Lent with Kids: Getting Ready for Week 1

(Western) Lent in 2020 begins on Wednesday 26 February

This is the first proper weekly post of our Lent with Kids series. If you’re reading this after the first week of Lent, or if you want to see the range of other Lent ideas we’ve got, you can also head here, to the series index to see what’s on offer, and here for the full six-week plan. Welcome!

First there will be pancakes. Lots of pancakes. And then there will Lent for kids: Lent that’s all about rededicating ourselves to following Jesus, but without the focus on fasting, sacrifice and gloom.

Sacraparental Lent with Kids

This year I’m producing a series on the blog to take us – anyone who wants to join in or follow along – through the Lenten season with a particular focus on including kids in an age-appropriate but significant and meaningful way.

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I’ll be giving heaps of options and ideas for you and your household to choose from. There’s nothing prescriptive about it – do whatever suits you! And please give us your ideas, modifications and feedback along the way.

Each week I’ll do one of these ‘Getting Ready’ posts to get us all thinking and sharing ideas. This week’s will be longer than usual as we get started, but after that they should be fairly streamlined. Then on the Sunday that begins each week, I’ll post again with reflections on the Bible text for that week, and thoughts about how to incorporate that week’s focus into life at home. (Here’s the second post for week 1.)

If you want to skip straight to the quick guide for all six weeks in one place, head here.


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Week 1: The Basics

Quick Overview

  • Read the story of Jesus facing temptation in the desert.
  • Once a day, light the first candle, to remind us that ‘Jesus is wise.’
  • Focus on practising wise and brave choices throughout the week, with ideas for mealtime discussions and parental reinforcement.
  • Pray about and for wisdom together at mealtimes.
  • Choose from a range of other options, like a spiritual practice, movie, game, craft or artwork to continue the theme of wisdom in family life.

I’m super-keen on my candle idea (based on how much my son enjoyed the Advent candles), so I’ve got myself a candelabra that takes seven candles. I’m filling it with six purple tea-light candles and one white. Violet is a traditional Lent colour (but please do whatever you like) and the white candle is going to be for Easter Sunday.

On Sunday night, at dinner time, we will light our first candle.

Before that, sometime during the day, we’ll read or tell the story of Jesus facing three temptations in the desert. It’s a story of Jesus showing wisdom and courage, choosing the wisest but not the easiest course, in three different ways. More about the text later.

As we light the candle, we’ll say together:

The first Lent candle reminds us that Jesus is wise.

During dinner, we’ll talk about wisdom. This is a step that will be most meaningful if your dinner-table includes children older than my two-year-old! In particular, it would be good to talk about everyday things we face that require wisdom and courage, times when there is an easy way out or a hard way through. I’d love your ideas on how this applies to the kids you know.

After dinner, we’ll pray together, including the two-sentence prayer:

Thank you Jesus, for showing us how to be wise. Please help us make wise choices.

I’ll sometimes supply a longer version as an option for older children (and again, you can of course say and pray whatever you think is appropriate – these are just starting points):

Thank you, God, for sending Jesus to show us what you are like. Thank you that we can get to know you and learn how to live wisely because of Jesus. Please help us to make wise choices through the power of your Holy Spirit.

This is the pattern for each dinner-time for the whole week, as we repeat the candle-lighting, sentence and prayer each night for the week. For you it might be better done at breakfast or another time of day, and you might only manage a few times each week – just go with what works.

As the week goes on, my hope is that those of you with young or older children or adults around your table will be able to talk about real things that happen in your days that require wisdom and courage, and resolve to be wise and brave the next day – or maybe wiser and braver.

I hope that each night’s conversation will build on the one before so that by the end of the week, we’ve each gathered up the courage and energy to do something difficult but right, like befriend a lonely person at school or work, or walk instead of driving somewhere. I’d love to hear how this is going.

To help this process – the really meaningful, family-culture-shaping stuff – I’m also turning my mind to what we can say in daily life interactions with our kids to reinforce the messages. For Week 1, these kinds of sentences could be handy:

  • I can see that was a tough choice to make.
  • Well done for making a wise choice.
  • Do you think the Holy Spirit can help you with that?
  • Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing, isn’t it.
  • The Holy Spirit helps us get wiser and braver each day, so we’ll have another shot at it tomorrow.

A brief warning, for the record: make sure you don’t confuse obedience and wisdom – especially this week! Try not to say ‘what a wise choice’ if you really just mean ‘you did what I told you to’.

Sometimes those are the same thing (it can be wise to listen to advice, or to help the family by doing what you’re asked, etc), but if we’re focusing on helping kids to listen to the voice of the Spirit to help them make wise choices, that’s a different skill from being disciplined enough to do what you’re told, and they could easily be confused and even manipulated.

Week 1: The Extras

Depending on who’s in your household, there are endless other things you could get into together or separately.

Week 1 focuses on Jesus as wise. Here are some ideas and links – and please, please add to this list with your own thoughts in the comments. This is just a starter:

A spiritual discipline to try this week: the Examen, where each night you and God review the day together. Focus on occasions during the day where you faced a difficult choice, and how you responded.

