I didn’t grow up observing Lent. We barely attended Easter services. And today, I still don’t attend a liturgical church. But my views on observing Lent and celebrating Easter have changed. Over the last few years, I’ve made an effort to celebrate the season, and I’ve learned a lot about God in the process. Regardless of your background or the type of church you attend, there is great benefit in observing the church calendar this time of year—especially with your small group.
Lent is a season of fasting, waiting, and reflecting. It prepares our hearts by casting out the excess and focusing solely on God. As we’re convinced of his goodness and greatness over the 40 days of Lent, we are able to celebrate Easter in a new way: fully, freely, and fervently.
Here are some simple ideas you can incorporate into your small group to celebrate the season together:
Read a Lent Devotional. Encourage your group members to read a Lent devotional this season. I highly recommend Lent Meditations for its short, simple readings and daily questions. For something a little more in-depth, yet still very accessible, check out Lent For Everyone by N.T. Wright available in the YouVersion Bible app. Group members can read these plans on their own and discuss what they’re learning with the group each week.
Choose a Lent or Easter Bible Study. We have several great studies to choose from including Rediscovering Lent and Leading to Easter: Searching the Soul. Help your group focus on this important season by using a new study for a few weeks.
Fast Together. Fasting is all about saying no to something good to make room for the best thing: God. After reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker a few years ago, I’ve chosen to fast from various things in different seasons. The book opens up fasting to include a lot more than just food, which is healthy and appropriate. Last Lent, my small-group members each decided to fast from something and see what God would do. You could do a similar experiment with your group this Lent.
Spend a Meeting in Prayer. One way to observe the waiting and seeking of Lent is to seek God through prayer. Set aside your study for a meeting and spend the time praying for one another, your church, your community, and our world. Focus the time however you’d like. Bring a list of prayer items or compile one when you’re together. Focus on the needs of your church or community, or zero in on the needs in your group. Use this great prayer activity that focuses on the cross, or create your own prayer activity with these tips from Bill Donahue.
Focus on Jesus’ Mission. Easter is foundational to Jesus’ mission. He came to begin ushering in the kingdom, and he calls each of us to carry on that mission now. Discuss what your group can do to carry out Jesus’ mission in your community. Find time in this season to serve together or build relationships with people who are far from God.
Do a Children’s Activity. Many small groups have children, but they usually aren’t involved in the study or discussion time. This season, set aside time to be with the kids and do a fun activity that shares the message of Easter. A quick search on Pinterest reveals lots of ideas. A few of my favorites are making Empty Tomb Rolls, telling the Easter story with plastic eggs, or praying with jelly beans.
Learn about Passover. Unless you are of Jewish heritage, most Christians don’t make the connection between Passover and Easter. Passover, though, is the meal that Jesus’ disciples were eating at the Last Supper. Do some research on this Jewish holiday and discover how it connects with Easter. If you’ve never experienced a Passover Seder, learn how you can experience one in your area or put one on for your small group. You’ll be inspired when you see how much of the Passover symbolism points directly to Jesus.
Discuss New Life in Christ. Easter is the perfect time to reflect on the new life we have in Christ. Look up verses that talk about how God is making things new. You might also spend time sharing stories of how God has given you new life in the last year.
Celebrate Together. If we truly believe Easter is foundational to our faith, shouldn’t we celebrate abundantly? Throw a party for your group that celebrates Christ’s resurrection. Sing songs, make a cake, and share stories of how God has transformed and healed group members. Celebrate the power we have available to us as a result of Jesus’ resurrection (Ephesians 1:19–20). Reflect on how observing Lent has allowed you to celebrate Easter with more joy.
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.