What do snail farming, unused potatoes and hybrid pigs have in common with youth, fasting and The United Methodist Church? They’re all part of a new program piloted in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. Sponsored by The Advance of the General Board of Global Ministries and the conference Youth Ministry Team, the program, called simply “B1,” is a 24-hour fasting event that engages youth in hunger issues during Lent. Isaiah 58:6-8 provides a biblical focal point. These verses call for our lives to be a fast from injustice, oppression and privilege. The program was rolled out to a limited number of churches during the winter, with the intention of wider distribution next year.
Each youth group chose a project from a list of six provided by The Advance, enabling participants to choose a fast based on their passion for a particular project or region of the world. Seven churches participated in the initial rollout, with approximately 150 youth engaged. According to Jack Shaw, conference communications coordinator, “The funding for this program, which included publicity and program materials and prizes, came out of ‘Shared Ministry’ dollars in our conference youth program and amounted to less than $4,000. The early pledged returns indicate the youth raised nearly $15,000 for the Advance projects. That’s a pretty good return on investment for our Shared Ministry dollars.”
Reviewing the initial program, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar said, “I am excited about what the B1 program represents. It is a wonderful opportunity to harness the enthusiasm and energy of our youth in a connectional effort. What they raise will go directly to people who need help, and what they learn will stay with them forever.”