Whether your church has actively participated in lent by encouraging you to give up something or whether you have stayed on the sidelines, learning about church lent can make an impact on any believer. But, before we can dive into how a church or its members can get the most out of lent, we need to first look at its history and why it’s common practice to give up something.
History of Lent
To delve into each church’s historical view of lent would take more time than I’m sure you are willing to sit through, so we will go back to the very beginning before churches divided themselves. Lent is historically a period of 40 days modeled after Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. During Jesus’ time of solitude, Jesus reflected on the goodness of God and how He can do nothing apart from Him, including eating and drinking. He chose to give up eating and drinking so that He could be fully empowered and focused on His Father in Heaven. The idea to be fully surrendered to God and let nothing on this Earth get in the way of our dependence on God is the essence of lent.
The 40 days of lent begin on Ash Wednesday and end in a celebration on Easter Sunday. In the past few years, lent seems to have taken a backseat as Evangelicals don’t want to be told what to give up and for how long. This is because in the past, participating in lent and giving up certain things was not an option for most denominations, it was mandatory. But, what if the focus shifted from being forced to give up something to giving up something for the sake of coming to know our Lord Jesus better and more intimately? Do you see the shift in forced participation and complete excitement to fall more in love with Jesus? This is where the heart of church lent lies.
So rather than rally your church members and say you’re not eating meat for the next 40 days, how about you find ways to celebrate church lent and its history during those 40 days instead? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Hold a Church Lenten Fish Fry
You may have noticed several years ago that most fast food chains and schools started offering fish sandwiches as a way meet the needs of Christians who give up meat on Fridays during church lent. Some of your church members will want to stick with tradition and continue to give up meat, even if they don’t have to. So, rather than force these members to the golden arches every Friday, why not hold a celebratory fish fry for all your church during lent? You can invite those who are fasting from meat and those who are not fasting from meat to come together and celebrate Jesus for one evening. This is a beautiful way to celebrate and find common ground among those who stick with tradition and those who may run away from traditional anything.
Encourage a Fast
If you are a church filled with the above named Evangelicals who shy away from being told what to fast from and for how long, encouraging your members to choose their own fast may be more up their ally. Different types of fasts can include fasting from the internet, television, desserts, cell phones, social media, secular music, going out to eat, etc. You can also encourage your church members to add something to their schedule rather than take it away such as participating in a quiet time before work, writing a weekly encouraging letter to friend, inviting neighbors over for dinner, or another activity that they feel God is leading them to do. Encouraging your members to choose something that would make the most impact on their lives during church lent can help their focus stay on Jesus and create a deeper inward love for Him.
Create a Social Media Game Plan
You may be asking yourself, “What is a social media game plan and what in the world does it have to do with church lent?” Well, it’s simply making a plan to post about how to create a more intimate relationship with Jesus during lent at least three times a week on each of your social media platforms. This does not have to be anything huge or complicated. Post Bible verses and encourage your members to meditate on them throughout the day. Find a church member who has an amazing story of God’s provision and spotlight them. Encourage your church to engage with the posted content whether they are at home or at work. This is an easy and low-key way for someone to participate in church lent.
If you need graphics to help you kick-off these ideas and more, check out Sharefaith! You can find amazing graphics that will not only help engage your members during church lent, but add extra visual content that will enhance whatever message you are trying to send.