to protect ourselves. We will walk this journey for the rest of our lives and it will reward us with connections so deep and true that we will realize that we were never protected before; that our walls were a joke that tricked us into believing we were okay.

Embrace vulnerability. It will transform you and then it will transform how you relate to young people.

Everything Else is Utterly Meaningless


By Keely DeBoever

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the ONE THING we need to be sharing on repeat with our students and the church: “YOU ARE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD AND YOU HAVE A PURPOSE THAT GOD IS CALLING YOU TO LIVE INTO.” It was such an encouraging conversation and one that I needed to hear. She reminded me to find my mantra; those words that speak into the life of my students each time we meet together, that will stick with them far longer than any lesson or Bible Study I ever do.

The conversation began with me lamenting over that moment when you think you’ve really hooked them and you’re just about to reel them in – then a hand shoots up and your heart swells as you anticipate the depth and understanding that your student is about to articulate, only to be met with, “Can I go to the bathroom?” WIND…OUT…OF…SAILS. We spent the next hour or so messaging each other quippy responses: 

“Can I go to the bathroom?” “Yes, but only if you remember while you’re in there how lavishly you are loved and accepted.” 

“Can I go to the bathroom?” “Yes, but only if you’re thinking the whole time about how perfectly and purposefully you were created to bring joy and life to the world with your unique awesomeness.”

By the end of the conversation I was laughing at my own hubris and already planning how to incorporate that message (legitimately) into the next lesson I had planned. I was instantly reminded of the words in Ecclesiastes 1, “Everything is meaningless.” Ha! That sounds like a terrifying realization, but it was actually an encouraging one. Thank GOD that I am not the one responsible for the salvation of my students. Thank GOD that I am not flailing alone in the wilderness with no one to help. Thank GOD for speaking into the lives of my students through so much more than my words, even if I think the words I happen to be speaking are overwhelmingly profound and enlightening. Thank GOD for friends in my life who remind me that without God and the simple reminders of his goodness every day, we’d all be lost; and everything really would be meaningless.

When working with students, what we say during a lesson is far less important than what we are saying in between. I have always felt that I had a knack for connecting with students, but I am also always overly critical of myself when a lesson or program doesn’t go exactly the way I planned. I am learning slowly but surely to rely on God and not on my own understandings; but it is taking a little longer than I had hoped. Most of the things that we focus so intently on matter very little in the end. This conversation did more than remind me of what we should be doing better as the church: it reminded me that I, too, AM CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD AND I HAVE A PURPOSE THAT GOD IS CALLING ME TO LIVE INTO. Failure and bruised egos are a part of life, but they can never change this truth and will never make our value any less. Man, if I can help my students understand that kind of truth through my actions and my words, I think everything else really would be meaningless…and I could be okay with that!

More Than Money


By Danny Kwon

Our group has been doing the 30 Hour Famine every year of its existence except the first year. I am always impressed when I see posts of the different youth groups after their 30 Hour Famine event, and the amount of money they raised through their efforts. And, if I’m honest, sometimes I’m a little insecure we didn’t do more. I even wonder if some of these groups who did such an incredible job with their Famine fundraising surpass our group’s lifetime total. 

Ultimately, I share this not because I feel shamed or insecure. But the efforts and totals of my group and other groups tell me something again that we all know: that 30 Hour Famine is about more than the money or totals we raise. Even greater, that teenagers are incredible and can do so much good, often greater than the expectations we set or have for them. Last summer I was on a mission trip with The Youth Cartel and Praying Pelican Missions, and Mark Oestreicher (who was on the trip) told my youth group an incredible story of his church and how the youth group decided to do a talent show fundraiser where at first there was pessimism by the adults leaders about how much could be raised. Of course, he shared this story because they raised an incredible amount. In addition, the greater point was: more than the money, the huge amount raised was a reflection of the incredible faith and passion of the teenagers in his church.

For me, each year as we finish the Famine and start to count the funds we raised, I get really blessed to see the incredible efforts of our students; but again, it is about more than the money. We not only do the Famine, but since our Famine is the weekend of Easter, our teenagers participate in a Philadelphia-wide event called Easter Outreach. As part of that, our youth group travels down to Philadelphia early Saturday morning, loads and unloads trucks of chickens, vegetables, groceries, and desserts, then packages them and delivers them to those in need. It is an incredible time of serving and joy for teenagers.

As I reflected on this again, counting our funds raised, I started thinking that not only are the funds we raised a reflection of the awesome teenagers we have, but maybe while counting our funds, we need to count how much more our teenagers can do. What I am saying is: if our teens can do so much for just this one event, can’t they so much more? How are we utilizing their spirit, passion, energy, and God-given giftedness to do even more? 

