A Family Guide to Lent
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
What is lent? Lent in the traditional church calendar is the 40 days before Easter marked as a season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Easter is the Christian's ultimate victory day, and in preparation for this great feast and celebration, it is fitting to reflect on our sin and misery, on our need for a savior. It is also a great time to study the Gospels and the ministry of Christ to try and realign our hearts to the things that Jesus himself cares about. Of course many or all will fail in their lenten resolutions, but doesn't that even more fully demonstrate the point? We need a savior!! We are not saved by works. Only through grace by faith are we saved, and then through the regeneration and sanctification of the Spirit we can live more fully to His glory!
Prayer, almsgiving, and fasting should be a part of our normal Christian lives, but the season gives us an opportunity to experience truths corporately with the church in a unique and special way. It dramatizes it for our senses and for our children. Ashes on the forehead reminding us of our mortality. Focused abstinence from certain material things to remind us how easily it is for us to become reliant on the things of the world.
Following are a few traditions that we have incorporated into our family culture during this season to help us focus on the meaning of this season and instill truths we care about in our children's hearts. Picking just one or two things to do each season can add rich memories, growing spiritual awakening, questions, discussion, and seeds of faith that may later bloom into beautiful fruit.
What To Talk About
Talk about the enemies of our soul: the world, the flesh, and the devil (1 John 1:15-17) and then talk about our tools to fight our enemies: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving. These practices help loosen the grip of worldliness on our lives and affections by forcing us back into reliance on God and concern for the things that matter most to Him (for an excellent explanation of these ideas listen to this sermon by Fr. Mac Stewart)
Connect the idea of the 40 days of lent with Jesus’ temptation in the desert and the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry during which he conquered our enemies. Talk about how we live in the “now but not yet”. We still live with these enemies but we have hope because Christ has overcome them and we will as well.
Talk about what you can lay aside during the season to help you more fully focus in devotion to God and service to others.
What To Do Together
Attend an Ash Wednesday service and talk about it as a family
Read through A Gospel: Use the Lenten season to focus on the life and ministry of Jesus by reading through one of the gospels together or use one of the Lenten family devotional. Create a Lenten or Jesus Tree together with symbols from the stories read each day.
Create a symbolic focal point for children using the elements from “Lent in A Bag” to aid discussion and thoughts during the Lenten season. We place this on our kitchen table for kids to interact with during the season.
Isaiah 58 Fast- Read Isaiah 58 together and talk about the purpose of fasting. Talk as a family about the people that Christ came to serve, our dependence on God, and the need of those around us. Consider doing a prayerful fast centered on Isaiah 58. Take time to discover more about the needs in our city and around the world. Pray for these needs as a family. Fast together from a habit or indulgence such as special outings, eating out, movies, etc. Give the money &/or time saved to an church ministry or another organization that helps with justice, refugees, the hungry, or orphans (homeless shelters, food pantries, etc.). Consider ways in which you might be physically present or involved in meeting these needs as well.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7
Family Guides & Devotionals for Lent
Amon’s Adventure, Arnold Ytreeide A Lenten family devotional in storybook form. Tells the story of a 13 year old boy during the time of Jesus’ ministry and final days.
The Jesus Tree: Walk With Jesus Through Lent, Angie O’Connell & Jane Langerquist– A family devotional highlighting key moments of Jesus’ life and ministry
The Lenten Tree, Dean Smith- Devotions for children and adults to prepare for Christ’s death and resurrection.
Picture Books on the Life of Jesus
Jesus, Brian Wildsmith
The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus, John Hendrix- one of my very favorite picture books on the ministry of Jesus for young children. Profound, amazing illustrations, powerful.
Resources for Teens & Adults
The Passion of the King of Glory, A narrative retelling of the story of Jesus specifically designed to be read during the season of Lent
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Nancy Guthrie- A compilation of short readings from great evangelical theologians new and old for the season of Lent.
For a printable guide with a more full list of books and resources to observing Lent with your family see the resources page.