By Cindy Hauser, Director of Children’s Ministries
Maybe you are rephrasing the question in your head to, “It’s Lent, how do I squeeze in one more activity into my week?” Families with children have, without a doubt, unique challenges on their time. Transfiguration understands your unique challenges and therefore offers a variety of opportunities to aid busy families with children in their spiritual walk through Lent.
We have special offerings for families with children weekly. Sunday worship services include a children’s chapel for ages 4 years through second grade and faith formation classes. On Wednesday evenings, we have a children’s Lenten program and we also offer special services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday during Holy Week that are liturgies especially geared toward children. The more you are able to participate with your child in these offering the more they will learn and experience Lent.
Participating in what is offered at your church is important, but just as important if not more is what you do at home with your children as a family during Lent. I would like to suggest a book, Make Room: A Child’s Guide To Lent and Easter by Laura Alary. I have made it available to you in our church bookstore. What follows is a review of this book from Story Path. I strongly urge this as a way to teach and experience Lent with your elementary age children.
Summary: This book creates a wonderful space for elementary children to understand the concept of the church celebrating the liturgical season of Lent. It mixes education of church practices and practical life experiences with stories of Jesus’ life and ministry throughout the text. It explores Making Time, Making Space, Making Room, and Holy Week.
Literary elements at work in the story: The language of the text is simple but thorough in the explanation of how Christian’s celebrate Lent. The artwork provides a lovely backdrop on each page and illustrates well the narrative being read. The author’s work is poetic but does not use rhyme. It is easy to read and very calm and soothing in its presentation. The text is not only practical and accessible but theologically sound.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The illustrations in the text show children and adults of various races interacting with one another as it reveals examples of how Christians can live into the season of Lent. In the same way, its illustrations of the narratives which describe Jesus’ life are accurate in portraying people of Middle Eastern descent. The content and pictures both demonstrate the means by which we live into discipleship by showing love, kindness and respect. It also references the practice of giving up something for Lent, cleaning out your clothes or toys, for example, in order to not only “make space” for God in your life, but also to donate to others who have more need of your extra things. Not only do we make room for God during Lent, we make room for all of God’s children as well. A message the world desperately needs to hear.
Theological Conversation Partners: The text references many Biblical stories that are often reflected upon during Lent. One is the narrative of Jesus in the desert after his baptism. Thus, reading the Biblical account of Jesus’ baptism and his wandering may be beneficial to families. It also references Jesus teaching, thus the Sermon on the Mount may be an excellent scripture to reference. The text gives concrete ways to celebrate Lent, and so a congregation or family using this text can draw from this in order to make the lessons more tangible. For example, the author mentions, “Sometimes we pray with words. Sometimes we listen to music. Sometimes we get out paints and crayons and create many-colored prayers.” These are excellent ideas for various ways to allow children to practice prayer. It also teaches them about the Lord’s Prayer and offering prayers at meals. The text also gives examples of cleaning out clothes or saving money to buy food for a local food bank. All opportunities to bring the story to life in the lives of children. The final chapter regarding Holy Week may provide an opportunity for children to walk around the church and see what liturgical movements happen, such as removing the paraments from the sanctuary or bringing in special flowers for Easter.
Faith Talk Questions:
- The text provides some excellent wondering questions throughout for children to reflect on as the story is read. Such as, “I wonder why Jesus wandered in the desert?” “Does what we say and do make the world a better place? Or not?”
- The book describes that one way to make space is to tell God you are sorry if you have done wrong. And if someone hurts you, ask God to help you forgive. A question might be, “What kinds of things have you asked God forgiveness for? What have you forgiven other people for?”
- The Lord’s Prayer is used in the text. What does the Lord’s Prayer mean? Let’s explore it line by line.
- What things have you thought of giving up for Lent in order to make space for God and other people in your life?
- How do you understand the Passover or The Lord’s Supper?
- I wonder what it was like for the disciples when Jesus was taken away from them?
- What do we celebrate on Easter morning?
- What does it mean for us that Jesus is Risen?