Celebrating Seasons as a Community: Lent

This week sees, as well as Valentines day, the start of Lent. The 40 days between now and Holy Week make a great opportunity for you and your missional community to voluntarily engage in a bit of pruning and learn together how to draw close to Jesus. It’s also a great chance to try out a new practice or discipline over a relatively short period of time and have a fixed end point in mind.

crossSo how might your community focus on getting closer to Jesus this Lent? Here are a few ideas:

Discuss giving up and taking on
Make a habit of talking about your thoughts and ideas about the season. Perhaps read together the story of Jesus’ time in the desert. Discuss why it is good to fast and give certain things up. Maybe take a look at John 15 and talk about fruitfulness and pruning. Most importantly, chat about what you each plan to do over the time to draw close to Jesus. Keep talking about it, and encourage each other over the next few weeks.

Plan a lent event
So your community might have eaten pancakes together on Shrove tuesday. Maybe you could meet together for some kind of Lent reflective service too. We’ve done retreat days, quiet services, services of ashing, and things that don’t quite fit into any of that and they work great! You don’t have to do any of it on Ash Wednesday itself, just choose a time that fits your community and get thinking. What would help the people in your community best engage with repentance, rest, fasting? We’ve often found that playing creatively with the symbols of ash, water, deserts can help you make some really significant times of worship. These kind of events don’t have to just be about up and in, they can be a good for spiritual seekers and people of peace to encounter God as well. A great place to start looking for ideas is the creative worship site Proost.

Agree to take on a discipline together
What could you all do together that could help you grow closer to Jesus as individuals and a group? Try doing that each day for the next 40. Helpfully there are loads of apps and websites that offer simple actions and practices. You could try 24-7’s lent podcasts or Christian Aid’s count your blessings programme. You could pray for the world with Operation World, or engage with 3dm’s daily devotionals. If you can’t find something that works for where your community is right now, then create your own.

Play Lent Angels
We used to do this each year on the discipleship year I led. It’s a great way to get your community connecting more deeply with each other and making sure Lent stays full of grace and blessing. Give everyone someone else in the community’s name and ask them to be that person’s “angel” for the next 40 days. Get them to pray for that person, listen to God for them, send them little encouragements and gifts (although check they haven’t given chocolate up before you shower them with that blessing). Basically take every opportunity you can to bless them. This in itself can be quite a discipline, but is often also lots of fun.

They’re just a few ideas, and they are all on the lighter side really. That’s important, if you’re going to engage with this season of fasting and repentance then make sure you do it with joy and grace fully intact. Have a happy Lent!!!

ben and helen askew

Ben Askew lives in Deal, in the far south-east of England. He is married to the beautiful and talented Helen and they have two children.  Ben and Helen have been involved in leading missional communities for over 10 years and are particularly passionate about seeing the emerging generations discover God’s love.   Right now they are working for a church in Deal while Ben is also training for ordination.  You can connect with him more at benaskew.tumblr.com.