Have you considered engaging in daily spiritual practice as a family? Why not start with Lent?
by Kathleen Strickland, Director of Family & Children Ministries.

In the next few days, I’ll share several ideas for making Lent meaningful for kids and teens. Some are more involved than others, and this may or may not be the right time for your family to take on “one more thing.” With that said, I have found that engaging in some form of Lenten discipline makes the journey to Easter morning rich and meaningful. The practice below is excerpted from Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home, Traci Smith (Chalice Press, 2017).

The first pillar of Lent is prayer. This practice invites families to devote 40 days (excepting Sundays) to prayer by focusing on a different word each day.
At the beginning of Lent, make a list of 40 words that your family will use to anchor your prayer practice—you can make your own list or use the words provided below. At the start of each day, take a look at the day’s word (you could cut them into strips and place them into a jar, write them on popsicle sticks, or just work your way through the list) and make sure everyone knows it. At the end of the day, gather as a family and take time to reflect on the day’s word via drawing, showing a photo that represents the word, or simply sharing how the word may have taken shape in your day. Close with a prayer of thanks for what was shared among your family members.

“The Spirit works in mysterious ways through prayer. It’s fine if the photos, drawings, and stories that come out as a result of the prayer conversation don’t feel ‘spiritual’ or don’t have anything to do with Lent. Sometimes prayers that seem to lack significance at the time come to have meaning days, weeks, or even years later.” Traci Smith

40 words for Lenten reflection: hope, strength, light, fear, love, freedom, peace, grow, quiet, dark, cold, water, witness, noise, desert, kindness, friends, strangers, heaven, wait, despair, weakness, fire, walk, crawl, run, purple, cross, grace, gift, reflection, remember, eat, shadow, want, mercy, justice, lonely, silence, resurrection.

To be added to a list of interested parents/family members or to learn more, contact me at [email protected]

Family Lenten practices part 2

Fasting

Fasting is possibly the most common practice of Lenten discipline. Many people traditionally “give up” something for Lent (or, conversely, “take on” a new, life-affirming practice). By giving up something, we can focus more inwardly on drawing closer to God in the absence what we have given up. The following suggestion resonates with me as our family, like so many others, navigates pervasive screen time–adults and kids alike. Traci Smith, in Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home (Chalice Press, 2017), suggests a fast from screens and technology for kids 8+ and their families. How might this look at home?

First, decide together how long the screen-fast will last and for how long. The buy-in from the whole family is the most important and most challenging part of implementing this practice.

Consider:
 Why do we want to do a technology fast as a family, and how will it help us spiritually? 
Should we try a fast for a short period of time every day or a long period of time once a week (for example, 30 minutes a day vs. all day Sunday)?
Which activities would be excluded from the fast (ex. Answering calls on your cell phone)?
What will we do if someone breaks the fast? How should we gently remind each other?
What will we do when the fast is over? How should we celebrate?

Bear in mind that this is different from house rules about technology; this fast is about spiritual practice (which is voluntary) and it begs a critical question: What will we do instead of using technology? If there’s no clear idea of what will be done instead of screen time, frustration and resentment may grow.

At the start of the technology fast, gather together and have a short conversation about it, reminding everyone of the parameters your family agreed upon. Start the fast with a short prayer: God, thank you for guiding our family as we made this decision to focus on you and one another by laying our technology aside for a while. Please help us on this journey to encourage one another and learn new things. Amen.
Variation: Agree to fasting from something else as a family and turn it into a positive. Your family might fast from treats and desserts and donate the money you save to a favorite charity OR give up dinners out and invite friends over for dinner instead.

Family Lenten practices, part 3

Almsgiving

The third pillar of Lent is almsgiving. Traditionally associated with giving of our financial resources, this practice is modified for families to be an offering of food. Food, its centrality to our home life, and giving it to others in need are tangible things for young children to grasp. For school-aged children, this practice offers an opportunity to talk about food insecurity in our own community.

Begin by explaining to your family that one of the pillars of the Lenten season is to give alms, a sacrifice to help others in need. You might consider giving to the Mid-North Food Pantry, as it is a Trinity outreach partner. On each of the 40 days of Lent, a family member selects one item from your own pantry to donate—you can let your children decorate a large box for your collection. For each day, take turns putting an item in the box. Choose a time of day to do this that fits into your family routine (first thing in the morning, at the beginning or end of dinner, just before bedtime, etc.). Talk about hunger during this time. How do you feel when you are hungry? If you were hungry every day, what would that be like? At the end of Lent, deliver the box of food as a family to the food pantry or to one of the collection boxes at Trinity.

Notes from the author: One focus of almsgiving is to give out of our sustenance, not our excess. For this reason, I suggest you challenge family members to give their favorite foods for the box. Try not to “censor” what goes into the box. If a child chooses a box of cereal that you were planning to use for your weekly breakfasts, challenge yourselves to eat something different that week. If someone chooses a canned item that was needed for supper, go without and talk about how it feels to make changes or sacrifices for others.

Variations:
Give money each day for 40 days
Take your food contribution weekly instead of storing it for 40 days
Try this activity at any time, not just during Lent
Try giving one food item per day for a year