Practicing with Children / Uncategorized

Practicing Lent with Children


This is a piece of art my daughter made several years ago.

–by Joanna Harader

For me, Advent has always been the family-oriented liturgical season. I lead my children in lighting the candles, reading the scriptures, placing the daily nativity scene pieces. (Not that we get around to putting out a piece every day, but we have a piece for every day . . . )

Lent I tend to do on my own. I start a new spiritual discipline. I give up chocolate or dessert or obsessing/complaining about certain presidential candidates who shall not be named. Lent feels less festive than Advent; more meditative. And somehow, for me, that has meant I do Lent on my own.

The interesting thing is, as a pastor, I realized this fallacy several years ago. Our church offers family-oriented options for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I have written about how important it is to include children in these observances, to talk to them about death, to include them in silence, to let them feel sad. My pastoral theology has been, if I do say so myself, pretty stellar. My parenting practices, not so much.

Lent begins a week from today, and this year I am planning to include my children in my Lenten observance more intentionally than I have in the past.

I gathered my girls last night and asked what they would like to do. One thing we decided is to set aside time on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for Lenten devotions. (We are using an Illustrated Lent, which they both thought looked pretty cool.)

I think this is a good plan that avoids our annual Advent failings. During Advent the plan is always to have our devotions every night, which never happens. Because . . . life. More specifically, because the youngest is gone for gymnastics from 6 until almost 9 two nights a week. Nothing extra gets done on those days. So I feel good going into Lent with the understanding that nothing extra will get done on those days.

We’ve also talked about giving something up for Lent. Both of the girls want to do it, but they’d like for us to give up something together “because that’s easier.” Wise young women. Except we haven’t figured out what to give up.

I look forward to including my children in my Lenten journey this year. And I look forward to participating in the new Practicing Families Community Facebook Group.

I hope you will join the group and share your plans, your holy moments, your failures as a practicing parent during this Lenten season. Also, maybe you have some suggestions for what we can give up for Lent this year.


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