Walking with your congregation through Lent can feel slightly less marketable than welcoming them to an Advent study. There are fewer songs and more solemnity. And between spring break trips and snow days, Lent can become easy to skip altogether.
Yet Lent, much like Advent, focuses on preparation before celebration. Just as in Advent we gather to bring our expectations into the community, in Lent we gather to bring our inward examinations outward to build each other up and journey together.
Here are some resources for group study during the Lenten season.
The PC(USA)’s “Being Reformed” series, which offers six-week studies for adults on the foundations of the Reformed faith, offers “Illuminating Lent.” The six sessions of this study highlight Lenten themes and explore them in connection to the Lord’s Prayer. Each session reflects on a part of the Lord’s Prayer and its theological elements, and then discusses application and spiritual practice. Doctrinal themes, often considered too abstract by congregants, coupled with the familiar Lord’s Prayer enable this study to provide an accessible introduction to Lent.
Kerygma offers two studies on Lent. The first, “Hosanna: A Spiritual Journey Through Holy Week,” contains five sessions. It begins with Paul’s perspective on Jesus’ death and resurrection and then covers the four Gospel’s different renderings of Holy Week, providing fresh and complementary perspectives on a seemingly familiar story. The leader resource book offers helpful preparation guides and a DVD delivers an introduction from the author.
Kerygma’s second study, “Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy: The Bible and Brahms’ Requiem,” examines Brahms’ musical masterpiece on human frailty. The themes of this curriculum encourage participants to confront the topics of grief and death. Yet, grouped with the beautiful and haunting music of the Requiem, this seven-session study has the potential to encourage vulnerability in a non-threatening way, even as it draws participants from mourning towards hope.
N.T. Wright’s “Lent for Everyone” series is organized as a daily devotional, but can be modified to work as a group curriculum. Wright’s readings follow the lectionary and provide a structure for groups to reflect on during the week and then gather as a group to discuss. Wright’s accessible language naturally connects people from all backgrounds to the spiritual complexity of Lent. As many churches integrate digital community into their worship, Wright’s studies have been used as prompts for congregational blogs and online small group discussions.
Adam Hamilton’s “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus” can easily be used as a Lenten study. Its first five sessions focus on the different aspects of Jesus’ life, and the sixth session examines his final week. As with Hamilton’s other studies, this one contains a 10-15 minute DVD introduction for each session as well as a comprehensive leader’s guide with multiple options and ideas for leading group sessions. The devotional book “The Way: 40 Days of Reflection” is meant to be used alongside the study and provides a solid guide for daily spiritual practice between Ash Wednesday and Easter.
Carolyn C. Brown invites an intergenerational family of faith to participate in Lent with “Sharing the Easter Faith with Children.” Brown outlines both the difficulty and importance of teaching the messages of Lent and Easter to children and provides a developmental approach for congregations and families to follow. Brown’s 35 years in Christian education provide the foundation for her practical and theologically rich approach to including children of all ages in the Lenten journey. This resource includes telling the Easter story to children and resources for children and their adults.
Lent provides an opportunity to experience the strangeness of a church tradition not mainstreamed into contemporary culture. Inviting your congregation to journey together when the decorations and carols are gone and spring seems distant can be a radical witness to the other-ness of God and the perseverance of Christian community.
NINA SIMONE is in her final year studying Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and an Outlook intern.