A Simple Guide to Lent (From Amie Shattuck)
Today is Ash Wednesday and I wanted to share some ideas with you for ways to involve your kids in Lent! Below is a list of ideas—just pick 1 or 2 or come up with some of your own.
When inviting kids into a Lenten journey, one of the most helpful principles to remember is to avoid language of deprivation (e.g. “Ok kids, we’re going to have NO DESSERTS for FORTY DAYS!!!!”) and focus more on making space (“Hey guys, this month, instead of Netflix, we’re going to surprise you with some unique family adventures like going on some cool hikes or having scary story time around a campfire because we want to be with you in more meaningful ways!”).
Historically Lent has been a time for Christians to increase their watchfulness. Many have done this by simplifying their lives in very intentional ways, whether reducing the number of meals prepped or activities attended, etc. Lent has also been a time to give generously to others as a way to thank God for his provision for us. In fact, the early church has also said that the three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. PRAYER
Pick a prayerful song that you all sing (or intentionally listen to) every morning at breakfast or on your way to school. We find Taize songs to be helpful because they repeat the same prayer over and over and it gets stuck in your head!
- Taize: the whole “O Lord Hear my Prayer” album is great. We like “In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful.”
- We also love this very Lent-appropriate song about being watchful. While you’re all sitting at the dinner table (either before of after dinner), go around the table and thank God for specific things you love about the person to your right.
FASTING (and ALMSGIVING)
One of the most effective ways to fast as a family is to SIMPLIFY meals and choose to have less variety for the Lenten season. This is the most common way the church has fasted for the past 2000 years, choosing to cut out heavy or expensive foods and sticking to a very simple meal plan. Pick a simple meal plan (soups, etc.) that you duplicate for the 6 weeks of Lent (same thing every Monday, same thing every Tuesday, etc.). Your kids will really appreciate the variety that we enjoy on a regular basis by the end of Lent.
Concrete and physical reminders of what you’re doing and WHY are huge! So put a jar in the middle of your table and put $5 in it every day to show your kids that choosing to eat more simply ACTUALLY MEANS you can give more money to those who don’t eat at all. Or we march out a herd of plastic animals and add a plastic animal to the center of our table each week to show that by not eating meat we can buy ACTUAL animals (through World Vision) for other families.
Ask the kids if there’s anything they would be willing to delay having which would mean putting more money in the pot, like cereal, desserts, Netflix, or certain outings. Have them brainstorm!
Whatever you pick, try and have your kids be part of the process. And check in weekly with them as to how it is making them feel, whether it is making space for new things, etc. Keep it simple! And may the Lord use this season to bring you and your family more deeply into awareness of Him. - Amie Shattuck