The following is a manual / template for conducting a “Great Lent Preparation Workshop” for youth / Sunday-school students. The manual is setup such that that a Priest/Youth leader/Sunday School teacher can implement this ‘Activity based study’ in their respective parish.
They can run the study/activity on a Saturday youth prayer fellowship or in an extended Sunday School general assembly. Facilitators are free to customize the program based on the availability of time, age group and preferences. We hope that you can utilize this in your respective parishes for the spiritual enhancement of our children.
Thanks to Rev. Fr. Renjan Mathew from Dallas, Texas for compiling this awesome resource!
May your lent be blessed!
- Facilitators Manual (PDF)
- Handout – Lenten Readings Calendar (2018) – color (PDF)
- Handout – Lenten Readings Calendar (2018) – black&white (PDF)
- Handout – Lenten Readings Calendar (2018) – youthgrp (PDF)
- Handout – Discussion Questions (PDF)
- Handout – Lenten Contract (PDF)
- Handout – Lenten Ideas (PDF)
- Handout – Prayer of Repentance (PDF)
Lent is perhaps one of the least understood times of the Christian calendar. The Syrian Orthodox Church has a legit tradition of observing Lent based on meditations on the Word of God. We start with introspecting our own lives to reconcile with one another, and then enter the Great lent. Transformation is the key theme of lent, from whatever we are to what we are supposed to be (We read the miracle at Cana on the Sunday before Great Lent to reorient with the idea of
- Lent is a time to look inward to seek how we might more fully accept God’s love, peace and grace in our lives.
- Meaningful Great Lent observation involves three things: prayer, fasting and sharing.
- Take part in a game to review basic facts about the season of Lent.
- Discuss the background of the tradition of Lent.
- Create masks as a way to reflect on our inward sin (Activity is optional, discussion preferred).
- Discuss the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
- Discuss how to observe lent by praying, fasting and sharing.
- Participate in a worship experience to consider their own journey of Lent.
- Enter into a Lenten Contract
- Track their observation of Great Lent on ‘My Great Lent Calendar’
- Bibles, Work sheet printouts, copy of questions for opening activity, A4 paper, Mache masks/card stock paper, glue/ staples, markers, note cards, pens.
Start with a word of prayer followed by a brief introduction and agenda of the session. Customize the sessions based on time and priority.
Play “One Step Forward, One Step Back.” Line group across the middle of the room and ask the questions below. Those who get the answer right, take one step forward. Those who get the question wrong take one step back. The “winner” (and aren’t we ALL winners?) is the first one to cross the finish line where you are standing. What do they win? Hmmm? (Answers to Quiz- see page 11)
- When does the Great Lent start?
- On the 1st Sunday of Great Lent- called Kothne (wedding at Cana)
- After the Service of Reconciliation on 1st Monday of Great Lent
- Ash Wednesday
- How many Lent days are observed in the Great Lenten season (up to Easter including the passion week)?
- 40 days
- 50 days
- 48 days
- The 40 days of Lent are a reminder of the Bible story in which Jesus spends 40 days alone in the wilderness and is tempted by the Devil. True or False?
- Many people give up something during Lent. The point of this practice is to show your willpower. True or False?
- Fasting is a common practice in Lent but the day or days of the week that people don’t fast during Lent?
- Sunday and Saturday
- Sundays, Sunday and Monday
- Wednesdays and Thursdays
- The last week of Lent is known as “Passion Week.” True or False?
- On Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday in Lent, we recall the last night and meal that Jesus shares with his disciples. True or False?
If you have a projector – you can use these slides to display the questions:
Background on the Great Lent
We often hear the question, “what is lent?”, so first we wanted to share with you a bit more background about Lent and how we came to practice it today.
What Is Lent?
- Lent is the season of fasting and self-denial observed by many Christians in the days preceding Easter Sunday each year.
- The word “Lent” comes from a word meaning “lengthening days,” with the Lenten season consisting of forty fast days as days lengthen in early spring.
Where Did Lent Come From?
- Lent is neither commanded nor implied in the Bible.
- Instead, it is a tradition that developed slowly over the first several centuries of church history.
- During the first three centuries of the church Christians often prepared to celebrate Easter with a “short preparatory fast of one, two, or more days.”
- How the short pre-Easter fasts of the first three centuries evolved into Lent is not entirely clear.
- Some early Christians in Egypt held a forty day fast beginning January 6 in imitation of Jesus’ own time of fasting.
- Canon 5 from the Council of Nicea (325 AD) mentions the period of “Lent,” and a few years later St. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, wrote to his people and urged them to observe the 40-day fast which “all the world” was observing.
Why Do People Fast at Lent?
- Christians from a variety of traditions see it as a time of prayer, repentance, and self-sacrifice for the purpose of focusing their attention on Christ and His sacrifice in the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Why Forty Days?
- Forty is a significant number in the Bible. It is a number associated with anticipation and preparation.
- Moses waited on Mt. Sinai forty days to receive the Law (Ex. 34:28),
- Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years before entering the promised land (Ex. 16:35),
- Elijah walked forty days to meet with God at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)
- Most significantly, Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness before his temptation (Mark 1:13).
