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Starting a Lenten Tradition with your Family

March 06 2017
March 06 2017

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It can be daunting to think about how to meaningfully embrace the season of Lent with your children. Growing up in a church tradition that did not observe this season, I saw Lent as a barren ritual that my friends who observed it couldn’t even really explain to me.

It wasn’t until adulthood, or really motherhood, that I came to understand that Lent wasn’t about working my way to salvation, but rather working out my salvation. It wasn’t until I recognized that I regularly look to other things and other people to deal with life’s difficulties that I could truly understand my utter neediness for God’s rescue from my brokenness and all the broken ways I deal with life.

Lent can offer us as families a rich opportunity to bring the Gospel home to our children’s hearts through relatively simple traditions. Children are visual creatures, and they find comfort in routines. (For example, their bedtime or naptime routines). Something that holds steady and secure for my kids from year to year is our holiday traditions. Of course, we have cultural ones (cascarones, anyone?), but the cherished practices are the liturgical ones. My children look with anticipation towards the next season of remembering and celebrating in our Christian year.

In our home, one simple way we have found to focus our hearts on Christ is to record our sins during Lent to set our hearts and minds on repentance. Each night around the dinner table, we light a single candle and confess our failings and shortcomings for that day. We even ask forgiveness of family members when appropriate. We recite I John 1:9 together- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We write them down. It is a very humbling and sobering reminder that we need Jesus again and again. After we write down our sins, we put them into a box. On Holy Week (usually Good Friday), we have a bonfire and cast all the pieces of paper into our fire pit. This physical and visual reminder of what Christ did for us retells us what happens when we confess and receive forgiveness.

Here are some suggestions for thinking about how to choose and start a Lenten tradition in your own family:

Pray- Ask God to show you what you can use to help your family make the most of each Christian season.

Be reasonable- Give grace to your family as well as to yourself. And give yourself the freedom to use resources or borrow ideas from others (that’s what we have done!). Don’t feel like you have to manufacture a magazine-worthy tablescape, holiday décor, or children’s crafts to make the season meaningful.

Make it age appropriate- When children are young, getting into a rhythm is key. As your children age, you can start to expect more from them.

Let it be enough- Whatever you decide, let it be enough. Don’t worry about what your friends are doing. It’s okay if you don’t get it quite right the first time. If we trust that God is guiding each of our families, then we can trust he will be faithful to complete the work he has started in each of us.


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