Even though Lent is more than two months away, it’s already time to start thinking of ways to help your parishioners get the most out of it this coming year. From online reflection programs to gentle reminders on your social media feeds, following are five ways you can help your members navigate to a better relationship with Christ in 2020.
1. It All Starts With Commitment
If you want to truly make a change, you need to make a commitment. The same goes for your desire for a deeper relationship with God. It’s essential to think about ways to deepen your faith and then find a way that works for you in which to do so.
There are several personal reflection guides your parishioners can utilize this Lent. Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever are free email reflections, and new this year are Lent Reflections written by Bishop Robert Barron in book form. These reflections are easy-to-digest, quick but substantial reads that encourage people to examine their lives, find connection in Scripture, and achieve goals that will help strengthen their faith.
2. Strength In Numbers
They say if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with friends. A Lenten parish study group could be just what is needed to help parishioners strengthen their faith this year. Some popular and easy-to-run group Scripture studies include guides from Faith and Worship, Magnificat, and Concordia Publishing House.
While most of these have individual components to them, all include opportunities to pray and share in a group setting. And because they are designed with parishes in mind, most offer special bulk pricing when purchased in large quantities.
3. Prepare Your “House”
Is your parish ready for Lent? Think of creative ways to remind people of their Lenten journey throughout the parish, such as adding posters, prayer cards, and the color purple wherever it’s appropriate. Some parishes drape cloth around the altar and use simple branches, as well as bring out purple votive candles for people to add their special intentions.
Whichever way your parish decides to decorate, make it obvious to whomever comes through the door that this is a time of deep reflection, sacrifice, and opportunity to enhance their faith lives.
4. Remind Them Outside of Church
As much as we’d like to believe that most of our parishioners spend their time at the parish, the truth is that most of us only spend an hour or so a week there. With that being the case, we need to find a way to bring the light of Christ to them in the outside world. And one way to do this is through social media.
In 2018, an estimated 2.65 billion people were using social media worldwide, a number projected to increase to almost 3.1 billion in 2021. This huge number leaves parish leaders with a new challenge — finding a way to connect with their members using various social media platforms.
As we near Lent, make a schedule of the kinds of images and content your faith community would like to see. Perhaps it’s a quote a day from an inspiring saint or Catholic author or a small reflection to meditate on or a challenge to complete. If you’re looking for content, try WeCreate, LPi’s art and Catholic content platform that has everything you need to fill your social media accounts.
5. Bring Them Back to the Sacraments
So many times, our parishioners treat Mass like a drive-thru. They’re in and out quickly, fulfilling their Sunday obligation and not much else. Lent is a beautiful time to remind them of the beauty and grace that the Catholic Church offers in the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist in services such as the Stations of the Cross, and in prayers such as the rosary.
Many parishes add additional times to what they currently offer, such as more opportunities for Confession and Eucharistic Adoration. Be sure to choose times that would work for someone who might be busy at certain times. Instead of just offering Confession on Saturday afternoons, try offering it on Sunday mornings before Mass. Have Eucharistic Adoration take place in the afternoon and evenings during the week when people are driving home from work, or perhaps in the morning before little ones take naps.
Is your parish planning to completely revamp Lent this year? Tell us how in the comments!