Maintaining Our Lenten Sacrifices: Staying Committed for the Entire Season

Maintaining Our Lenten Sacrifices: Staying Committed for the Entire Season

The season of Lent is a significant and substantial part of the church liturgical year. For a month and a half, pastors ask parishioners to prepare for Easter by focusing on self-reflection, repentance, sacrifice, prayer, almsgiving and other faith practices.

Maintaining our Lenten sacrifices requires long-haul devotion and perseverance. As with New Year’s resolutions, we tend to fall short of our Lent-related commitments. When that occurs near the beginning of the season, we might be tempted to abandon our efforts altogether.

That’s one reason congregants need to hear messages of grace, not guilt, throughout the holy season of Lent. Instead of legalistic admonitions, ministers can offer words of encouragement, forgiveness, strength and renewal.

The reflective, 40-day Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday with somber reminders of our sinfulness and mortality. By tradition, many churches (not just Catholic parishes) encourage people to make some type of sacrifice or penance during Lent. The exact nature isn’t important and doesn’t need to be publicized. Instead, this practice is an opportunity for humble reflection.

Mirroring the 40 days that Jesus Christ was tempted in the desert, Lent is a time to rely on God for spiritual nourishment. Fasting from an earthly appetite or habit is an effective reminder of what our Savior endured for us.

Whether someone gives up meat or fasts from social media during Lent can stay between that person and God. But the communal experience of making penitential sacrifices can unite a faith community. The collective commitment of observing Lent together has a profound impact on people’s faith journeys.

Any type of abstinence, no matter the vice, can be challenging to uphold. What percentage of your congregants have given up entirely by week 2? By week 5? Maybe they quickly failed by eating an entire pint of mocha chip ice cream. Or maybe they took a quick peek at Facebook, or binged a whole season of “Yellowstone” in one sitting.

Does a busted halo mean someone must now wait until next year’s Lenten observance to start over? Or can people renew their Lenten commitments daily?

Use these ideas to help church members keep their eyes on the heavenly prize during the sacred season of Lent.

Ideas for Maintaining Our Lenten Sacrifices

Pastors play a key role in supporting the flock as people strive to honor the spirit of Lent. Start with these suggestions:

1. Provide accountability and unity through spiritual opportunities.

Lent is an ideal time to have small groups, Bible studies and prayer partners in place. Church members can share their struggles and needs in those supportive environments. Plus, people can keep each other accountable and provide encouragement along the way.

Holding weekly Lenten services or vigils is a common practice during Lent. Themed midweek gatherings, often with special liturgies, unite Christians in meaningful ways. Times for prayer, introspection, confession and corporate forgiveness build up parishioners’ faith.

Hosting midweek dinners or soup suppers during Lent is another way to bring the church body together — and to encourage families to attend worship after eating. Make Wednesdays during Lent a highlight of the church calendar by providing activities for children as well.

2. Offer visual reminders and resources.

Symbols are effective methods for remembering and maintaining our Lenten sacrifices. Perhaps you can distribute small crosses as keepsakes. Or print postcards featuring Scripture and a Lenten symbol, such as Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Your church might want to adapt the practice of Stations of the Cross, setting up areas throughout the sanctuary or church building for prayer and reflection. Participating in traditions and rituals helps connect believers in a congregation and throughout the world. These religious traditions deepen the significance of Lent and contribute to the season’s communal experience.

Many people appreciate special resources geared toward the Lenten season. Hand out a Bible reading plan for families or a booklet of Lenten devotions, perhaps provided by your denomination.

Another way to help people stay faithful to their Lenten commitments is by providing almsgiving options. Making sacrificial donations to a charity reflects the compassionate, giving nature of Christ. Distribute zippered baggies or envelopes and instruct families to collect the money they’d normally use for coffee, treats or entertainment. That visible reminder of giving up something for a cause embodies the selflessness and generosity at the heart of Lent and our Christian faith.

3. Remind people about their clean slate.

Instead of focusing on failures and shame during Lent, emphasize the blessings of penance, grace and forgiveness. Share with worshipers the biblical concept of a fresh start, which is always available to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Lent is a time not just of commitment but of recommitment. Like our daily human life, it is an opportunity to repent of wrongdoing, adjust our attitudes and move forward in faith.

Spending time in daily prayer and reading God’s Word are essential to forgetting our missteps and remembering our clean slate. To help congregants grow closer to God during Lent, remind them to acknowledge their sins and then forget them, just as our heavenly Father does. God, who sacrificed his only Son for our sake, provides strength from the Holy Spirit so we can endure and start over.

St. Paul, who once fervently persecuted Christians, admitted he was unworthy to be called an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:9). Yet he didn’t let his scandalous past become an obstacle to new life as a Christ-follower. In Philippians 3:13, Paul writes, “One thing I have laid hold of: forgetting what lies behind.”

4. Encourage people to press on during Lent.

In verse 14, Paul continues: “I press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Setting our eyes on Jesus and the victory he won for us through his death and resurrection makes Lent a hope-filled time.

The end goal is in sight, even though we haven’t yet finished the race. Help church members keep that goal in mind, despite the challenges and temptations they may face while trying to complete their Lenten journey.

Include messages of grace, reconciliation and hope in your Lent sermons. By focusing on what lies ahead, preachers can highlight the transformative power of Lent and Easter. Teaching people about the example Jesus set can spur listeners to walk in his steps day-by-day.

Lent is more than just a season. It can be a way of life for believers during the 40-day journey and beyond. Integrating prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving into daily routines creates habits for faith growth and Christian witness. So, encourage congregants to persevere with their individual Lenten sacrifices, no matter how difficult — or how often they slip up. Through personal and corporate renewal, God uses the season of Lent to draw us closer to him and to our church body.

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Stephanie Martin

Stephanie Martin, a freelance writer and editor in Denver, has spent her entire 30-year journalism career in Christian publishing. As senior editor of The Newsletter Newsletter and, she helps church administrators with their communication needs. Stephanie also covers current events from religious angles at She loves the Word and words, is a binge reader and grammar nut, and recently fulfilled a dream by appearing on Jeopardy! (She came in second.)

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