By Luke Johnson | March 4, 2019
Lent is one of those important times of the year when we get to slow down and take stock of ourselves and our lives as we consider how we might more intentionally or decisively shape our lives in accordance with our faith in Jesus.
I love the church seasons for the balance they bring. For 6 weeks, we ask hard questions and perform some much-needed open-soul surgery before making noise on Easter morning!
Lenten Calendar Liturgy
To help your family "make a good Lent", I've put together a simple "Lenten Calendar Liturgy". Page 1 is a countdown calendar that begins with Ash Wednesday and counts the 40 days of Lent until Easter. Along the side you'll notice that each week is 'themed'. I derived the thematic emphasis for each week from the Collects for each week's Sunday.
Page 2 contains a brief liturgy and the readings and resources for each week. The readings are not from the lectionary or the prayerbooks. In my experience, young children are able to connect with stories much better than with concepts. And so instead, I started with the themes from the Collects and decided upon stories from the Old Testament (for the most part) that speak helpfully to the week's Lenten theme.
How it works
If you have smaller children, they might enjoy putting a sticker on the calendar to mark the day.
1. Jesus Prayer to open
The liturgy begins with the Jesus Prayer. This prayer has been used for centuries to quiet the mind, and its words are especially appropriate for Lent:
Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me,
In our house, we say the prayer 3 times. My kids are quite young, so they enjoy 'hamming it up' a bit. The first time, we sit down and whisper the prayer. The second time we speak it in our usual voices, and the third time we stand up and shout it as loud as we can. (Get the actions and optional music for the Jesus Prayer.)
2. What week is it?
Focus on the theme of the week. I've written a brief description as an introduction to each week. You might simply read the week's introduction each time, or use it as fodder for your own introduction. As in our Advent Wreath practice, focusing on the theme of the week helps kids to begin internalizing the shape of the season in their own minds.
There are readings selected for each week of Lent. I have set a primary reading and given some optional additional readings.
Depending on the age of your kids, you might split the primary reading into pieces and read a bit each evening of the week. The readings focus on stories that exemplify the week's theme.
For instance, the reading for days 5-10 of Lent is Exodus 2:11-3:21 -- the whole account of Moses fleeing to Egypt until his conversation with God in the burning bush. It is a foundational story, but it is long. For kids of shorter attention spans, you might process through the reading in 3 or 4 evenings.
Activities vary over the course of Lent, and are directed by the week's theme. Some are very straightforward (such as creating a tree out of construction paper and filling its branches with things you are thankful for), while some are a bit more searching and require a bit more thought.
For example, Week 4 asks, "Where is there brokenness in your own life? Is there something you could do to start mending it? Maybe a friendship that needs fixing?"
5. Lord's Prayer to end
In good catechetical style, end your time with the Lord's Prayer.
I hope you have a good and productive Lenten season. If you make use of this, or have other Lenten practices of your own, I'd love to hear from you! Send me a note at [email protected].