Creative Ways to Engage Teenagers in the Lenten Experience

March 25, 2014
By: 
Shannon Kelly

Today’s guest blogger is Mary Lou Crifasi, Director for Youth & Children’s Ministries at Eastern Shore Chapel in Virginia. Mary Lou serves on the Lifelong Formation Council.

As Episcopalians we recognize Lent as a time of “self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” (BCP, pg 265)

We try to impress upon our teenagers that these are important ways to observe the season of Lent. But most of the youth in my program find it difficult to follow any of these disciplines on their own. They like doing things in community where they can share ideas and encourage each other. So every Lent I try to find ways that youth can gather together to observe a Holy Lent. Plenty of curricula, programs and service projects are available but sometimes we just want some unique ideas. Here are just a couple of our practices:

Journey with Jesus

EucharistWe have a youth lock-in called Journey with Jesus. We usually focus on a parable such as the Great Banquet or the Prodigal Son. The youth rotate through activities that center on the theme – mask making, prayer beads, movement, music, etc. We have great discussions about belief, temptations and prayer.

We also prepare for a midnight Eucharist. Some youth chose to be part of a chancel drama and others opt to be in the kitchen where we bake communion bread. Our Eucharist is led by the youth. During communion we share our fresh baked bread and wine but also olives, grapes and cheese – it is an Agape feast.

Our Journey with Jesus is a good way for us to have a time of self-examination, prayer and meditating on God’s holy Word in community.

Multimedia Storytelling

Trust-HolyWeekThis year we are exploring a new idea – digital storytelling. We have looked at video clips from Videos for Your Soul and YouTube. We have talked about the stories they tell and the messages they give.

Most recently we have borrowed an idea from the youth at St. Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas. In Advent they published daily photos on Instagram that included simple words of inspiration. Teens are “digital natives” and this includes digital cameras. My teens love taking photos and we have been collecting them and determining the best inspirational message for each one. We are starting small. During Holy Week we will publish a daily photo on our Facebook and Instagram sites. This is a way for youth to share their Lenten reflections with the whole church community.

By incorporating social media, digital photography and community, my youth are developing their own spiritual practices and unique ways to have a meaningful Lent.

What are some creative ways you have discovered to engage teenagers in the Lenten experience? Share your stories in the comments below.

Lenten blessings!