We are entering the Lenten season; and for some, that means a season of reflection and sacrifice; for others, fish on Fridays. For some, it may mean nothing.
When I lived in Seattle, Lent was not a season of the church year; it was the stuff you found in your dryer and belly button. When I moved to Cincinnati, I discovered that in some places, Lent is a big deal. Even the fast-food places know something different happens in the weeks before Easter. They all advertise Lenten fish specials on their marketing efforts.

The 40 days of Lent give us time to reflect on the path Jesus took to Jerusalem, His death on the cross for us, and ultimately, to the joy of His resurrection.

Small Group Ideas
• Lent/Lint Brush Confessional: Pass around a lint brush or roller. Encourage group members to use it while asking Jesus to remove the junk that has collected in their lives, to remove the dirt and clean them up. Jesus longs to remove all the “lint” from your life (Isaiah 1:181 John 1:9).

• Rocks, Sand and Sponges: Gather a large bowl of water, bowl of sand, rocks of various shapes and sizes, sponges (from a dollar store, which can be cut in half or quartered if you have a large group).

Ask students: How is your heart? How are you feeling about your relationship with Jesus? Do you feel dry like sand? Does your heart feel hard like a rock? Do you feel like a sponge ready to absorb all God has for you? Maybe you have dried out and need some living water?

Instruct students to pick up one or more of the symbols. Tell them: Talk to God about what you chose. When ready, put your object into the water and ask Jesus, the living water, to refresh you (John 7:36-38 Isaiah 43:18-20).

• Carry Your Cross: Have students make crosses out of Popsicle sticks. Use yarn to tie the center together. Hand out Sharpie markers. Say: As you make your cross, consider Jesus’ words: “You must take up your cross and follow Me. If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.”

Carry this cross during Holy Week. On Easter, place it at the foot of a larger cross and give it to Jesus as a commitment to carry your cross, or a symbol of giving your burdens/sins to Him. Or, write the things that make it hard for you to follow Jesus on your cross.

Talk to Jesus about following Him and where you really are. Place your cross at the foot of the big cross and give it all to Jesus (Luke 9:22-24 Matthew 16:23-25).

• Doubts and Hang-Ups: Hand out clothes hangers (white plastic or wire hangers covered in paper) and black Sharpie markers. Say: Thomas had doubts. How about you? Do you have any doubts or hang-ups when it comes to Jesus or His resurrection?

Write these doubts, fears, questions—all your hang-ups—on the hanger. Talk to Jesus about them. He is not afraid of your doubts, questions or any of the issues or hang-ups you might have. When you are ready, give these hang-ups to Jesus. Let Him have your questions, doubts and fears. Lay them at the foot of the cross. Spend some time thanking Him for taking these things and holding them for you.

You may think of additional activities you can do to help your group enter Lent, a holiday that is central to the Christian experience.

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