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Lent at home activities for families, individuals, and small groups

We originally started this special "at-home" topic during the COVID pandemic to brainstorm and collect in one spot creative ways to celebrate Lent at home and during the week. While originally geared toward families with children. almost all of the ideas below can be adapted for congregational use, special events, adult groups, and individual use during Lent

A few of the following resources are adapted from and link to lesson activities found in our special "Writing Team" lesson sets. Please feel free to add your suggestions and inspirations.

This special topic is part of our larger "Resources for Lent" Forum here at Rotation.org

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Lent 2023 Lectionary Scriptures

"Year A"

Luke 4:1-11, Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness

John 3:1-17, Nicodemus and Jesus

John 11:1-45, Raising of Lazarus

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Adam and Eve

Exodus 17:1-7, Water from the RockWTLogo-Ps23-small

Psalm 23




Notes and Point of View

The Common Lectionary is used by most major denominations to create a schedule for reading and teaching scriptures every day and every Sunday worship. Many preachers use the Lectionary, for example, to decide what passage to preach.

Many children's curriculums follow the Lectionary -- providing a new lesson each week for teachers that match the passage being used in their church's worship service.

Workshop Rotation Model users and our Writing Team do not use the Common Lectionary for one simple reason: the Lectionary recommends lots of Bible passages that, while they might make good pulpit subjects, simply don't belong in a children's curriculum -- not at the expense of kids really learning the major stories. Rotation Modelers, for whom this site was originally created, focus on teaching the MAJOR stories of the Bible to kids -- each over a period of several weeks to really dig into these stories and remember them. This doesn't leave room for the "minor" stories. This is the opposite of the Lectionary's "one and done" approach that races through the Bible. Learn more about the Rotation Model.

That said, our forums and our Writing Team lesson sets DO cover MOST of the "major" and "medium" stories recommended by the Lectionary.

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An Outdoor Lenten Journey

This idea was first created and described in our Advent "Bible Trail" topic. The idea is for a congregation to create an outdoor "walk" or "trail" that people can use at any time to engage in a devotional activity. We're suggesting you convert the trail to a Lenten Walking Trail.

See this follow-up post further down in this topic for more "outdoor walk" activities related to Lent and spiritual practices.

Your Lenten Trail could be through a wood, or around the church, or through a community --stopping at various stations. The stations could simply be described in a printed guide, or described at a sign at each location. They could have something to read and look for. The stations could be "staffed" at certain hours and days with guides and/or participants.  Yes, you could do it "in" the church, but that's not nearly as interesting as doing it outdoors.

If you wanted to highlight Luke 4's description of the Temptations of Jesus, one of the stations could offer fresh baked bread and the message that "man does not live by bread alone, but by...."  Another could be a display of a "wealth and power" montage and the temptation of it described in Luke 4:5.

Notes from Neil:
The idea of "Journeying through Lent" traces back to the stories of Jesus journeying in the wilderness (Luke 4) and the Hebrews crossing the desert during the Exodus. The concept is also found in the "stations of the cross" tradition (typically an indoor or in-sanctuary event). Each "station" or stop has scripture and perhaps an activity that individuals or families can participate in.

In a way, the "stations" or "journey" mimics the journey of the Advent season and the lighting of candles to mark time. We suggest adapting that journey for Lent, which is traditionally more of an INTROSPECTIVE journey than Advent, which should guide the style of the walk, choice of scriptures, prayers, and activities.

There are MANY Lent resources online and in print that describe possible 'station' themes, objects, and scriptures. For example, Anderson 1st UMC in Indiana has a webpage describing four very interestingly themed Lent stations: Sand, Rock, Shells, and Human touch/comfort.

Notably, this same "journey" or "stations" idea could be used during HOLY WEEK at the end of LENT to give parishioners another way to celebrate.

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Here's a really neat LENT suggestion: A YouTube video featuring the illustrations of Si Smith set to "How He Loves" -- a cool contemporary song written by John Mark McMillan from "Jesus Culture" and sung by Peter Mattis. The video was created by a youth pastor for his youth group.  Read and print the lyrics. Good for discussions for groups at church or families at home!

Direct link to the above video: https://youtu.be/O5bfxGNMY9c   
(Here's David Crowder's version of it: https://youtu.be/Plngh8SkkA4)

FYI: With permission, our Writing Team use a set of Si's drawings in this lesson at Rotation.org in their Luke 4 Temptation in the Wilderness lesson set.

