The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes the day before Easter. We often associate Lent with self-reflection, repentance, prayer, fasting and self-denial. A spiritual cleaning, of sorts. Perhaps you've heard-or asked, "What did you give up for Lent?"
When we choose willingly to give up something — a habit, an indulgence or a behavior — we do so intentionally to avail ourselves to God's grace. This self-denial leads to a dying of self as we anticipate and expect that we will experience, through our Easter faith, a rising with Christ and a rebirth of life.
Consider these ideas to engage your congregation during Lent:
- Ask children and youth to rewrite the Scripture lessons for the day in their own words and include this paraphrase as a part of worship each week. This may be a great sermon starter for the preacher.
- Encourage people to decide how they will strengthen their walk with Christ to the cross. This may mean giving up something in order to add something more meaningful.
- Focus each Sunday in Lent on one particular event in the last week of Jesus' ministry.
- Highlight, in children's sermons, various symbols of the season. Add these symbols to a barren tree to create a Lenten tree.
- Host a "Jeopardy" game night with all questions relating to Lent or use the online Lent Quiz on UMC.org.
- Invite dramatists to portray Judas, Pilate, Simon Peter, Simon of Cyrene and other who engaged Jesus in a meaningful way as he journeyed to the cross.
- Make a reverse Advent wreath. In Advent, the light grows stronger each week. In Lent, the light grows darker each week as we anticipate the death of Jesus Christ. If you have a Good Friday service, begin with seven fully lit candles (six if you have no Good Friday service). Each week as the Scriptures are read, extinguish a candle. Extinguish the last candle on Palm-Passion Sunday or Good Friday.
- Purchase a butterfly kit. Watch caterpillars transform from larvae into beautiful butterflies. Release the butterflies on Easter morning,
- Using the workshop rotation model of Sunday school with children, establish a different room for the various events of Jesus' last week. These may include the Upper Room, Golgotha, the road into Jerusalem and Pilate's court. In each room, the children look in depth at the characters, emotions and decisions the people faced. Center conversations on the decisions we must make every day.
Lent is a season of preparation and anticipation. Let us prepare and anticipate the sadness and grief that we feel when Christ is laid in the tomb. Let us, then, look with new eyes toward Easter as we celebrate and give thanks that we are a Resurrection people.
For more ideas and worship resources, visit Discipleship Ministries.
—The Rev. Michelle Foster serves on the Mississippi Conference staff in children's and family ministries. Article adapted from Feb. 4, 2009, Mississippi United Methodist Advocate.