Ash Wednesday is coming up on March 1, which is just a week away!
I’ve been very much enjoying Word and Table, a podcast about liturgy, sacrament, and the great tradition of Christian worship, which also means that I’m continually wiping tears from my eyes while folding laundry, washing dishes, and making lunches for the little people in our home. I recently listened to an episode about the Church Calendar, which was fantastic. Historically, Lent was the time that new believers would practice spiritual disciplines in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday. They would also learn The Lord’s Prayer and the Creed during this time. A really beautiful thing I only recently learned is that this was something that the entire church would intentionally join them in. This just makes me love Lent even more. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us, what it means to be the body of Christ.
Maybe, like it did for me, reading or remembering this reinvigorates your desire to observe Lent as a family. Maybe it helps to guide you into the areas you specifically want to focus on. Maybe you’ve never celebrated Lent before, but you’re going to go ahead and give it a try. Friend, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how the Lord would have your family observe this season of penitence and preparation as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter. And, because this is a part of my job now (AMAZING!), I have roped together some resources and some ideas and I’m passing them on to you, with a note of caution:
If you’re anything like me, this can get overwhelming. There are a fair number of wonderful ideas and practices your family could take up during the Lenten season. I encourage you (and myself) to be cautious. Pray. Carefully decide what direction you will take with Lent and choose a few things that serve the purpose of continually directing your heart toward Jesus. These practices are no good to us if they don’t stir in us a grief about and hatred for our sin and raise our gaze to Christ. So, whatever you choose to do, 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!)
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent- Fr. Aaron Damiani *I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but we’ll be reading it this year. It is written by a priest in our diocese, and it’s been suggested to us by a few of our friends from his parish. Includes a section on celebrating Lent with children.
Here’s a Spotify Playlist of songs for Lent.
Family Worship: Lent is a good time to establish a family routine of prayer and scripture reading together or to continue in an already established routine. Perhaps you would like to try to learn the Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer together. Consider using a resource to walk through the stations of the cross, following the revised common lectionary readings, or using a Lenten Liturgy.
Commit to pray together each day, give special attention to repentance and to praying for the least of these. Perhaps your family would like to choose a specific group of people to pray for during the season (see more about this in the “almsgiving” section).
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. Together 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, and to discuss why we won’t be saying it in our services during Lent. 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 almsgiving. It can be beneficial to focus on a specific group of people 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.
I hope that these resources are helpful to you as you prepare to enter into this season with your family. If you are interested in more resources, I will be adding ideas and suggestions to this Lent Pinterest Page throughout the rest of the week, so please check that out if you are looking for more ideas.
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!