Through November and December shopping centres are full of decorations, music and festivities that make it impossible to forget that Christmas is coming. Everywhere you look people are excitedly preparing by baking, wrapping presents, decorating and attending Christmas events. With the world seemingly screaming “Santa” and “presents” around every corner, we are intentional as a Church to influence our children to see the true significance of Christmas and just what that means for them. While presents, decorations and Santa can be enjoyed, we rightly emphasise Jesus coming to earth and what this means for us today.
Now we find shelves at the grocery store full of hot cross buns, pictures of bunnies and shiny Easter eggs. And, so we are faced with the same challenge: to help our children focus on the true meaning of Lent and Easter in a way that is relevant to them today.
When I was a child, I was only vaguely aware of Lent. It was not regularly observed by my family. All I understood was that Easter was coming, and it might be a good idea to give up something, because Jesus gave up His life. For a child who liked to obey the ‘rules’, I was happy to participate on occasion, but it had little personal significance for me. It was all very serious and didn’t have a lasting or helpful impact on my Christian walk.
So this Lent I’d like to challenge us to help our children lay down something, in order to pick up something else. Rather than just cutting something out of our lives (and possibly letting our children feel God is depriving them of ice cream!) let’s take something out specifically to put something more beneficial in. Let’s help our children lay down a luxury, in order to pick up something else that helps them focus more intentionally on Jesus’ love and sacrifice during this time.
Here are my ‘5 top tips’ on guiding your child or family on what to lay down and what to take up:
- Make it positive. When we fast or lay something down, we can tend to be incredibly solemn. While it’s important to model and teach reverence, we don’t want to unintentionally give the impression that Lent is a time to be disliked. Show your children how we can want to lay something down because we want God more than that particular thing. For example, I may lay down chocolate (which my children know I really love!) and explain to them that it’s because I want to know more of God even more than I want to eat chocolate. Instead of eating chocolate, I may take some extra time to sit in God’s presence and be filled by Him. That becomes a lesson lived before them.
- Make it personal. Only you know your children – their ages, personalities, interests and relationships with God. Only you can help them identify something suitable that is at their level to lay down and something to take up.
- Make it meaningful. Whatever your child lays down, ensure that what they take up is meaningful and going to help them take another step in their relationship with God. Examples of things they could take up include working through a children’s devotional, writing cards to neighbours or family members isolated in the COVID-19 environment, watching Bible stories on the iPad instead of Minecraft videos, or writing in a prayer journal.
- Make it a team effort. Consider approaching Lent as a family. Perhaps TV dinners could be laid down, and reading a family devotional during the meal could take its place. Perhaps eating breakfast in rush could be laid down and taking two minutes to pray as a family could be taken up. Perhaps desserts could be laid down in order to take time to worship together.
- Make it lasting. Whatever your child picks up during this time has the potential to deepen their relationship with Jesus forever. Although we don’t want to diminish the significance of the season, when Lent finishes, consider how lasting changes could remain in your children’s lives.