Last minute Lent planning

February 28th, 2023

While Ash Wednesday has come and gone, it’s not too late to design a meaningful Lent. One that will help your congregation deepen their commitment to prayer, service, and mission. Consider this your guide for last minute Lent planning.

Keep it Simple 

Since you are working on a last minute timetable for Lent, don’t worry about elaborate activities. Sometimes simple is best. Since Ash Wednesday and Holy Week provide natural bookends to Lent, consider one or two or three ways to engage the themes of Lent between those bookends.

For example, if you want your people to grow in service, you could organize a simple community project or a volunteer effort to focus on service during Lent. Gather needed goods for two weeks and deliver them on the third.

Or, if you want your members to dive deeper into Scripture study during Lent, organize a three-session Bible study or a two-part discussion group. Spread them out over the remaining weeks of Lent.  

Or even more simply, distribute a weekly scripture reading plan that centers around the scriptures you’ll be preaching on. Each week, ask congregants to write out the word or phrase that most stuck with them. Collect those words on slips of paper, or in the chat function of your online worship, and use them during a future time of prayer or praise.

Just because there are 40 days in Lent doesn’t mean churches need to plan 40 events or 40 days of programming. Doing one or two or three things well can be more effective than trying to do it all.

Encourage Participation

The more your people actively participate in the Lenten journey, the more meaningful it will be for them. Congregations also appreciate hearing different voices. Take advantage of every opportunity to invite involvement. Live announcements, email campaigns and social media posts create general awareness. But nothing replaces the effectiveness of a personal invitation.

Lent is for everybody, so be sure to invite children, youth, and adults. Don’t forget those who only participate online. This is also an excellent time to reach out to newcomers as well as those who have fallen away. Never make excuses or assumptions about people’s willingness to participate. Cast the net wide.

Feel like you don’t have enough time to cultivate a high level of involvement? Ask many people to do one simple thing together such as sing a new song that is practiced each week. If it has gestures, all the better. Or ask everyone to write out a prayer for a person in the larger community. You will wind up with prayers for teachers, home health aides, car mechanics, baristas, and homeless folks. On Easter Sunday you can celebrate this congregational initiative by praying resurrection power for all of your prayer recipients.

Foster Reflection

Lent provides a natural opportunity for quiet reflection. It’s less hectic than Advent, and every bit as important. Include moments throughout worship devoted solely to silence.  Offer silence as a gift, a way to connect more meaningfully with the Christ within. A handful of minutes in the body of the service is all it takes. You’ll be surprised at the powerful effect these moments of quiet have on personal transformation and spiritual growth.

Plan Ahead for Next Year

Last but not least, mark your calendar now for next year’s Lent planning. There are two dates to keep in mind: August 1 and January 1. August 1 is an ideal time to begin thinking about both Advent and Lent. By starting this early, you give yourself the needed time to consider what themes you’d like to explore with the congregation. Since both Advent and Lent are seasons of preparation, having your own preparation period allows you adequate time to develop ideas into plans and programs. If you miss the August 1 date, it’s still not too late to prepare yourself and your congregation for a Holy Lent. As soon as Advent and Christmas are over, begin January 1 to plan with others. You’ll still have time to get good things on the calendar for the Lenten season.

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Excerpted from Rebekah Simon-Peter's blog, used with the author's permission.

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