If you’re like me, Holy seasons are always a difficult time. Usually the church is at it’s busiest and I’m not only striving to focus my own spiritual life but also provide new and relevant experiences for my youth.
If you haven’t tried these spiritual disciplines below allow me to suggest incorporating them into this Lenten season.
Fasting is an ancient practice used to focus our bodies and minds on Christ. I realize you can fast from many different things but I would like to encourage you to choose something difficult. If you find yourself saying, “There’s no way I could live without *blank*” then that’s probably what you need to give up. Don’t cop out by choosing something easier. It’s supposed to be hard. Whenever you think about whatever you’re fasting from, redirect that longing to God. Train yourself to focus your mind and heart on Christ not the wants of this earthly life. Invite your students to fast alongside you. Not only will they grow closer to God but they will also grow closer together as they support and encourage one another.
Take time to pray and read Scripture without the pressure of planning a Bible Study or writing a lesson. Give yourself permission to re-read verses. Spend time with just a few verses and read them over and over. Each time emphasize a different word or phrase. Pray in between each reading and ask God’s Spirit to speak to you in a new and powerful way. Teach students this exercise. Consider giving them 10-15 minutes before every Bible study to meditate on the text for the night.
I first walked a labyrinth five years ago and it was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. There is something about the calming nature of a labyrinth that God uses to teach me every time I walk one. To be clear, a labyrinth is not a maze. There are no tricks. There is one way in and one way out. The rythymic walking and turning has actually been shown scientifically to put your mind in the same stage as it is right before you fall asleep. Your brain activity slows down, your heart beat slows, and your blood pressure lowers. When you reach the middle, physiologically and spiritually you often feel relaxed and focused. When I walk a labyrinth I also always learn something new about my self. If I’m feeling anxious, often I find myself rushing through the exercise. If I’m insecure, I’ll find myself racing other walkers and comparing myself to their pace. It’s always an incredibly refreshing experience that you must try at least once. Try to plan a time for your youth to walk a labyrinth. Typically you can find labyrinths in churches that are more liturgical (Catholic, Episcopal, Anglican, etc.). Ask around and you should be able to find one close to where you are. If not you can always Google search a labyrinth design and make your own.
The Taizé Community is an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. It is composed of about 100 brothers who come from Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions. The brothers come from about 30 countries across the world. The monastic order has a strong devotion to peace and justice through prayer and meditation. This meditation is led by chants that are repeated with varying layers of harmonies overlapping. The chorus’ are easy to learn and sing and, much like a labyrinth, the repetitive nature of the music leave the brain relaxed and focused. Fight the urge to get bored with the song. Instead, meditate on the words and allow yourself to enjoy the presence of God. Try putting together a Taize service for your youth. Light some candles and provide a distraction-free environment. You can find many different Taize videos on Youtube. Or if you have a guitar player and singer, you can find tabs and lyrics online also.
If there is one thing teens (and youth workers) don’t get enough of it’s silence. Try having a lesson in complete silence…I can hear you laughing right now. Here’s what you do. Put together a powerpoint presentation with simple instructions, texts, and questions. Play the Power Point presentation during your youth time and encourage the students to follow along in silence. Having them spread out to find their own space can also help with their participation. I’ve only done this a handful of times but it’s always been a success.
Which of these do you think you’ll try this Lenten season?
Are the other practices that you have done in the past that you’d like to share?