A game to play this week: choose any game you know or have that relies on strategy and choices (do you have specific ideas, friends?). Talk together during or after it about how it is different from and similar to real life.

A movie to watch this week: I’m really no authority on kids’ movies these days. Would any of these be good to watch and talk about being wise and brave? The Lion King, Brave, Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo… What do you think?

A piece of art to reflect on this week: If this category appeals to you, start by searching on Google Images for ‘Jesus temptation’ and talk together about the different ways artists have depicted the scene. What parts of the story do they think are most important? What about you?

A craft to do this week: If you are craftily inclined, I’m sure you have more ideas than I do! But this week you could all decorate the candelabra together and set it up on the dining table or window sill, or wherever it’s going. There are quite a few other ideas on my Lent Pinterest board, but I imagine the best source of good ideas will be the comments thread of this post once you all put them on it!

What else? Is there another category that would help your Lenten practice? I’m really happy for this to evolve as we gather ideas.

I covet your feedback, please! This started as a plan for my family, but it is evolving into something to resource people all over the place, and I’m keen for it to be as useful as possible.

I know of a few churches who are looking at following along with this format. If your household or church is keen, please do pipe up and say so.

What ideas do you have? Do you have any cool links to share? What has worked well for you and what will you be trying this year?

If you want to skip straight to the quick guide for all six weeks in one place, head here.

This is the first in a Lent series that will take us right to Easter. If you want to follow along, you may like to sign up at the top of the sidebar on the right to get an email whenever there’s a new post.

You can also follow Sacraparental on Facebook for daily snippets, and follow me on Pinterest for scrapbooks of ideas and resources.

The next post is Lent with Kids, Week 1: Jesus is Wise.

One more thing: my writing on Sacraparental is supported by generous patrons through my Patreon account. If you find my Lent articles thoughtful and useful, and would like to support me to write more stuff like them, head on over. You can leave your suggestions, vote for what the next article will be, and make my writing possible. Thanks!

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28 comments on “Lent with Kids: Getting Ready for Week 1”

  1. Christina M Baird Reply

    Thanks for your ideas I love the idea of using art through the Lent period – I think I am only going to do 4 weeks of Lent – 6 seems a bit long for our attention span!

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Thanks, Christina 🙂

      Fair enough on the time span! I recommend starting at the start and seeing how you go, esp if you just do the candles for that whole period. My two-year-old would happily still be doing Advent candle rituals now 🙂

  2. Rosie Reply

    Thanks so much for doing this. I am very inspired and learning so much. Now for the dumb question (my brain is in go slow mode!) Are you starting the candles tomorrow or next sunday the 9th???

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Not a dumb question at all!

      I think the choice is between starting on Ash Wednesday (5 March) or the following Sunday (9 March) which is the Sunday of the first Sunday reading of Lent.

      I’m inclined to start on the Wednesday and do that week’s plan for 10 days.

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m am so pleased this is helpful!

  3. Kidsfriendlyjill Reply

    Fantastic blog and ideas. My son is 16 now so I’m grappling with how to do this but think art may be the way to go. I wonder how I could make a 7 candle candelabra. Any ideas? Jill

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Thanks, Jill!

      Making a candelabra… I managed to buy one, after a false start looking for a menorah and having one I ordered turn out to be a Hanukkah one with nine holes, and tiny holes at that!

      My back-up idea was to arrange candles on a cake stand, just stuck down with wax or blue-tack.

      Anyone else have ideas?

  4. Frank Reply

    Great ideas! We are all about candles still after Christmas so will give it a go. Lachie loved advent. He often comes up to me and says sadly “Why did you put my advent calendar and Christmas tree away?” Hopefully Lent might make up for it!

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  6. Stacey Reply

    This is great. Thank you! For older children, Ann Voskamp’s Trail to the Tree resource looks good. I’ll be using it with mine this time around. I can’t see a direct link to it on her website, but when I googled “Trail to the Tree Ann Voskamp download pdf” it was the top link 🙂

    I’m also going to do your candle-lighting suggestion, though, as Ann Voskamp can be ridiculously wordy for the younger kids to listen to.

    And Pancakes!! definitely pancakes this week.

  7. Kim Rayfield Reply

    I am SO VERY glad I stumbled upon this blog! I’ve been looking, quite frantically I might add, for a fun way to incorporate Lent into our lives this year. I was raised in the Catholic tradition but now attend a Protestant church and a part of me longs for the beauty in the liturgy especially during lent! I want my littles to experience it as well.

    We also did an advent wreath, so a “Lenten wreath,” or something similar would be loved by my 3 yo (not entirely, but certainly partially due to his love for blowing candles out!) I can’t wait to he out tomorrow to gather our supplies! Thank you so much for leadin us in this journey!

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  14. Sharon Reply

    Very helpful. I teach our Jr. Church program and have been searching for resources. Yours is it in a nutshell. Thank you so much.

  15. Angie Reply

    One thing I thought of along the lines of playing a game or watching a movie is doing one of those choose your own adventure shows like the Bear Grylls one on Netflix. These will totally lend themselves to discussions on wise choices

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