Last edited by Amy Crane

40 Lent Activities For Families

from the Little shoots - Deep roots Blog. Sign up for their newsletter to get the full list as a shareable PDF. The author suggests writing these on slips of paper to make a "lenten paper chain" from which participants can take one link each day of Lent. They could also be put in a "Lent Jar" and pull out one a day. See images of Lent Jar below.

GIVING:

1. do someone else’s chore
2. give someone a hug
3. help someone
4. make a card for someone
5. make a craft for someone
6. do something nice for Mom/Dad
7. do something kind for the earth
8. read a book to a sibling
9. say something kind to a family member
10. say something kind to a friend
11. play with someone different at recess
12. tell your teacher one thing you like about her
13. smile at as many people as you can
14. write a letter/draw a picture for our sponsor child
15. bring some baking to a neighbour
16. give something of yours to a family member
17. give something of yours to a friend
18. wash someone’s feet
19. do someone else’s laundry
20. clean a bathroom
21. make someone else’s bed
22. set aside some of your own money for giving to church
23. use your own money to buy food for the food bank

FASTING

24. fast from TV
25. fast from dessert
26. fast from candy
27. fast from a bad habit
28. fast from sweet drinks
29. fast from meat
30. fast from reading anything but the Bible

PRAYING

31. praise God for who He is
32. confess something to God that you feel bad about
33. thank God for your favorite people
34. pray for someone who is sick
35. sing a song of praise to God
36. kneel before God and pray
37. pray for a refugee
38. pray for someone who needs to know Jesus
39. pray for your pastor
40. read a Bible story together

Lent Jar Ideas

Any clear container can be turned into a Lent Jar Craft with a little bit of tissue paper and some diluted white glue (or "mod podge). You can also simply spend time on creative devotional ideas or scripture verse slips of paper to put in the jar when they are "completed." In this way, "filling the jar" becomes a measure of how you are doing with keeping up on your Lenten devotions.

This last image comes from the Art Workshop lesson created by our Writing Team for it's "Temptation of Jesus" lesson set. The kids decoupaged a plastic jar with a scene of Jesus in the wilderness. Supporting Members can see that lesson here.

WildernessJar

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Encouraging and Teaching About Prayer During Lent

Lent is a traditional time of prayer and spiritual practices (sort of another opportunity for “new year’s resolutions“). Rotation.org has two major resources on prayer to help you encourage families to explore prayer together

1. Our public Lord's Prayer lesson idea forum (from which all can glean)

2. Our Writing Team's Lord’s Prayer lessons adapted for easy at-home use (open to our fabulous Supporting Members)

In 2020, our Writing Team adapted it's Lord's Prayer lessons for home-use during the pandemic. Like the full set, their at-home adaptations are free to our Supporting Members because they make this site possible and help support the work of the Team.

Lessons in the Lord's Prayer At-Home lesson set include:

  • Why and How We Pray: Start with this lesson, which includes links to two short YouTube videos and nudging discussion starters.
  • Art: A scripture doodling activity is a perfect family Bible study method for any passage, and it's outlined in this article.
  • "Forgiveness: untying the human knot": This is a family team-building game that drives home the meaning of "forgive us our debts (or trespasses)" in a memorable way.
  • Computer Game: Galilee Flyer: This lesson uses a FREE computer software "flying game" about the Lord's Prayer The software is now available FREE for download for all of our Supporting Members (and it can be given to your church's families at home); see information here.
  • "Our Daily Pizza" Cooking: Family pizza party! Need we say more?
  • Elephant Toothpaste Science Demonstration: A homeschool science demonstration that doubles as a prayer object lesson. 
  • The Lord's Prayer: a home movie: Make a fun video using our easy improvisational script, then share it with grandparents and friends! (This one works better with families of four or more people. Or invite a few friends to join you!)
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Lenten Walks

Many churches already have walking groups who get together for exercise.  This idea for taking on a Lenten habit springs from that practice, and getting out of the house together during the colder months can have added blessings.