- Even after Christians had come to agree on a forty-day period of fasting before Easter, there was little uniformity in how churches counted the days.
What Do People Give up for Lent?
- Like much about Lent, what people give up and how often they abstain has varied throughout history and from person to person.
- Although, a fast was defined as eating only one full meal per day, it is now observed as breaking the fast after noon prayer.
- Even during these meals, they were to abstain from eating all animals and animal products, such as milk, eggs, or fat.
- While meat is the most common thing left out of one’s diet, people choose to give up all kinds of things during Lent. For example, some choose to abstain from something they enjoy such as chocolate, sugar, coffee, or television for the entire Lenten season. Others choose to fast from all food one day a week in order to give themselves to prayer and meditation on the work of Christ.
Petrura (Introspection) – Digging In
- People often wear masks during the Mardi Gras activities that come just before Lent. Mask is to hide something.
- We know the term personality. We all have a unique personality. But the root term of personality is from the Greek word ‘persona’, which means mask. Personality means we are hiding our real characters, wishes, deeds, anxieties etc., and what is outward is not the real.
- Masks symbolize the way we often try to hide our true nature.
- Lent is a time of taking off our masks, of examining our true selves, of being real before God
- The Syriac word Petruta means look back, turn around, and introspect.
- Only by becoming the real you, you can come to understand that God knows you fully, forgives you, loves you, and encourages you to grow to become the real you, that you were created to be.
Within this context, give youth an unfinished paper Mache mask (available in craft stores or cut a smaller mask using scissors- the smaller half masks that just cover the eyes and they worked great.)
- Ask them to decorate the outside of the mask with words, images, and colors that
represent how others see them – their “outside” self.
- On the inside of the mask, encourage them to display their “inside” self – their fears, their doubts, their shortcomings.
- When finish, invite responses from youth about the experience of creating these masks.
- Are you able to identify that there is a significant difference between the real you and the you seen by others?
Bible Study Activity – Going Deeper
- Read aloud Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness
- Ask one or more persons to read the narration, another to read the words of Jesus, and one or more to read the words of the Tempter.
- Help the group to explore this story where Jesus goes off on his own to do some soul-searching and, in a sense, confront his own demons.
- The journey Jesus takes into the desert — the journey to be alone with God and to seek God’s guidance about our true identity — is the journey we are all invited to focus on during Lent.
Going Deeper – Small Groups
- Divide into small groups of 4 or 5. Hand over the questions to discuss.
- Preferred pre-trained small group leads in every group who can lead the discussions.
- Questions to discuss (Use hand out)
- What do you think Jesus might have had to give up to go out in the wilderness by himself?
- The things the Tempter offers him are not intrinsically bad: food in a time of hunger, political power in a time of Roman oppression, a leap of faith. So why do you think Jesus resists these temptations?
- What memories do you have of times you faced choices that at the time seemed like good ideas but ultimately led you in an unhealthy or unfaithful direction?
- Share what you do when you want time alone to think/pray/reflect. Where do you go? What do you do?
- What might be the benefit of spending time in Lent examining your life, considering your sins, thinking about what God wants for you?
- Invite the group to gather in a circle and facilitate reflections from each group (asking one or two members about what they discussed in the small group).
For this time of worship, go to a quiet space (if not inside the church), place a cross and two candles arranged on the center table, and invite the group to gather in a circle.
There was a time when you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Well then, live as children of light. Light produces every kind of goodness and justice and truth. Be correct in your judgment of what pleases the Lord. Take no part in vain deeds done in darkness; rather condemn them. Keep careful watch over your conduct. Do not act like fools, but like thoughtful people. Make the most of the present opportunity, for these are evil days.
- If you are using note cards or A4 paper, ask participants to draw a line down the center.
- Encourage youth to write down on one side (top) of the card something they will consider “giving up” during Lent (food, TV, internet, etc.) and on the other side something new they would like to take on during Lent that might help them connect more deeply with the experience of God in their daily lives (prayer, random acts of kindness, helping their parents, going to worship, reading the Bible, exercise, etc.).
- Encourage youth to write down at least three plans/ strategies for prayer on the other side (bottom) of the note card
- Encourage youth to write down at least three plans for sharing/ charity on the other side (bottom) of the note card
- Encourage youth to write down at least two changes you want to see at the time of Easter
- Once they are through with the contract, encourage youth to keep the contract/ note cards and place them somewhere that they will see them daily in the coming weeks of Lent.
- Briefly describe how to track observation of Lent using the calendar
- Read the gospel portions in the morning and evening as per the church lectionary
- Color the cross each day; for example, if you said an extra prayer color/ mark the cross GREEN; if you helped someone, color PURPLE and so on. The instructions are given on the calendar.
Finally, place their completed masks in the center beneath the CROSS as an offering to God of both their inner- and outer-selves.
Conclude with a prayer of confession and assurance of pardon (Use spontaneous prayers or Prayer of Repentance/ Maudhonuso prayer given in the handouts.)
- “Prayer Services for Teens.” Published by Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT (800.321.0411)
- Brian Kirk, Ideas for Lent cf. Rethinking Youth Ministry Blog