The Lenten period starts on Ash Wednesday. If you are thinking of observing this period with your family here are some thoughts and ideas for you.
Years ago, when I was young sprite and childless, I lived in Rome, Italy.
I went to a Baptist Evangelical church full of people from all over the world with a pastor from Argentina. There were few native Italian speakers so we all bumbled along in bad Italian with weird accents doing the best we could. One year when Lent came around, I began asking around to see if anyone was going to give up something.
I got side eyes. Major side eyes. Some sighs, and a few grumblings that sounded like”legalistic” and “the law.”
Because you see, Italy is a deeply religious country. Even those who barely believe in God or go to church are, somehow, religious! To many believers there, the religious culture given them a bad taste in their mouth about Lent.
However, the Bible speaks about fasting in the New Testament and its benefits for the believer, so I believe that the Lenten period is a great time to observe (or institute) some spiritual practices for a season.
Read: Fasting: Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God (this has TONS of good reviews)
What is Lent?
Lent is the period starting on Ash Wednesday, lasting around 6 weeks, and ending on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday preceding Easter Sunday. Its traditional purpose is to prepare and purify the believer through prayer, fasting, self-denial, repentance, and giving to others (source). Do you have to observe Lent as a Christian? Of course not.
Can it benefit the whole family? Yes, it can.
Things You Can Do for Lent as a Family
If you don’t want to give something up for the Lenten season, why not do something as a family instead? It doesn’t have to be big or grand. In fact, it’s often the small things that make a difference.
- Daily Family Devotions | Whether it’s at breakfast or after dinner, you can read a devotional with your family. It need not be long or dramatic, and they have many appropriate for small children (see a list below).
- Daily Prayer Time | It’s important that kids grow up feeling that prayer is a natural thing. Each evening spend time in prayer on a certain topic of your choosing. (ex. the health of loved ones, members of your church, people groups close to your heart, upcoming elections, etc.)
- Find Something to Give Away | As a family, go through your possessions and find gently used (or well loved but still good quality) items, then pray about how you can bless others with those things. You can give toys, clothes or baby gear to pregnancy support centers, foster care agencies, or families in need.
- Encourage One Another Daily | At a mealtime together, go around the table and take turns saying something nice or encouraging for each person present. Not just compliments like “has cool shoes” but work to build each person up.
- Be hospitable | Each week of Lent, why not invite over another individual or family with whom you aren’t well acquainted? Someone new in town, an older single person who might enjoy fellowship or an elderly couple whose grandchildren are far away. Bless them with your words and time together.
- Reach out to someone else | Whether by text, email, or handwritten card, choose a person today and send them a line or two of encouragement. An “I’m thinking of you” or “we’re praying for you” can mean more than you think.
Things You Can Give Up for Lent as a Family
Perhaps there are some habits going on in your home that need resetting. Some practices that you beginning to be uncomfortable with, but haven’t had the guts to stop. Now is the time!
- Screen Time | Or if you don’t want to cut it out entirely, cut down on your time and use that to do something from the list above.
- Eating Out | Try to limit (or completely avoid) eating out for the Lenten period. Put that money aside and use it to bless another ministry, charity, or family in your area. Pray together as a family about where to put the money.
- Fast from a Vice | Whether it’s coffee, Diet Coke, dessert, Facebook… each family member can choose one thing they want to fast from. Use that time (or money) for spiritual good. Small children may not yet understand this concept, but older members can model it for them.
- Take a break from busyness| While you won’t want to put more work on others, you can give up things that make your life busy for this season. For this 6 week period you may want to stop attending multiple groups during the week, let someone else host bible studies, stop volunteering for committees, and live more like a hermit. This will allow you more time to rest which will, in turn, give you space to focus on God.
- A spending fast | You can’t avoid buying diapers or groceries for 6 weeks, but commit to not spend for clothes, technology, or entertainment. Put that money aside to bless others and learn to practice gratitude daily for the things you already own.
Quick aside… you might consider keeping it quiet
The Bible is pretty clear about fasting in one respect: you shouldn’t announce it in order to get human praise.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
This might mean not telling others, not announcing it on Facebook, or just keeping it within your own family. Fasting (or doing something extra) is hard enough, but doing it for God’s glory only will really work those self-control muscles.
Does your family observe Lent? If so, how?
I’ve created a free email series just for you! Mothers have a hard job. It’s a privilege and a joy, but the days can be long and life can make us weary. This email series is a 15 day devotional (all encouragement, no homework) that includes a Scripture, thought, and prayer. Countless women have said it was, day after day, the right word in the right season.
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
New to this community? Start here, friend.