Lent is 40 days, to mark the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness praying and fasting. Lent is a soul cleansing, challenging time. To help youth understand and live into Lent, we explore the practices of prayer and fasting in new ways.
One of my favorite ways is to schedule a retreat focused on fasting and serving. If you’re looking for help, World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine. https://www.30hourfamine.org is great. I appreciated the accountability and programming ideas World Vision provided.
My youth have Good Friday off of school. We take advantage of this and begin our time together with Maundy Thursday worship and conclude after Good Friday worship. Talk about an attendance spike at Holy Week services!
Whether you have time for a retreat or not, here are some ideas to explore spiritual disciplines and focus on Holy Week. We alternate spending time in sacred reflection and active service.
Explore poverty, homelessness, and hunger issues while fasting.
- Take public transit to the grocery store and buy meals on a WIC budget. (we donated the purchased food to a local agency)
- Talk with women, men, or children staying at an emergency shelter and assembled dignity kits.
- Make cardboard shelters and sleep outside.
Here are some more ideas from our 30 Hour Famine:
- Host an all-church 24-hour Easter prayer vigil (we easily fill the early morning slots)
- Use prayer stations to walk through the Lord’s Prayer or stations of the cross.
- Spend extended time in quiet (try 30 minutes).
- Invite a pastor to share communion with your youth. It can be a great time to really explore what the liturgy of the Great Thanksgiving means.
Other Ways to Fast from Food:
Sometimes people have concerns about fasting for teens especially if they are taking medicine, etc. here’s a couple of ways to approach it without eliminating food altogether:
- Bread and water fast: only consume simple bread and water
- Juice/liquid fast: Only consume liquid versions of nourishment
- Food I hate: To let go of the pleasure of eating and the desire, only offer foods a student dislikes
- Half portions: exactly that. Half the amount they normally consume.
My favorite resources for ideas to help youth and adults grow in spiritual disciplines are Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Disciplinesand Way To Live: Christian Practices for Teens edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter. There are study guides available for both books. Way to Live’s study guide is a free download found here: http://www.practicingourfaith.org/sites/default/files/WTL-LG_110504_000.pdf