Talking with Children about Lent

Talking with Children About Lent

Believe it or not, there’s more than one calendar in the world! The church calendar is an annual schedule of holidays and seasons that mark certain events or seasons both in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, and in the faith experience of his followers.

The church calendar was devised as a teaching tool during pre-literate times so that every year Christians who could not read Scripture for themselves were walked through and learned important facts about the work of salvation that Jesus had accomplished for them.

One of the seasons on the church calendar is Lent. Lent is the season that precedes Easter. It’s a season that you’ve probably heard about before. But why do Christians mark this time as special during the year?

Lent is a season 40 days long that reminds us of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness during his temptation by the devil. The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this time in Jesus’s life. You can read about it here. It came right before he started his public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing.

During his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus fasted (went without eating), prayed, and meditated on God’s Word and on the mission his Father had called him to fulfill. That mission included teaching and preaching about the plan of salvation that God had for his people. But the bigger part of the mission was that Jesus, the only Son of God, was going to die himself on a cross in order to pay for the sins of his people—and then after being dead, he would return to life on the third day after his death (that’s the resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter).

Jesus’s mission was a huge mission—the biggest there would ever be—and he wanted to prepare for it in this special way. And so during Lent, many Christians remember what Jesus did for them and for the world in a special way by focusing on Jesus’s teaching, and on his suffering and death on the cross.

Many Christians also use the season of Lent to remember why Jesus came and died to save them—because of their sin. And, they devote themselves to a process of repentance—which is loving God, resting in his forgiveness through Jesus’s work on the cross, and turning away from sin and sinful temptations.

So, during Lent, Christians often give up things as a reminder of Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness. Some of the things we tend to give up are bad habits (like cursing, smoking, overeating, and so on)—but we also give up things that keep us from turning to Jesus and enjoying his presence in the first place. Some of those things could be dependance on technology (like cell phones), social media, TV, or streaming.

There’s no requirement to give up anything for Lent. But some people do because they want to follow Jesus’s example of not allowing anything (even eating!) come between them and their relationship with God. People who choose to give something up for Lent often choose to fill that time with Bible reading, prayer, or just being silent before the Lord, to draw closer to him.

There are many ways to observe Lent. Here is a resource you might find helpful to walk you through some of those different ways. It was developed by Alyssa and Stephen Wood from Liberti River Wards Church in Philadelphia and is a Lent and Easter Guide for Families. You can click here to go to the page on the Liberti River Wards website where you can download the booklet as a pdf for free! (Just click on the link, go to the page, and then click the button that reads “Download Family Guide.”

Lent is a time to remember what Jesus has done for everyone who believes in him. But it’s also a time to be transformed as we practice repentance and drawing near to God!

Our sincere thanks to Liberti River Wards for sharing this resource!

What to Do with Students During Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Week is here! If you have kids at home, what that probably means is looking for ways to keep them active and engaged. That’s a problem for many households this year, because the activities we’re used to around Thanksgiving Break just aren’t happening this year.

If you’re looking for ways to engage your student this week, here are ten ideas to spark your creativity, and to jump-start some good and fun times with your kid. A couple of these ideas are adapted from the blog post 16 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic on

  1. Make a treat for a neighbor. No reason for this, other than they’re your neighbor! Be spontaneous and make some cookies, a loaf of pumpkin bread, or even just a pan of brownies from a box. Make sure your student washes his or her hands before they start (and make sure neither of you are showing any symptoms of illness—if you are, this might not be the thing to do until you’re better). Ask your student to make a colorful card to go along with the goodies. Wrap your treat in plastic wrap, leave it on your neighbor’s doorstep, and then call or text them for a contactless fun time!
  2. Cook a meal together. Sometimes, the best times a family spends together can be in the kitchen. Do you have a favorite meal? Teach your student how to prepare it as you make it together. Talk with your student about your history with that particular food—why you like it, when you first had it, your biggest cooking fail, etc. Just have fun connecting with your student while you teach them how to cook!
  3. Color together. Adult coloring is a new fad, but I’ll tell you what…few things are as relaxing as sitting down with a student and coloring a picture together with good, old-fashioned wax crayons! Leave the hectic and crazy world of 2020 behind, and let your biggest decision for the next hour be whether to make the sky pink or purple. And—no skill required! You can have some great, spontaneous interactions with your student around an activity like this. And it feels special just to do something together. You can print some great free coloring pages from
  4. Take a virtual museum, zoo, or aquarium visit. Okay, I know that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to go to a museum. But there are all kinds of museums out there—and this way, if you get bored, you can just click “Close”! And it’s all free! The Philadelphia Zoo has a bunch of informational and fun recorded introductions to its animals. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History walks you through many of its exhibits. The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum’s Museum At Home Page provides virtual tours and instructions for at-home activities you and your student can do together.
  5. Have a family Bible study. Turns out, Bible studies don’t have to be limited to just reading! God wants His people to dig into His Word, to understand it, and to be changed by it. The Center for Parent and Youth Understanding is a Christian nonprofit based in Lancaster, PA that has a whole host of resources for families. One of them is their Family TableTalk program, a series of free, downloadable PDFs that give parents and students an easy way to dig down deep into God’s Word.
  6. Make an Advent Calendar. Advent is the season of the Church Year that covers the four weeks before Christmas. During Advent, we remember why Jesus came as a real baby on Christmas—because we need Him to save us from our sins. Part of the fun of Advent is counting down the days until Christmas comes—and one way to do that is through an Advent calendar which (guess what!)—you can make at home! Parents Magazine gives you some instructions for easy to moderately challenging Advent calendars you can make with your student. Extra points if you can find ways to incorporate Scripture verses into your Advent calendar!
  7. Make a Scripture Tree. Great way to claim those extra points from #6! Use a small artificial tree, some paper, and some twine or string to make a Scripture Tree—a great way to read and memorize Scripture with your child during Advent. Use a small (two foot) artificial tree (or make a flat tree to hang on a wall from a piece of cardboard). Print out the Scripture verses from this web page on regular printer paper. Using scissors, cut the paper into strips so that one verse, Scripture reference, and day number are on each strip. Fold the strips in half, so that the printed side is on the inside of the fold. With a marker or pen, write the number of the day on the folded tip of the paper. If you’re using an artificial tree, use a hole punch to make a hole at the open end of each folded strip. Then use a piece of string or twine to tie it onto a branch of the tree, numbered side facing up. If you’re using a cut out, flat tree, forget the hole punch—just tape the folded strips to the tree, numbered side facing out. Now, each day during December, find the strip with the number corresponding to the day of the month, untie it, read it, and try to memorize it! Ask God to help you understand how that verse relates to the coming of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem, what it means for His relationship with you now, and for His coming again!
  8. Have a scavenger hunt. Whether inside or outside your house, make a list of items for your student to find. If your student has siblings, have them play either against each other or as a team.
  9. Play Twenty Questions. It’s a great game requiring nothing other than imagination and a little time. Play with your student or as a family. Here are simple instructions about how to proceed.
  10. Have some online fun together with Google Arts & Culture. Google Arts & Culture is an interactive feature that challenges students to exercise their imagination, to learn about the world around them, and to have fun while doing so. One note for parents and guardians, though: this Google feature is not Christian-friendly and may have some links to activities or information you might find objectionable. As with all activities, do them alongside your student and help them understand what they see and experience from a Christian perspective.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve lower-income students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.