How to engage Children and Families in Lent

This article suggests 10 fun, creative ways for families and children to engage in a dynamic spiritual journey leading up to Easter.

FaceKaty Eaglestone
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The 40-day period before Easter is called Lent, and many church traditions use this time to call people together for a time of prayer and fasting as they remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying.

Most children and families will enjoy the day preceding Lent, which many of us call Pancake Day. Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday was originally a day when households would use up the last of their flour, eggs and milk before they fasted from them for the following 40 days.

Interestingly, the period of Lent has also been widely adopted by people outside of the church tradition too. People enjoy the challenge of ‘giving up’ something for Lent, whether that be alcohol, chocolate or cigarettes. But all this begs the question, how do we engage children in the season of Lent? And should Lent be much more about reflection on who Jesus is rather than simply giving something up?

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Have a go at these 10 enjoyable and  imaginative ways to spend with your family on your spiritual journey leading up to Easter.

1. A Lent Feast

Set yourselves a weekly challenge by inviting a different friend or family around for Lent Feast to celebrate together! Ask people to dress up and join in making a big family feast with your favourite foods.

Before dinner you could watch one of the many Raise Up videos to centre your time around Jesus. During your meal ask everyone to think of one thing each that you can thank God for. Then at the end of the meal use one of the Raise up creative prayer ideas to finish your time together.

2. Giving it a try

Instead of giving something up, why not try something new? People say that new habits can form as soon as 18 days after you begin. What new habit would you like to introduce into your family this Lent? Pray about where God wants to lead your family over this time.

It may be that you feel it is right to only use kind words when talking to each other, or that God is leading you to spend daily time as a family in prayer or bible reading, perhaps He is calling your family to be more hospitable, or to work as a team when clearing up?

Whatever it is, Lent is a wonderful time to bring about a positive and life-giving change! If you are wanting to spend creative time as a family in prayer and bible study, Raise Up has hundreds of short films and creative prayer ideas to engage the whole family.

3. The Lent Hamper

Could you and your family start a Lent Basket? Over 40 days you can add 1 item to your basket each day, and then at the end of Lent the whole family can deliver all 40 items to a local foodbank. You may even want to ring ahead and see if your family can volunteer to stay and help at the foodbank for the day.

Don’t underestimate the impact this will have on your children, especially if you accompany these generous acts with prayer each day. Ask God to bless and multiply this food so the poor and hungry are fed with food and with the love of God.

4. Be a Lent Angel!

If you have the resources, why not give each child in your family a small amount of money to use to bless someone else this Lent. Encourage them to pray about who they could bless, and ask them to think about all the ways they can use their time, their gifts and the money they have to be a Lent Angel!

Explain to them that they have to act like an angel, and for the whole of Lent they must keeptheir identity quiet. Lots of people in the Bible met angels and didn’t actually know who they were. You can watch one of these stories here.

Ideas of what to do if you are a secret Angel could be:

  • Write them a card, pray for them, buy them some chocolate and leave it on their door step, draw them a picture and write an encouraging bible verse on it and leave it secretly in their pocket, buy some flowers and surprise them with them, bake them a cake, etc.

  • Have fun secretly delivering these throughout Lent, and then if you want to you can reveal yourself to them as their Lent Angel on Easter Day!

5. The 40 Days of Kindness

Why not think of 40 acts of kindness you could do each day of Lent? There are some wonderfully practical ideas on the internet if you are lacking ideas, but some to start you off could include:

Picking up litter, write thank you cards to your doctors or teachers, encourage someone, sort out clothes for a charity shop, let someone in front of you in a queue, bake someone a cake, help clear up a mess you didn’t make, have a no complaining day

6. Worship Everyday

Every night of Lent, invite a different person in your family to choose a worship song that you will listen to at dinner time each evening. You don’t need to sing it, or even stop to listen to it, just letting it play in the background will both encourage the person who chose it and create an atmosphere of worship during your family meal. Ask the person who chose it why they like that song and how it makes them feel when they hear it.

Spend a moment thanking God for being with you all. In doing this through Lent, you may find that it provides a helpful framework for you to worship as a family. You could always add to it by inviting each person to pick a bible verse that they like one evening too. If you are lacking inspiration RaiseUP has 100s of worship songs for children and youth.

7. Create a thankfulness tree!

Find a few spring branches that you can bring into your home and display in a vase. Either buy or make paper tags that can easily be hung on the branches. Over the 40 days of advent encourage children and adults to fill in a tag each day with something they are thankful to God for.

Each night people can discuss what they have written or turn them into a prayer. This exercise doesn’t need to be limited to one per day, nor does it have to be limited to just your family. Instead anyone who comes to your home, or if you want to fill in 10 tags a day the idea is to create a culture of thankfulness around the home so this period of Lent forms new patterns of behaviour as we posture ourselves towards being thankful to God for all the good things he gives us!

8. The Easter Window

Make an Easter Window for the whole street to see! On plain paper plan out what your want your display to look like. The most striking ones are silhouettes made from black card, and then a beautiful sky made from ripped tissue paper. Once they are made the sun streams through them in the day, and the light from your home makes them shine for everyone to see at night.

Buy some tissue paper and over the 40 days begin to decorate a window in your home with an Easter depiction of the cross or of Jesus’ empty tomb. Ideally pick a window that faces onto the street. Firstly cut out the silhouette from black paper or card and stick it to the bottom of the window using tape or a glue-stick (make sure it isn’t permanent glue).

Then cut or tear the tissue paper into different shapes and sizes to layer over the window. Once you are ready to stick the tissue paper onto the glass, make up a little pot of water and a squirt of washing up liquid.

Use a brush to cover a small section of the window with the water mix. This will act as a glue and mean you can lay the tissue paper onto the window. As you fill more and more of the window with the coloured tissue paper the easter picture will start coming together. Don’t worry if the tissue paper overlaps, this will add to the effectiveness of the image.

After Easter you can simply remove the paper and clean the windows with a damp cloth.

9. A bible verse a week

Why not use Lent to memorise 6 new bible verses? If you learn one a week you will have 6 verses memorised by Easter. Find exciting ways as a family to learn each verse.

  • Perhaps you could cook spaghetti one night and ask everyone to write out the verse on their plates with their cooked spaghetti!

  • Perhaps you could write the bible verse on a mirror in lip stick and each day rub a word off until everyone remembers it!

  • Maybe, have a colouring competition to see who can write the bible verse and decorate it the best?

There are lots of ways you can memorise scripture, and the lasting benefits are noted in Psalm 119:11, when the psalmist writes, ‘Hide God’s word in your heart that you might not sin against him’. Here are a few bible verses you could use to memorise:

· Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

· The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1

· The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

· Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matt 22:37

· Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

· I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

10. I'll pray for you

Create a prayer jar made up of family members, teachers, world leaders, influencers, friends etc. As Lent begins, ask everyone in your home to think of people that they would like to pray for.

Begin to gather names written on slips of card, or photos or even newspaper articles that remind you to pray for these people. Then put all the items into a big jar or box.

Each evening pull one out item and pray for the person it represents. You could encourage children to write an encouraging note to the person they prayed for. Even a little postcard that says, ‘Our family prayed for you tonight. Happy Easter!’ will be a blessing to the recipient.

What do you think? Mix and match these recommendations to make your family spiritual journey exciting and new! We wish you a fruitful Lent Season and whatever you may get up to, we hope that grow together as a family and with God.

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