Making Lent a Family Event

Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, begins today, Ash Wednesday. Christians often give up something they value during this time to help them focus on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  I haven’t always given something up for Lent, but I believe the practice is good and it’s one families can do together. But how do you start?

First, explain Lent to your children so they understand why they’re being asked to consider giving something up. Talk about what it means to sacrifice something. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is a sacrifice?
  • Is it a sacrifice to give up something that isn’t all that important to you?
  • Is it a sacrifice if you’ll never miss it?
  • Why do we give up something at Lent? (because Jesus gave up His life so we could be forgiven of our sins)
  • What can you do without to show Jesus how much you appreciate His sacrifice?
  • If Jesus gave us His life, is anything too big for us to sacrifice?
  • Is it easy or hard to sacrifice something?

Let children choose what they’d like to give up for Lent. No one should be forced to give up something if they don’t want to. The idea is to do it with a grateful, not resentful, heart. If giving something up until Easter seems too long, suggest a shorter time period. Or let them give up one thing for the first week, and another thing the next week, and so on. The list below may give your family some ideas of things to sacrifice.

  • Watching TV, or at least a favorite show
  • An electronic item (computer, iPod, handheld game, gaming system, anything with a screen)
  • A favorite food
  • Facebook or any other favorite social network or Web site
  • A favorite hobby
  • Going out to eat
  • Playing a favorite sport
  • Buying unnecessary items
  • Wearing a favorite shirt or outfit
  • Talking behind people’s backs or any other bad habit
  • Drinking soda or eating candy
  • Swearing

8 Tips for supporting one another as you sacrifice:

  1. Have a family check-in each evening. Find out how each person is doing on their sacrifice. Ask if there are things you can do to make it easier for them to follow through on their commitment.
  2. For each day everyone is successful in sticking with their commitment, put a dollar (or whatever amount you decide) in a jar. At the end of Lent, use the money to celebrate your success and all Jesus has done for you. Or donate it to a favorite charity.
  3. If someone has a day when he fails to follow through on his sacrifice, reassure him of your love. Find out what made it hard to do and ask if there’s anything you can do to help him do better tomorrow. Come up with specific steps to help him succeed, such as keeping the sacrificed item out of sight.
  4. If a child has chosen a sacrifice that is unrealistic, allow her to choose another one.
  5. Focus on how Jesus loves us. He forgives us even when we fail. He loves us even when we’re not perfect. That was the whole reason for His sacrifice.
  6. Remind children that sacrifice is hard. It isn’t supposed to be easy or fun.
  7. Whenever you or your kids miss or think about the thing you’re giving up, use it as a reminder to thank Jesus for dying for them.
  8. Come up with a family phrase to say or think when you miss whatever you’ve sacrificed. How about one of these?
  • “Thank you, Jesus, for your love.”
  • “This is a piece of cake!”
  • “Since Jesus gave up His life for me, I can give up _______.”
  • “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NLT).

Lent is a special time to draw closer to God and each other. May He bless your sacrifice beyond anything you can ask or imagine!

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