I love the Famine. It is a lot of work as volunteers and youth workers to execute. But if it is about more than the money, can we be challenged to do more with our teenagers, to direct their passion to do good in the world, all in the name of Jesus? 

An Important Note for Those Leading a 30 Hour Famine Event This Weekend


By Erin Betlej

Dear Youth Leader,

When you signed up for the 30 Hour Famine months ago you knew it was a great decision. You were even excited about it. You came up with some crazy fundraiser (that may or may not have involved a shaved head or died hair) that was super successful and excited your youth. You spent each week promoting, making sure that attendance would be great. Thousands of dollars raised, dozens of hours spent planning the actual event. Now, you are merely days away and you’re not so sure. Maybe you’ve done this before. You remember what happens in those late night hours. You know that somewhere between hour 25 and hour 27 your youth change. Your youth become aliens who are lethargic, distant, and have no interest in the activities you’ve spent hours planning. And let’s not forget about what you’re feeling: you’re hangry. Hungry and frustrated that your youth no longer have the same level of excitement they had at hour 1.

But here is the deal: you are doing a great job. Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.” Fasting for 30 hours is a small thing in the grand scheme of the battle against hunger, but it is something great. Fundraising is important because it can put food on tables, but walking youth through 30 hours of fasting is a beautiful thing. Each step of the way you bring awareness to the WHY of the fast.

So here is my encouragement: First, YOU CAN DO IT! 30 hours will end. This too shall pass. Second, remember your WHY. You chose this event for a reason. Come back to that in the tough moments. These 30 hours will have a longer lasting impact on the culture of your youth group – hang onto that.

My dearest youth leader, take a deep breath, pray for patience and grace because YOU CAN DO THIS! You are a rock star, you will survive and the 30 Hour Famine is a game changer. Way to change your youth and the world!

In Christ,

A fellow Famine survivor

What’s the one thing you want them to remember?


By Katie Swift, 30 Hour Famine Director

It’s that time again – national 30 Hour Famine weekend is upon us! If you’re hosting a Famine event this weekend, you might be feeling a little frazzled right now (in fact, I’d be surprised if you have time to read this!). But I just want to offer you a question to focus on as you are preparing for this weekend: What’s the one thing you want your students to remember after the weekend is over?

I participated in the 30 Hour Famine back in Middle School. It was held at a camp, and churches came from all over the United Methodist Conference that one of my best friends was a part of. I would go to this event with her church because I loved that camp, and then I came to love 30 Hour Famine. My first year doing the Famine, there was a guest speaker from West Africa. He spoke to us about his childhood and how it was to grow up not having food for three full meals a day. At the time, his country was going through a devastating civil war. While I don’t remember all the details of what he told us, I do remember that it was one of the first times that I truly understood that there are things that happen all over the world that are causing people to suffer. For the first time, I realized that I have some power to help, even if it’s just by feeding and caring for one child with a $40 donation. I do vividly remember him saying, as he pointed to a spot on a map, “If there’s one thing I want you to remember from this weekend, it’s that I’m from Sierra Leone. Remember that place.” 

And I remembered that place. Years later, I went on to spend a college semester in Ghana, less than 1,000 miles from Sierra Leone. I’ve thought of that man a lot as I traveled in West Africa and as I learned about different issues, from hunger to civil wars, facing millions of people around the world. I remember him and that 30 Hour Famine experience as the first time I was introduced to the needs of the world and my ability to make a difference, even if it’s a small one. 

So, my question for you as you prepare for this weekend is: What is the one thing you want your students to remember – next week, next year, or even 15 years from now, as they look back on this experience? It might be different for your group than other groups, or maybe even for different students within your group. Maybe you just desperately want them to remember that God loves them, because maybe you’re not sure they know that. Maybe you want them to remember that there are people in need around the world and that they have the power to change things (and that they ARE changing things by fundraising for 30HF!). Maybe you want them to remember that you are there for them as perhaps the only adult in their life they can depend on… 

I want to challenge you to think about that this week, pray about it. And if things don’t feel 100% organized, or all the way prepped, just remember that not getting the schedule perfect, or having to skip an activity, will ultimately probably not make a huge impact on their experience. Just remember that one thing that you want them to walk away with, and focus on how you achieve that. 

We’ll be praying for you this weekend. May God give you clarity and focus as you prepare, good sleep these next few nights, and extra energy and strength this weekend! And may God be working in the hearts of your students, as they grow closer to Him and learn about the call that Jesus has for us to care for our brothers and sisters around the globe, from your own community, to Sierra Leone, and beyond.