My youth ministry has been planning for the 30 hour famine for a few months now. The Famine takes place on Feb. 22nd and 23rd. You can find out more about exactly what the 30 Hour Famine is by clicking here.
I’ve always liked the concept behind the 30 Hour Famine. Getting students to step outside of their own desires and go without food for 30 hours. I like the idea that students can put aside their normal consumeristic americanism and find a pitifully small, but still actually there, bit of solidarity with those who do not even have enough food to eat. I participated in the Famine as a student, had a great time with it, and learned a bit about various important issues each year (world hunger, poverty, spiritual disciplines like fasting, praying for others, and a few other things).
Last night I passed around a sign up so we could start to get an idea of how many students were actually going to show up. The first question that a student asked was, “What are we going to be doing?” I gave a brief outline of some of what we’d be doing. Before I could finish another student piped up, “I’m not coming. Last year I didn’t really enjoy myself.” I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, but I was honestly amazed. My little idealistic world, where there was actually something American Youth Ministry students could do that didn’t have to focus solely on them was shattered. Several other students spoke up at that point and said that they wanted to know what we’d be doing, because if they weren’t going to have fun, why go without food for 30 Hours? I explained to them that the Famine wasn’t really about having fun. I mentioned that the point was to experience a little of what other people go through. Yeah, we’d have some fun in the process, and hopefully learn about ourselves and one another, but that wasn’t the point.
To be fair, two or three of the students did acknowledge that as the point, and looked somewhat appalled at the idea that their peers were only in it for the games. So, I have a question for the readers of my blog: how do I respond to this? I’ve half a mind to just cancel the entire thing. I think that would adequately drive home the point that our youth ministry is not about having fun. It might be drastic enough to actually bore through the apathy and lethargy of some of the students and give them a bit of a wakeup call. But, it doesn’t accomplish anything remotely close to helping impoverished people. Given, it’s only a single year and in the long run it might help these students to help more people…but still. It also might be a bit too drastic. I don’t think simply teaching on loving others is going to be enough.
So what would you all do in a situation like this? Those of you who are parents, how would you like to see a youth pastor respond? Those of you who are youth pastors, what would you do? Those of you who are neither of those two, what are your thoughts?