By Wendy Berghane, Hearts Alive Curriculum Specialist
The season of Lent is upon us. Soon many Christians will be attending Ash Wednesday services, taking up Lenten Bible studies, and considering the traditional Lenten discipline of sacrificing an item or habit for forty days. The season of Lent is a time of reflection and preparation, and Lenten practices help realign our focus to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. But Lent is a different season of the Christian calendar. Unlike Christmas or Easter, Lent does not come with gifts or chocolates. It does not come with a celebration or special music. Lent can feel sad and melancholy. So does that mean that Lent should be geared towards just the adults? Short answer: No.
Lent is a perfect time to talk to children about Jesus and the sacrifice he made for each of us. The forty days before Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) provide an opportunity to talk about the gift of eternal life that God sent to the world through Jesus. Lent is a beautiful season to help children build a strong foundation of faith.
Often, we abbreviate the full story of Easter with young ones and focus mainly on the amazing news that Jesus is alive. While that is an important part of the story (and the easier part to talk about), it isn’t the full story. Leaving out the more difficult topics—our sin, God’s wrath, and Jesus’s death on the cross—can leave kids with gaps in their understanding of God’s forgiveness, grace, and love.
So instead of keeping the Lenten season to yourself, share it with your children this year. Invite them into the full story of Easter. Invite them into the preparation. And if you’re not sure how, here are a few ideas (along with Bible verses to consider for family devotions):
1. Take children to Ash Wednesday service and allow them to participate. The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is a symbolic reminder that we are all human and we are all sinners. Before attending, explain that the service will feel different than Sunday morning. It will be quieter, darker, and more serious. (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:12)
2. If your service uses ashes to symbolize our humanity and sinfulness, explain that briefly to your kids before the service. Kids don’t need to understand all the theology and symbolism; they will figure that out in the years to come. But they will be able to understand being marked as God’s creation. (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20)
3. Starting with Ash Wednesday, and continuing throughout Lent, talk with your children about sin. We are all sinners. Talk about some of your shortcomings that don’t always reflect the heart of God or the example of Jesus. Share the good news that Jesus died for our sins and sent the Holy Spirit to help us live holy lives. Together as a family, discuss changes of the heart that each of you wants to work on. Pray about those changes as a family. (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1–10)
4. Don’t wait until Easter Sunday to talk about the story of the resurrection. First, talk about what Jesus did during his life on earth: how he loved people, helped people, and pointed people to God. Then talk about how some people did not like Jesus, and they hurt him. The cross was a very sad event, but it wasn’t the end of the story. Use the season of Lent to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and his gift of eternal life. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 5:9)
5. Turn up the gratitude in your house. Lent is not about being somber or sad for forty days. Lent is a symbolic journey from death to life, from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy. Celebrate God’s goodness. Take time to point out the wonderful ways he is working in your family’s life. Enjoy his creation together. (Psalm 118:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Lent is a season for the entire family to reflect on God’s goodness and mercy. It’s a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the gift of Jesus and the sacrifice he made. It’s an opportunity to build a firm foundation in our children’s worldview by not tiptoeing around the hard parts of the Easter story. Observing Lent with your children can help them see how big God’s love is for them. So make this Lenten season a family affair! May God bless your journey of faith together.
Looking for a study to do with your children this Lent. Our Crosswalk for children and families is available for digital download. Lent begins tomorrow, so get yours today!
Mirroring the themes of The Crucified Life Lenten Bible Study for adults, each lesson of The Cross Walk Bible Curriculum for Kids highlights one of Christ’s Seven Last Words from the cross. Despite its serious theme, children are attentive and engaged with a mix of fun experience-based activities. Bible stories, videos, music, drama, crafts, and games all focus on leading participants to a deeper love and understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and how it relates to their lives. The Cross Walk teaches valuable lessons on forgiveness, trust, caring for God’s family, and finishing the race strong!
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