Lenten activities for families should revolve around prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the three pillars of Lent. Depending on your family's Lent traditions, you may observe the sacrifice of fasting and a specific luxury as well as a spiritual discipline.
Lenten Activities for Families Observing Lent
During the 40 days of Lent, your family can take on various Lenten activities and projects. You may even decide a day-by-day approach to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. Should you decide a daily Lenten activity is important to the spiritual growth of your family, a list of possible activities can help. You can pick the ones that are best suited for your family and religious practices.
1. Create a Lenten Candle Wreath or Cross
Your family can use a Lenten wreath or cross featuring five purple candles and one rose candle. You may choose to use a commercial Lenten cross or create your own. One Lenten tradition prunes boughs from the family Christmas tree. These are then used to create a Lenten wreath.
2. Make an Ash Wednesday Lenten Scrapbook
On Ash Wednesday, your family can begin creating a Lenten scrapbook. This can either be a family scrapbook or each family member can create their own. You want to provide one page for each of the 40 days of Lent. The scrapbook pages can document either the family's Lenten activities or each family member's journey through Lent.
3. Write in a Lenten Journal
Another way to advance through Lent is for each family member to create a Lenten journal. This is a private journal that family members won't share. Each family member should write something about their daily journey through the Lenten season. On Holy Saturday, the last day of Lent, should family members wish, each one can share one thing they learned through their Lenten sacrifices.
4. Engage in a Shared Sacrifice
While it is common for individuals to give up something for Lent, you can make a significant sacrifice as a family by giving up something as a family unit. This should be something that the family does together. A couple of examples might be giving up pizza night or movie night during the Lenten season.
5. Have a Family Daily Devotion
Your family can hold a daily devotion during Lent. You can spend a set period of time each day/evening as a family to read the Bible or set a goal of learning a Bible verse each day.
6. Do Art Lenten Activities for Families
If your family is creative, you may find a daily/nightly art project rewarding. The projects should be Lent oriented. This family activity is especially good for younger children. You can choose a Bible verse and then allow each family member to create some form of art to illustrate the message of the Bible verse.
7. Try 40 Days of Giving
Your family can sit down on Shrove Tuesday and decide what the giving will be for each day of the Lenten season. This can be giving to each other, to specific groups, giving to the church and/or community at large. These acts of giving should require personal time and energy of each family member. For example, you may choose to cleanup, repair, or spruce up the Church grounds or paint the Parish Hall. You may decide to volunteer at a food bank or deliver groceries to shut-ins.
8. Create a Family Prayer Jar
Depending on the size of your family, divide the 40 days by the number of people in your family. Each family member will be responsible for writing a prayer request on a slip of paper that will be added to a prayer jar. You can decorate the prayer jar as a family Lenten art project. Each night of Lent, you will remove one slip and the family will join together in prayer. The prayers should not be self-serving. An example of the type of prayer would be for a sick member of your parish, the well-being of your minister/priest, world peace, and various large and small prayers.
9. Choose a Charity
Choose a charity for the year. This project requires each family member to choose a charity they will then research to determine how your family can help until next year's Lent. Set a time frame to have the research complete and then meet to discuss. Once your family has reviewed all the charities, you can take a vote on the charity you wish to support as a family.
10. Get Involved in Church Organizations
If your family isn't involved in any of the Church's activities or organizations, you can use the Lenten season to each of your children about service to others. Challenge each family member to choose and get involved in a church activity or organization. The commitment should be for the duration of the activity. For an organization, set a participation time frame, such as a one-year commitment.
11. Study the Life of Christ by Reading the Gospels
Your family can learn about Christ's baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension by reading the New Testament Gospels. After each evening's reading, spend a little time discussing what you read.
12. Create a Lenten Calendar
You can create a Lenten calendar as a family project. Allow family members to choose pictures that represent your progress through the Lenten season as a family unit. You can paste these images onto the calendar.
13. Fill Mite Boxes, Rice Bowls, and Other Almsgiving
Depending on your faith, your children may be given a mite box in Sunday school before Ash Wednesday. This cardboard box is used to collect coins like a piggy bank during the Lenten season. On Easter Sunday, the children attach flowers with rubber bands and during the Easter service, place their mite boxes inside a hollow cross frame. The final result is a flower cross that remains during the church service. The money is distributed to a charity sponsored by the church. This is a valuable lesson in almsgiving. Your church may participate in a similar program, Operation Rice Bowl, that uses cardboard bowls to collect the coins.
14. Have a Lenten Family Fast
You can set the parameters for your family to partake in a fasting program. The most common way for a family fasting is for each family member to give up a favorite food. This food isn't eaten for the duration of Lent.
15. Make Pretzels
You may not be aware that the pretzel is a Lenten food. Early Christians would pray by crossing their arms over their chest with their hands to their shoulders. As part of their fasting, they made bread with only flour, salt, and water. In the 600s AD, a monk decided to make the bread fun for the local children he taught as a reward and created the pretzel in the shape of folded arms across the chest.
16. Attend Special Lenten Church Service
Depending on your religion, your family may decide to participate in special Lenten church services, such as Communal Penance and Reconciliation Service.
17. Take a Virtual Tour of Jerusalem
Your family can watch a virtual tour of Jerusalem. Encourage your family to discuss the various places presented in the virtual tour and explore each significant landmark more in depth.
