Editor’s Note: This blog first appeared in Spotlight 03: Consumed by Grace (view here). We’re including a FREE Life Night “Desert-ed” to use with your youth group during Lent. We hope that you find these resources helpful. If you need any additional help you can contact Katie Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org
Each Lent, we have another great opportunity to immerse both ourselves and our teens into the heart of the season and get them thinking with the mind of the Church. We have such a gift in the 40 days of Lent. The Church knows that we need time to ready our hearts before the great celebration of Easter. We need to walk with our teens through the desert of Lent and help them meet our Lord there. Our ministry should be a reflection of the changes happening in the Liturgy and be an invitation to fully participate in the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The following are a few suggestions to make the season of Lent come alive for and tangible to the teens in your parish.
If your parish has an early morning Mass before school starts on Ash Wednesday, invite the teens to Mass. If time allows, have a light breakfast and explain the significance of the ashes and why Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Encourage the teens to share with their friends at school what the ashes represent and why we are reminded of our mortality at the beginning of Lent.
Fasting, Prayer, Almsgiving
Explain the purpose of fasting and abstinence during Lent and how to make the sacrifice a prayer. Instead of having an elaborate snack before or after Life Night, try something much simpler like chips and salsa and water.
Lent is a great time to teach teens new types of prayer. One type of prayer that would be especially appropriate during Lent is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Invite the teens to gather right before Mass and pray the Chaplet together. Try hosting a weeknight Lenten prayer series on the themes of Lent (such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, desert, Baptism, repentance, and purification). Each of these nights could be split between discussion and prayer.
Lent is a good time to give back to the parish community. Most parishes will have a fish fry or spaghetti dinner. Volunteer to help set up, serve dinner, and clean up. You can also give back to the larger community by serving at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
Another national program to get involved with during Lent is Souper Bowl of Caring. Souper Bowl of Caring is an outreach program that helps to fight hunger and poverty. It uses the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday to empower youth to give a weekend of service. For more information on how to get involved visit www.souperbowl.org
Visible signs: Transforming the Youth Room / Office
By visually transforming the youth room or office, teens can be reminded that the Church is in a time of preparation and purification. Pull all the excess stuff out of the office or youth room and make it as barren as possible. Decorate the space with Lenten symbols like a crucifix, crown of thorns, purple accents, large nails, sand and water. If you cannot decorate the entire youth office or room, a table set up with a few of these symbols would work just as well.
Prayer / Reconciliation Service
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important part of Lent, allowing us to prepare our hearts by turning away from sin. Encourage your teens to participate in the parish’s Reconciliation service. Have an examination of conscience specifically for teens ready to give to the teens there. Also, invite your priest(s) to be available for Reconciliation at Life Nights or weekly bible study during Lent.
Stations of the Cross
Have a night of reflection where the teens walk and pray through the Stations of the Cross. Have a few Core Members and teens help by reading the reflection at each station.
Holy Week is the highest time in our Church. It is packed full with opportunities to fully enter into the Easter Season. If possible, have a Life Night on Palm Sunday that explains the Triduum. At the end of the night, pass out your parish’s Holy Week schedule. Talk to your parish liturgist about getting teens involved in the various celebrations throughout Holy Week.
Include teens in the Liturgy by having them represent the teens of the parish in the washing of the feet, reading, serving or greeting.
Encourage the teens to attend the Veneration of the Cross Service. Have a few teens be a part of the service by participating as lectors for the Passion of Our Lord reading.
By incorporating the liturgical seasons into your ministry we give the teens a unique opportunity to fully participate in the life of the Church. Thank you for all the ways you are serving the young people of the Church. May God continue to bless you and those you serve in abundance during this Lenten season.