Lent is an incredible opportunity to bring your family together and bond as you focus your hearts on what is most important. Whatever ages your kids are, there are simple, fun ways to observe Lent together as a family. Check out the Lent ideas below!
What is Lent?
Lent (an English word, shortened from len(c)ten) means “spring season” and is used to represent the 6 weeks leading up to Easter. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). It’s considered to be a 40 day period, but Sundays are not counted, so it’s actually slightly more than that.
Lent is meant to be a season of pondering and preparation, leading up to Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection.
Why Observe Lent?
In the same way that Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days of fasting and prayer before he entered his time of public ministry, Lent is a time that we, as followers of Christ, set aside 40 days to remember his sacrifice, enter into his sufferings, and prepare our hearts for the Resurrection celebration.
I love that Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness consisted of two things: giving something up and adding something purposeful. Yes, Jesus fasted. He gave up food for 40 days. And lots of times, people look at Lent merely as a season of giving things up.
But Jesus didn’t only give something up. He also withdrew to the wilderness to pray and focus his attention solely on God, His Father. Even though he was depriving himself of something, he also gave himself to a focused season of being filled by something even more life-giving than bread itself: the Presence of God.
I have to admit that, of all the holidays and seasons on the calendar I think my kids will get excited about, Lent doesn’t usually doesn’t make the list. So when we told our oldest daughter, Gwen, all about what Lent is and invited her to observe it with us, I was pleasantly surprised by her exuberant response.
And she’s exactly right. Even though we usually associate Lent with a time of deprivation, it’s so much more than that.
It’s an invitation into a deeper relationship with our Creator.
And when we choose to make sacrifices in response to that invitation, we are welcoming our Savior and Redeemer to transform us in a way that can have eternal influence.
When we celebrate Lent as a family, it’s so important that we don’t focus simply on what we’re giving up, but that our real focus is on giving glory to God and filling ourselves with what we need most: God’s love, truth, and presence in our lives.
How Do We Observe Lent As A Family?
As we prepare our hearts for Resurrection Sunday, here are some Lent ideas, both things you can give up and things you can add to make Lent a meaningful experience for your whole family.
Consider choosing at least one of each. Get your whole family involved! Don’t force a fast on your kids (or spouse) that will only make them grumpy. Instead, invite them into the bigger picture of what Lent is and why we observe it.
Take some time to talk, as a family, about Jesus and his sacrifice for us. Dialogue about how he chose to spend 40 days preparing for what God had in store for him. Ask your kids what ideas they have for something they might be willing to give up during Lent and some creative ideas they have for focusing their heart on Jesus in preparation for what he has in store for them.
WHAT TO GIVE UP FOR LENT (FASTING):
1. A Type of Food (Daily or Weekly)
I definitely DON’T recommend doing a full fast with your kids, but you can choose a type of food, like dessert or chips or candy or something that is not vital to their nutrition needs. In the Catholic tradition, people fast meat on Fridays during Lent. Consider doing a once a week fast, such as a vegetarian Monday or no sweets on Fridays.
Growing in popularity is this whole idea of fasting negativity. Whether that’s complaining, arguing, gossiping, or any form of negativity you can think of, this is a great choice to help your family shift their focus to kindness and gratitude as we remember Jesus and choose to become more like him.
You can even do a kindness challenge. If anyone lets some negativity slip out, agree as a family that you will replace it with TWO positive comments.
3. Stuff (Toys, Clothes, Household Items)
Another great option is to donate items you own to someone in need or to a local charity. Encourage your whole family to donate toys, clothes, and other items.
You can even do 40 items in 40 days, or some people do 40 BAGS in 40 days. Whatever feels doable to you. This is a great opportunity to practice gratitude as well. Share as a family what you’re thankful for.
4. Screen Time
Okay, don’t shoot me on this one. But we all know that screens…from Netflix to video games to social media…can be a major distraction from what’s truly important. Lent is a great time to practice restraint in these areas and invite God to transform our hearts and minds.
Instead of just restricting screen time for the sake of it, consider making a commitment as a family to go without screens during a certain time of the day or week and replace it with something that focuses on loving God or people.
Choose to use that time to read the Bible or worship as a family. Or you could spend time volunteering or blessing others in some way. (See more ideas below.)
WHAT TO ADD FOR LENT (Connecting with God):
5. Family Worship or Devotional Time
Whether you choose to do 10 minutes a day or an hour once a week, one of the best things you can do with your family during Lent is to spend time with God together!
You can do a time of worship, read the Bible together, talk about Jesus, share testimonies, pray together, or a combination of all of the above!
Feel free to get creative with it! Engage your kids by letting them read parts of Scripture, act out a Bible story as a family, give everybody an instrument to play, or take turns having each person share something they’d like prayer for and then pray for each other.
Don’t get stuck in a box thinking that spending time with God can only look one way. He wants to connect with your family!
6. Do a Seder Meal
A Seder is the Jewish celebration of Passover. It’s what many people believe Jesus was celebrating at the Last Supper (the night before his crucifixion). Let your family experience a “Last Supper” in this fun and educational way.
If you have any Jewish friends, consider asking them to help you and show you how it’s done. If not, just follow some simple instructions for a Jewish Seder and do your own!
7. Memorize Scripture
When Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, he was tempted by the Devil in his weakest moments. And what was his response? Scripture. The memorization of God’s Word is such a powerful tool and a great way to fill your family with truth during Lent.
Commit, as a family, to memorize one Scripture verse per week during the 6 weeks of Lent. I’ve put together some Bible Memory Verse cards for you and your family to use! Grab them below!
8. Bless Others
One of the best ways to align our hearts with God’s heart is to do what he would do: love others. Choose to bless others in creative ways during the Lenten season as a family.
Volunteer at your church or a local crisis pregnancy center or homeless shelter. Work together to make a meal for a family that’s going through a rough time. Make cards or crafts and bring them to a nursing home. Brainstorm ideas as a family or check out 12 Simple Ways Your Family Can Give Back.
Whatever you choose to do this Lenten season, remember that it’s not just about giving things up. It’s SO much bigger than that.
It’s about remembering the sacrifice Jesus made so that we could be completely set free, fully loved and forgiven, and welcomed into eternity as part of the family of God.
Lent is an incredible invitation to set aside distractions and focus our hearts on what’s most important. Invite your whole family to experience God’s love and presence and draw closer to Him this Lenten season.
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