18. Complete a Lenten Crossword Puzzles
Lenten, Easter, or Ash Wednesday crossword puzzles are a fun family activity. You may decide to create a family contest with each crossword puzzle.
19. Offer a Prayer and Kind Word
The day's challenge is for each family member to say a prayer for someone they see in need. They are then challenged to say something kind to someone during the day.
20. Donate an Article of Clothing
Each family member can select an article of clothing to donate to a church or community clothes closet. The goal is to sacrifice, so giving an article of clothing that is no longer worn is helpful, but the sacrifice is greater when it is a cherished piece of your wardrobe.
21. Study and Explore Desert as Christ Did
To understand the 40-days Christ spent in the desert, your family can explore the various aspects of being in the desert. You can trace Christ's experiences in the desert and discuss.
22. Lessons in Self-Discipline
Your family can learn and discuss the art of self-discipline. You can explore the psychology behind the pitfalls and challenges of self-discipline.
23. Study Religious Disciplines
Your family can study, explore, and practice various religious disciplines. As a family, choose the disciplines you wish to address, such as prayer, meditation, fasting, fellowship, self-examination, gratitude, service, and stewardship.
24. Provide Pages to Color
During Lent, you can provide relevant coloring pages to help teach Lent and Easter lessons. Choose age appropriate coloring pages, such as simple ones for younger children and more difficult ones for older children and adults in your family.
25. Celebrate St Joseph's Day
If your religion celebrates St Joseph's Day, you can set up a family altar as part of the celebration. You will place flowers, foods (typically meatless), and object that represent gratitude to St Joseph.
26. Pursue Thoughtful Reflection
Have each family member practice thoughtful reflection for the day. This means each family member will be mindful of what they say and do for the entire day. At the end of the day during the family evening meal, each family member will share one thing they said, or did that helped to move their spirituality forward, such as being a peacemaker or helping someone in need.
27. Have a Random Acts of Kindness Day
Each family member will perform a random act of kindness. This will be an anonymous act that they'll never receive recognition for having done. At the end of the day, no one will share their act of kindness, but will report if they were able to perform one. If they didn't, they are challenged to do one the next day.
28. Pray for Others
This is a challenging Lenten family activity, but provides a valuable lesson in loving others. Challenge your family to say a silent prayer for each person they meet or pass during the day. At the end of the day, they may be surprised how wonderful they feel.
29. Sing Lenten Hymns
If your family is musical, you can learn and sing various Lenten hymns. Learning a new hymn can be very rewarding, especially when your entire family learns it together.
30. Do a Lenten Jigsaw Puzzle
If your family loves jigsaw puzzles, you can choose from some stunning Lenten/Easter themed puzzles. Set up a table area that won't be disturbed that family members can work on the puzzle at a specific time each night, as well as whenever they wish to spend time putting the puzzle together. This is a great ongoing family activity. Choose age appropriate puzzles for younger children.
31. Make No Negative Statements
The family challenge is to spend the day avoiding saying anything negative. Each time they catch themselves falling into a negative response, they will stop and find something positive to say instead.
32. Have a Day of Thankfulness
Each family member will spend the day reflecting on the things they are thankful for. They will choose one or more to share with the family over the evening meal.
33. Make a Promise for Change
Have each family member write down a promise of change for some personal attribute they wish to change. They can share or keep it private. At the end of Lent, have each family member revisit their promise to themselves and report if they were able to keep their promise.
34. Practice the Art of Silence
Silence is a cornerstone of prayer. You can teach your children the art of silence by observing a period of silence as a family in preparation for the Hours of Agony on Good Friday.
35. Learn 14 Stations of the Cross
Your family can study and discuss the 14 Stations of the Cross. You can incorporate various art activities to help teach younger children.
36. Bake Hot Cross Buns
When you get closer to the end of Lent, you may want to bake hot cross buns. This traditional Lenten food is served at the end of the Lenten season. The cross on the bun symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ. The spices that are used in making the bun represent the ones used in preparing his body for burial.
37. Skip Meat on Fridays
Your family can practice the Catholic observance of not eating meats on Fridays during Lent. This practice is a recognition that meats are a celebration food and to celebrate the day Christ was crucified isn't appropriate. The permitted Friday foods during the Lenten season include fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, and milk.
38. Attend Church on Good Friday
Most churches hold Good Friday services. Depending on the church, this may be timed to end at noon. However, some churches hold a silent vigil until 3 pm.
39. Observe the Three Hours of Agony
In Christian faiths, Good Friday is the day Christ was crucified. The Three Hours of Agony are 12 pm to 3 pm. These are the hours Christ suffered on the cross. It is a common Christian practice to be silent during these hours. All electronic devices should be turned off. Your family can gather in silence and pray, read, or simply sit and contemplate the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ's suffering for the world.
40. Observe Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation and reverence as Christians prepare and wait for the day of resurrection. Easter is a day of celebration when Christ rose from the dead. You can prepare Easter eggs on Holy Saturday, since they represent the resurrection of Christ and his emergence from the tomb.
Lenten Activities for Families Add Meaning to Season
When your family participates in Lenten activities for families, you can add a depth of meaning to the Lenten season. The different activities your family enjoys create a strong spiritual bond that will grow over the years.