Elizabeth Graham contributed to this year’s Lenten study, Experiencing Lent, shaping the children and family components included in the pastor’s resource. Elizabeth offered to share with The Foundry Community why the church calendar is a vital part of her ministry and family life and why she wanted to create a resource that engages the whole family alongside the entire faith community.
I have long thought that providing young worshipers and the adults in their lives the opportunity to share common worship experiences leads to great depth and spiritual growth. When young and old alike explore common Scripture passages, it lays the groundwork for significant conversations. These conversations can happen in family worship, but they can also happen through thoughtful, age-level worship experiences.
At the same time, I have a deep appreciation for the liturgical church calendar. It ties us to believers from a multitude of tribes and creeds down through the ages. Now that I am among the mere 10 percent of the world’s population who live in the southern hemisphere, I find the church calendar more important than ever. The connection I experience to my brothers and sisters from around the world as we journey through the church year together provides a sense of groundedness and stabilizes my equilibrium.
While everyone else is hanging stockings and donning sweaters, we’re throwing open our windows and donning jandals (flip flops). While everyone else is welcoming the first signs of spring, we’re noting the multicolored signs of autumn. We can find it so easy to feel opposite and other. But we are bound together—no matter which theological stream, continent, or hemisphere we’re from—by an intentional, rhythmic journey through the church calendar. And so, while everyone else is journeying through the wilderness of Lent, we are too. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time. Repeat. Our youngest and oldest worshipers can find richness, meaning, and depth in the intentional rhythms of the church year and the strategic use of the Lectionary.
Let’s be honest, though. The language of liturgy and the Lectionary texts of the church calendar can often be abstract and confusing. Some of my friends from other traditions confess that they have found them to be stale, rote, and somewhat meaningless. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We recognize that learning takes place through play and exploration. Significance is gained through experience. Words and rituals need explanation in order to gain meaning.
Experiencing Lent, The Foundry Publishing’s Lent resource for 2018, attempts to bring it all together. It’s a guide for the entire church family that provides opportunities for everyone to engage in this important season of the church year. The components that are geared toward kids are based on the Lectionary’s Gospel text for each Sunday in Lent, plus Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. You’ll find the texts aren’t necessarily the go-to narrative stories like Jonah, or Jesus feeding the five thousand. They also don’t simply stretch out Holy Week over the course of the entire season. However, they are important words for all of our worshipers, ones that we don’t need to shy away from.
The activities in Experiencing Lent have been developed with small churches and small budgets, as well as big churches with lots of kids to engage, in mind. They’re for churches on every end of the spectrum, from those that provide an hour of children’s church each week to those that facilitate family worship every Sunday.
When young and old alike explore common Scripture passages, it lays the groundwork for significant conversations.
Each Sunday, you’ll find a jumping-off point for age-level worship like children’s church, Sunday school, or mid-week activities. There are also ideas and a framework for family worship (that can be used in age-level worship as well). In addition, the take-home ideas are meant to be simple and achievable for families with full lives—ways that help nurture godly conversations but don’t require fifty dollars’ worth of craft supplies each week.
You’ll also find a PDF for a printable art journal that can be used as part of age-level worship, or printed, bound, and sent home for entire church families to enjoy. One family I know used a similar art journal over Advent, with a copy for their toddler, one for their kindergartener, and one for each of the parents. They set aside time together to draw and reflect and share.
In all honesty, I’ve never so looked forward to an Ash Wednesday service as I am with the Experiencing Lent guide. I can’t wait to experience the taste, smell, touch, sounds, and sights of Ash Wednesday with my multicultural, multigenerational church family. I’m anticipating a service that drips with “aha!” moments and deep significance that powerfully propels us into the season of Lent.
Here is a sample family worship activity from Experiencing Lent.
The First Sunday of Lent
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:9–15
Additional Scriptures: Genesis 9:8–17; Psalm 25:1–10; 1 Peter 3:18–22
Create the Wilderness.
- Scrap construction paper
- Glue stick
- 1 whole piece of construction paper
Tear the scraps of construction paper into figures that represent things that might have been in the wilderness with Jesus (wild beasts, angels, plants, etc.). Think of your paper shapes as shadows of things that were in the wilderness. Glue your figures onto the large piece of construction paper.
Ask: Why do you think the Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness? Was Jesus alone there? Can we trust God not to leave us alone in hard places?
Experiencing Lent is a Lenten resource for church families based on the Lectionary. It has been intentionally created for the blue-haired, the empty nesters, those with very full nests, single folks, millennials, teens, kids, and anyone else one might find in a church family.
Beginning Ash Wednesday and ending Easter Sunday, Experiencing Lent provides resources for pastors and communities to move closer to Christ through worship, prayer, reading, and participation. Purchase and download this resource for only $24.99.