Ash Wednesday is coming up on March 6, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is the time on the church calendar during which we prepare ourselves, through spiritual disciplines such as fasting, prayer, and service, to come close to the mystery of Easter. Lent is a serious time, which can make it difficult to consider how we should engage our children and families in meaningful ways this season.
Lent can be a wonderful season for beginning, continuing, or getting back on track with rhythms of family discipleship in your home. Remember, this is a time to make space by subtraction, not a time to schedule yourselves up so much or to commit to so many spiritual experiences that you overwhelm yourself and your family. We have created a simple Lenten calendar that will walk you through the season giving you one thing each day that is designed to direct your heart to Jesus through fasting, prayer, or service. The calendar also includes the daily Psalms readings that our church is doing together--as Lent is an excellent time to lean into the Psalms--a book that pours out all human experience before a loving savior who is both the Lamb and the Good Shepherd. We’ve also put together a prayer liturgy based on the Psalms that your household can use on a weekly basis to observe this season together.
Below, you will find a list of supplemental resources, and further explanations for some of the activities listed on the Lenten Calendar. Again, approach this list with prayer and discernment. We pray that whatever you choose to do, or not do, you will do it in joy and in freedom that the purpose of our fasting and our praying and our giving is to feel the ache of our brokenness, our deep need for a Savior and to lift our eyes to his beautiful face.
Books for Children
Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent & Easter- Laura Alary
The Tale of the Three Trees– Angela Elwell Hunt
Peter’s First Easter– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter– Arnold Ytreeide *We haven’t read this one, but it comes highly recommended and is a book you can read throughout Lent, finishing on EasterSunday. Probably best for ages 7/8 and up.
Books for Adults or Families with Older Children
Reliving the Passion– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent & Easter– Various including Lewis, L’Engle, Nouwen, Chesterton, etc.
Living the Resurrection– Eugene Peterson (an excellent read during holy week!)
Here’s a Spotify Playlist of songs for Lent.
Family Worship: We've created a Lenten Liturgy based on the Psalms that you can download here. There are a few materials you will need to gather from around your home or the store, so you may want to look at it ahead of time. Our family plans to use it on Saturday evenings during Lent. If you use it, please take a minute to share how your family is using it on our New City Families Facebook page.
Prayer Chain: Create a paper chain with 40 links– You can write names of people on them, things your family is praying for, or scripture passages. Each day take one of the links off during family devotional time and pray for the person or issue on the link.
Prayer Station: Create a prayer station in your home. This can be as simple as a chair with a purple cloth or piece of construction paper taped to it, or you can choose to include a small tray or basket filled with items such as: a children’s Bible, prayer book, small pad of paper and crayons or markers, pictures to color or printed Bible verse cards, brave parents of older children could include a candle (or a battery powered one!). Ann Voskamp has a beautiful piece about how they use a station like this in their home.
Many families choose to give something up for Lent– this may be a meal once a week, treats, television, etc. It is important that no matter what you choose to give up, you explain to your children the reasons we are doing this– to join Christ in his sufferings and to lift our eyes to him. It can help to think of and talk about Advent and Lent as the similar seasons that they are– we are fasting before we feast. In Advent, we are consciously waiting for the coming Christ, and in Lent, we are actively paying attention to how sinful and empty we are without the risen Christ. Disciplines and practices that we take on during these seasons of waiting (Advent) and penitence (Lent) should always serve to direct our hearts towards Jesus.
Burying the Alleluia: This hands-on activity can help children understand Lent as a time to mourn and repent of our sin. Make Alleluia banners– these can be as simple as markers or watercolors on large pieces of paper or as complicated as fabric banners sewn together– the important thing is that this activity can be done together and can provide an opportunity to talk about alleluia– what it means and why we say it. Together, either on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday or on Shrove Tuesday, bury the Alleluia banner, either in a box outside or in a closet in your house, in your basement, etc. Then on Easter morning, get it back out and display it in your house throughout the Easter season.
Sundays are Feast Days: Lent is 40 days plus Sundays. Sundays are always feast days. Decide together whether you will continue your fast through the Sundays or whether you will choose to feast on the Sundays: if you choose to eat simple meals during Lent, for example, perhaps you would have pancake breakfast on Sundays.
The third spiritual discipline observed during Lent is giving. It can be beneficial to focus on a specific group of people or ministry for the entire season, to learn about them and to commit to pray for them. Some examples include: refugees, the unborn, children in poverty, people in the 10/40 window, orphans, foster children, etc. There are many tangible things that your family could do in addition to monetary donation during Lent to support ministries and organizations that are dedicated to these populations and bountiful resources online to help your family learn about them and pray for them.
Gift Jar: Throughout Lent, place money in a jar to give as a gift on Easter. Together as a family decide where that money should go. Some families choose to eat simple meals and put all the money saved in this jar, other families agree to put a portion of any money they receive as gifts in the jar– talk together about how you will give sacrificially during Lent.
40 bags/items in 40 days: Go through your home and collect things that you no longer need (one bag/item each day) and either donate them, or sell them and add the money to your giving jar.
Maybe this is old news to you, or you have practices your family has treasured practices for celebrating Lent. I’d love to hear about them!