How can we engage with Lent with our children or grandchildren? Why would we, anyway?

Lent is a time when we can get serious with God: who are you really? What do you actually want me to be? What do I actually believe about you?  If God is really God then what does he want us to look like as we follow him? How does he want us to do our shopping, drive to school, play with our toddlers, watch TV, behave in a meeting, interact with others? Then we will find Easter a much more humbling and joyful time, because we will have sunk a little bit deeper into his love and purposes for us.

So wouldn’t it be good – while others who have not yet discovered the power of Christ in their lives are giving up chocolate or alcohol, following in the footsteps of Christians for millennia, how amazing is that,-  to find a way that’s distinctive and relevant to mark the period of Lent together. Not that giving up something is a bad thing. I find that by having a period of self denial about something that I love but isn’t that good for me, it sharpens my focus as I keep giving that desire back to Jesus and asking him to replace it with more desire for him.  But perhaps we can pick up a new good habit this year as well as or instead of giving something up. A habit that will transform something we already do into a God moment.

Here are some ideas:

1.Pick up one new family habit:
Listen to Christian radio or a worship track on the car radio one journey per day;
Pray for the houses or flats either side of you as part of your prayers at night;
Use a family message board to write up prayer requests rather than depleted store cupboard items
Finish what’s on our plates before we take something else to eat – and say a prayer to thank God for the food we’ve eaten and the long list of people who helped to get it to us.

2.Send a card of thanks to your children’s teacher/ brownie leader/ swimming teacher/ lollipop lady

3.Invite the least “popular” child in the class for tea – careful how you phrase the invite…

4.Join the Carbon Fast challenge: we could be altering our habits in little but important ways to reduce our energy use, but also to focus our minds on the preciousness of creation and the greater respect we could show it and so honour God. you can sign up to receive a weekly email, sign up for facebook or twitter updates, read about ideas, and when you’ve chosen one thing to do, talk about it with your children and tell them why you’re doing it …or why you’re nagging them to do it!

5.Do one act of random kindness per week during Lent: pay for the car behind you in the toll queue; post a beautiful card through the door of a house where you have no idea who lives there; ask the person next to you in the bank queue if there’s anything they would like you to pray for them…
You can check out more ideas on their web site: It’s not to my knowledge a Christan site but we all bear the stamp of our creator and God’s kindness has been placed in every heart. The beauty of this idea is that there is no pressure on you or them to feel you have to  turn it into an evangelistic pitch; it is simply tuning into God’s playful, unexpected, celebrating love. We know we should be kind to those we know, but we can also scatter some love in unexpected places, and the mystery of it will keep someone smiling even longer.

6. “Count your Blessings”- Christian Aid’s Lent idea is that you download and print out a daily calendar for the period of Lent, with an idea each day of someting you can do, think or pray about. Example: Mon 7th April: “Every 20 seconds a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. That’s a school class every 20 minutes. Give 20p for every time you use a clean bathroom today.” Other days include specific items for prayer or a suggestion of an issue you could read more about. By the end of Lent you will be a more generous, better informed giving family who has unleashed God’s love through prayer.

7. Get hold of “Praying through life” by Stephen Cottrell – I just bought one second hand for 1p plus p& p on Amazon
“Aimed at those starting out in the Christian faith and all who find prayer difficult, or want to journey deeper in their faith. This text begins with an introduction on “What is prayer?” and has sections on how to pray: at home; through the day; with children and teenagers; with others; at work; in silence, in pentience; with your whole being; through the week…”

You may well have better ideas of how to get down to the nitty gritty of life and faith this Lent, rather than “mucking about”. So share them!

Ok, and I admit that when I do give up chocolate for Lent, sometimes I just get crotchety or find ways of cheating: does having a hot chocolate count as chocolate? I mean, it’s a liquid, right?

Anita Dobson – Family worker