The following post is one that I originally wrote for the First Third blog at the invitation of Dr. Terri Elton. This post offers congregational scenarios and approaches for creating opportunities for youth and youth leadership during the season of Lent. Perhaps there are things here that might be interesting to try for your congregation next year? I hope you enjoy it, and I share this post here with the permission to do so.
Every day is a good day to think about and create opportunities for members of your congregation to lead. This is true for youth too, who are also members of your congregation and community.
The season of Lent provides a time for intention. Congregations approach this differently but with great ideas and meaningful opportunities. To consider some possibilities, I am going to reference three congregations by A, B, and C. I believe these three scenarios provide different examples and possible imaginative starting places for what is possible when we look at the intersection of Lent and youth.
Congregation A takes a “less is more” approach to Lent and youth. The goal for the liturgical season and youth leadership and involvement in the life of this congregation is to enable youth to “create and share.” This can mean providing the safe space and encouragement to share faith stories as part of a mid-week gathering or worship. It can also mean the provision of materials and space to come together across generations to create artwork and crafts; this would symbolize or help tell a story of where each person is in their life and faith journeys and about ways they see God at work in the world. Lent for this congregation is a season of space for reflection but also articulation.
Congregation B takes advantage of how spring break usually falls during the season of Lent. They take the opportunity of supporting a major mission project each year, conducted over spring break. This project focuses on a particular region in Mexico where this congregation has served and built relationships for decades. It cultivates a sense of mission and service. Youth often go while in junior high, then again later in high school as intentional leaders who have done much of the legwork of the project before leaving based on their prior experience and service. The congregation financially supports them in this endeavor, and a number of adults go, serve, lead, and mentor as part of this trip.
Through this mission and service, those serving come to accompany, listen, and help where asked to help by those they are serving. Together between those serving and be served, there is mutual learning and growing. Perhaps the best piece for youth out of this practice is that not only are they sent in worship to go serve, they are given space when they come back to reflect on what this experience means for them in their understanding of God and their own faith. Lent for this congregation is a space for service and reflection.
Congregation C tends to focus on opportunities related to worship. Confirmation class and learning time tends to slow or stop during the season of Lent, but all confirmands are expected and required to attend mid-week worship and to help lead these services or to serve as part of the mid-week meals crew before worship on Wednesday evenings. Confirmands and high school youth also take time to prepare to lead “Stations of the Cross,” which is a central part of this congregation’s Good Friday worship experience. This means that there is time spent preparing the material during the season, but also practicing to help lead it with the intentional spiritual devotion and reflection needed for this practice. Lent for this congregation is space for worship and reflection.
These were just three quick summaries and scenarios based on congregations I am aware of. They all do other things during Lent as well. What questions or ideas come to mind based on these practices? What might be useful or helpful for your congregations or faith communities?
The challenge with these scenarios is that they mostly focus on middle school through high school ages. What might be ways to use Lent to cultivate leadership among elementary school youth? Perhaps there are ways to connect Lent with service or presence and visitation by younger youth to community nursing homes? Might there be ways to incorporate younger youth into worship leadership and involvement during Lent, perhaps “Stations of the Cross” for Children? What are your ideas for creating opportunities for youth involvement during the season of Lent?
Image Credit: Lent in one congregation