  • Walking is intergenerational.
  • Walking can be in groups, by families, or on your own.
  • Walks can be scheduled or done on the walker's own time.
  • Walks can be guided by a leader or self-guided.
  • Walks are easy to organize and a natural activity for inviting friends.
  • Walking can be done with social distance and include fellowship.
  • Walks can be scheduled around the weather.
  • You can schedule several different "kinds" of walks during Lent.
  • A printed guide can let participants walk and participate at their own pace.
  • Walks can be of any length to accommodate physical and time needs.
  • Lenten Walks are preferably outdoors, but they are not "sight-seeing tours." Rather, they take their cue from the contemplative side of Lent. They can include stopping points to read a short verse and consider a question, or take time for prayer as you move on to the next stop.
  • A Lenten walk in the park together can look for "signs of life" (hope, seasons of the spirit) in an otherwise dormant or snowy environment (end with a sled ride and hot cocoa).
  • Lenten Walks can explore the discipline of silence, of seeing or listening, and prayer.
  • Lenten Walks can imitate the walking of Jesus, the walk of faith, and the Exodus journey.
  • "Turning Points" on the walk can reflect on the meaning of the traditional Lenten theme of repentance (which literally means to "turn around").
  • Starting and finishing points on the walk be adjusted for different ages and abilities, themes and schedules.
  • Local topography and landmarks can be incorporated in the walk to emphasize themes, such as "wilderness," uneven ground, water, old trees (and their roots), etc. Consider local parks for varied walk options.


A Few Possible Walk Themes

The 7 "I Am" statements in John ("I am the Bread of Life," etc.)

The Temptations of Christ

The Stations (Story) of the Cross

The Ten Commandments (a journey of obedience)

The Exodus Journey

Repentance

Lord's Prayer

"Signs of Life"  --teaching children about the seasons of life, and how their own lives can go through "winter" periods in preparation (hope) for what is to come.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Lent and Easter at-Home Kits: detailed suggestions from Building Faith

This article has some great suggestions to help you think about what sorts of materials you can give to families to use at home for devotions, learning, and family worship. Many of the suggestions are also appropriate for church members without children - older members, families with teens, singles, etc.

WEB-Ash-Wed-Handout-e1612220653937-780x400Don't miss the Ash Wednesday at-home pdf that you can share with your families. This resource supports the celebration of Ash Wednesday in the home with a brief devotion time of reading and prayer.

It was created by The Rev. Jennifer McNally, priest at Saint Anne's Episcopal Church and convener of dinner church Table 229, St. Paul, Minnesota, and The Rev. Anna V. Ostenso Moore, Associate for Family Ministry at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis. Shared by Building Faith at this blog post.

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Outdoor prayer center

We placed a large (9 foot tall maybe) cross in our front lawn last year at Easter time when we were worshiping online only and not able to be together in person. We invited everyone to come find a quiet moment on the church lawn to place a rock or painted rock at the foot of the cross while praying.

Even though we were able to have some people here in person for some worship services for Easter 2021, we left the cross in the lawn and once again invited people to come to the church lawn for a quiet moment to place a stone at the foot of the cross and spend time in prayer. We do still have many of us worshiping online only so we anticipate that both the online church attenders as well as those in person will appreciate being able to participate.

The kids especially loved painting rocks last year. There were hundreds!! The photo is a picture of the cross that we'll use to invite people to join us again. We'll probably post it sometime before Palm Sunday but the cross is already there so we may start sooner as a Lenten prayer devotional activity.

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In 2020 our church was worshiping online on Palm Sunday so we put together a quick Palm Sunday video. It felt good for everyone to know the kids were doing ok and for the kids to have a fun project. The participation was a very small percentage of our kids but it was still a good experience. I'm attaching the instructions we will use if we decide to do it again in 2021. We're waiting to decide on a plan when it gets closer. I just updated the graphics so I'm ready no matter what we do. You can see the video at:  https://www.facebook.com/commu...sts/3075988392458538



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Holy Habits for Children lent side

