I’ve found that one of the most difficult concepts for kids to grasp about Lent is the length. At 40 days (46 if you include Sundays), the season is nearly twice as long as Advent, and without the normal rhythms of preparation we experience during the Christmas season.
But those 40 days are meant to be an important time of preparing for Easter, often recalling Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness (Luke 4) and the Israelites’ 40 years of wilderness wanderings (Num. 14). That’s why I love this idea Faith Formation Ministries Regional Catalyzer, Laura Keeley, shared with me, which helps children understand both the length and meaning of this season.
When her congregation decided to make a Lenten devotional book available for adults to use at home, Laura wanted to find a way for families to engage with this resource. The result was a creative and simple Lent in a Bag concept, based loosely on this idea from Build Faith. She gave each family in her church a Lenten gift bag that included a storybook, the devotional, and supplies to make a rock path that would lead all the way to Easter.
The rock paths were created on a piece of purple fabric (also included in the bag), and could be assembled in whatever way each family chose—straight, curved or zig-zag. Each day before the family added the new rock to the path, they would read that day’s verse from the accompanying devotional and choose a word from that verse to write on the rock. Then they would add the new rock to their path.
Some families left their path out throughout the season as a visual signpost of the coming celebration of Easter. Others packed up the stones each day, giving them the opportunity to remember and reflect on the words they had chosen as they pulled out each stone. As the pile of remaining rocks became smaller and smaller, families moved with expectation toward Easter Sunday. What a wonderful way to mindfully participate in this important church season!
Here’s what was included in each bag:
A cloth bag with 47 stones, 8 white and 39 black. The white stones were used on Ash Wednesday and each Sunday, including Easter Sunday.
Purple Fabric and a white paint pen (to write on the stones)
A storybook and an adult devotional. Laura sent The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Backyard Pilgrim by Matt Canlis. The devotional included a Scripture passage, a short reflection, and a prayer. Families focused on reading the passage together, choosing their word from the biblical text. Another great storybook option is The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross by Carl Laferton. Or you could include The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and a print out of the accompanying Lenten reading plan (available on Sally Lloyd-Jones’ website near the start of Lent.)
Instructions for using the bag. Laura’s note from Lent 2021 is attached as a helpful starting point for creating your own instructions.
The more I connect with families, and experience life as a mom of young kids myself, the more I’m reminded that families thrive when given simple, meaning faith formative activities. Writing down a word a day on a rock and forming a path to Easter is so simple it could be done during a meal, right after school, or before bed. But this wonderful activity will be a continual reminder of God’s Big Story as families pull out their stones year after year, remembering the words they wrote together, and the ways they pointed them to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
For more faith-forming ideas for families, explore the Resources by Topic section of our Family Faith Formation toolkit, including additional resources for Lent and Easter to use in community and at home.