Lent is the perfect time to begin and practice new holy habits. This is a child-led holy habit practice of silence enhanced by engaging the senses of sight, smell, and touch.
  • Lay down the mat.
  • Take a deep breath to clear the cobwebs and oxygenate.
  • Light the led candle (child-friendly) to remind us Jesus is the light of the world.
  • Recite a verse. (The designer chose Haggai)
  • Spend 60 seconds in silence being with God.
  • Use the blessing balm (scented chapstick) to draw the sign of the cross on the back of your own hand or on the back of the hand of who you are with saying, "May the Lord bless you and keep you."
The lingering scent of the blessing (citrus scents will make you happy) remind you of God's presence long after the blessing has taken place.
Of all the five senses gifted by our Creator to keep us safe and enjoy the world He created, the sense of smell is the only one that does not fade as we age.
Using smells in sacred moments invites a holy habit to be stickier longer.
Note:  the instructions in white are hard to see in this image but they guide the moment. And, the mat has an Easter side which is to be used from Resurrection Sunday through Pentecost.
Shared courtesy of Dede Reilly, McEachern Memorial UMC

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"Following in the Footsteps of Jesus through Lent"

Thoughts and ideas for creating a "Lenten Journey" and "footprints" artwork for kids (and adults) in Sunday School.

  1. Luke 4's story of Jesus' journey into the wilderness begins back in Luke 2 where he tells the story of Jesus traveling to Jerusalem Temple as a boy and learning from the elders there.
  2. The next step in Jesus' journey, according to Luke 3, is when Jesus travels to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.
  3. The third step in Jesus' "lenten" journey begins in Luke 4 when Jesus travels into the Wilderness of Temptation.

You can see a LOT of lesson ideas and full lesson plans for each of these "stops" along the journey in our Jesus as a Boy, Jesus is Baptized, Jesus is Tempted lesson forums. They include my favorite ideas from our Writing Team.

So about this "Lenten Journey ~ Footsteps" idea...

paint-on-foot

The other day I was making this "Jesus has been here before" graphic for our pandemic forum and it reminded me of the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem.

JesusWildernessBeenBefore

Granted, the "Footprints in the Sand" poem has for some reason become a cliche  --but I got over that and re-read the poem. It's a poem about our journey with Jesus --with an especially Lenten theme of us being carried for part of that journey. I've included a graphic of the poem below to refresh your memory. They are words I would gladly teach any student. (There are thousands of such graphics on the internet, and I also discovered that there are many versions of the poem itself, so choose the right one. Here's the version I like.)

Excerpt of the last stanza:

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."

(If you need a prooftext for that, try the Parable of the Lost Sheep or Psalm 23 --which would be equally excellent Lenten scriptures as well.)

What caught my children's ministry eye in the poem was the image of FOOTPRINTS as a possible art project.

That sent me searching and I found this image in an archive from a non-defunct art ideas website. They are painting with their feet a "footsteps in the sand" work of art. How much fun does that look like!  And so memorable.

footprints-art-idea

What they did not include was how they incorporated the words of the POEM into the artwork --which is something I feel strongly about. So below are some ideas about how to do that. If you have other ideas, please share them.

The poem is too long to have kids write out the whole thing, but they could do an excerpt such as the one above. You could also type up the poem and run it through the church copier on a thick piece of cardstock and then paint that with watercolors.

You could also type up the poem and make copies of it on transparency sheets which you could either lay over the top of your paintings, or paint the transparency itself with "glass" transparent paints and add your own footprints. Glass paints can be found at the hobby store. You could also "thin" your acrylic paints. See this video for the "how to thin acrylic paints."

What other ideas do you have for incorporating the poem?

How about creating one LARGE "Footprints Lenten Journey" on butcher paper --and have the kids walk on it with painted feet alongside a set of footprints created by a pair of Jesus sandals. Then along a certain "Jesus carried me" stretch the footprints are gone. The words of the poem could be added to this large stretch of butcher paper --which could then be displayed on a wall.

footprintspoem

Footprints can also represent gathering and going to serve
rather than an individual journey.

Footprints-gotell

footprintlove

How beautiful upon the mountains
   are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
from Isaiah 52:7
or the version Paul quotes in Romans 10...

Sometimes it's fun to THINK BIG:
Years ago for a VBS we created a large Bible story sand table on the floor of a clasroom using 2x4's, heavy plastic, bags of play sand, and a little bit of water. It was great for creating the landscape and settings for numerous Bible stories and for re-enacting them. It was also a great medium for having kids DRAW their thoughts in. Who doesn't like to play in the sand? (BTW: The sand was easy to remove once it was dry. We just dragged it outside on the plastic.)

What would that sand look like if kids WROTE the "Footprints in the Sand" poem in it (or parts of it) and recreated the footprints? That would be a super memorable lesson.

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What would a "Prayer Trail of Footprints" look like around your church or church property?
I'm thinking of stations like we suggested for "Advent Trails" here at Rotation.org or Prayer Labyrinths.

Footprints are as unique as fingerprints.
How can you see Jesus' footprints in your life?
How closely are you following him right now?

When do you feel Jesus has carried you (or what do you need him to carry for you?)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

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At-Home "Video" Version of Following in the Footsteps of Jesus During Lent

@Sharon H --one of our members up in Saskatchewan, sent me a video she had spliced together from a bunch of video clips sent to her by her students re-enacting an assigned part of the Advent story. (Can't show it to you because it's a private link for their congregation.) Sharon's video made me think of doing this same idea for the story of the Cross and Resurrection --assigning parts to families/kids to create video clips using your script.  See my suggestion for the easy online software you can use to stitch your clips together!

You can use the same "video clips" idea for Walking with Jesus During Lent

This could be done as a class project at church or by students at home and shared with your congregation.

The basic idea: Invite students/families to create short narrated video clips (20 seconds) showing "where I walk with Jesus" and then put them together in a shareable presentation.

Walking with Jesus During LentI walk with Jesus at home when I...

I walk with Jesus at school when I...

I walk with Jesus when I'm with this friend...

We walk with Jesus when we're working on this problem at home together...

We walk with Jesus when we serve others by.... (video of collecting food, clothing, donating)

I walk with Jesus when I'm feeling (sad, sick, alone, scared)...

What other prompts could you come up with? How about inviting the pastor to make a clip of their feet walking into the hospital on a pastoral call. How about a clip of a student opening their storybook Bible as they commit to reading the Bible throughout Lent.

Presentation idea: Think of these are selfie videos-of-a-sort. At the beginning of the clip, each person shows their feet walking, then pans up to their face, who's with them, and then where they are walking as they say the word, "I walk with Jesus when I....."


CANVA is one of the many free online presentation makers you can upload your videos to and stitch them together into a presentation.

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It would be a lot of fun, and it would make the kids and families really think about what it means to follow Jesus. You could do it with the whole congregation, not just with the kids.

I don't know if this would be useful with kids or not, but my son wrote a choral version of the Footprints poem when he was in high school. Possibly as background music or to introduce the poem before doing the footprint art? Here it is sung by the school choir:

At-home daily practices during Lent

Family countdown 40

A 40 DAY COUNTDOWN TO EASTER

LENTEN CALENDAR!

This free Lenten calendar is a tool for families to engage in the stories, practices, traditions, and activities of Lent at home, at school, in their neighborhoods, and at work.

  • Share it at breakfast, in break rooms, during staff meetings, and by your bedside.
  • Discuss it at dinner.
  • Send it as a text message or email to family and church members.
  • Post each daily practice on your Facebook page for others to follow or send them as daily text messages to parents.

Daily challenges include the four traditional activities of Lenten preparation: prayer, fasting, giving/service, and study. A number of activities are designed to spark family discussion. Included are activities to help children see that Jesus loves them and calls them to respond by loving others.

Some possible ways to suggest that families use this Lenten Calendar:
  • Use as a daily calendar reminder and guide.
  • Using the black and white version, color the days as you count down.
  • Cut into pieces and place in a jar or in plastic Easter eggs in a basket and draw out activities daily.
  • Write the day's Lenten Reminder/Activity on your fridge's dry-erase board.
  • Hand out copies to church members as they exit worship on Ash Wednesday, the Sunday before Lent begins, or every Sunday during Lent.

IT'S EDITABLE!

I've purposefully provided a WORD DOC so you can modify this calendar to fit your own needs and your congregation's worship and programming schedule.

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Use the above Lenten Calendar's suggested daily activities with "dry erase stickers" to create a big "at home" reminder each day or for certain days of Lent.

Have kids create and decorate a "Lenten dry erase sticker" in Sunday School and give them a printed calendar of suggested Lenten activities to take home with it. Kids or parents write the daily suggested activity on the dry-erase sticker in the morning and place it where the family can see it, such as on the refrigerator. Families can post a new activity each day or on certain days that practically meet the family's schedule/needs. The Lenten practice activities can be adapted by the family.

This reminder placed in a high-traffic area creates a big "point of discussion" where family members are likely to see it daily.



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Various types of "dry-erase" stickers and contact paper are available at online retailers.

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