For many Christians Lent is a time to give up bad habits, but this year the youth at King Moravian Church are using it as a chance to give back as well.
“There are things you can give up, but there are also things you can take up to make the community a better place,” said youth director Paula Hall.
This year she is challenging the youth to think about how they can spend Lent giving back to the community.
“Some of you may begin finding inspirational post-it notes in bathrooms around town,” she wrote in a recent Facebook post. “Some of you may get random hugs when you least expect it. Some of you will see less selfies and more faces. Some of you will get special notes, candy bars, & compliments just because. Some of you will see us dropping off bags of stuff we don’t wear anymore at King Outreach. And all of YOU will be prayed for.
“Lent is more than just giving up chocolate or soda,” she said last Thursday. “It is not just about giving something up. We really focus on ways they can grow a deeper relationship with God and deepen their faith. This year I found a new approach. We sat down at the table together and I offered 20 ideas of things they could do.”
She said one of the most interesting parts of the list had to do with using cell phones.
“They all admitted to checking their phone more than 20 times a day,” said Hall. “I told them when you spend that kind of time on your phone you are not engaging with the people around you, I challenged them to only use their phone fie times a day and was surprised that there some of them struggling with that.
“We talked about how Lent was not a time to be comfortable,” she added. “It is a season to stir us and to shake us and to make a change that makes us better people. We talked about how they could do that personally by better engaging with the people around them.”
Hall challenged her youth group to do some traditional Lent activities like cleaning out a closet to find things to donate to King Outreach Ministries.
“We talked about KOM changes those clothes into money that can be used to buy heat for somebody,” she said. “We don’t think about those things weighing us down being able to pay for somebody’s heat but it can.”
But Hall also offers some unusual challenges, like stop taking selfies and instead taking pictures of people you respect and use social media to thank them.
“Take a picture of the teacher who really helped you,” she said. “Or take a picture of mom and dad and use social media as a way to say thank you and celebrate them.”
She also challenged the youth to write inspirational sayings or bible quotes on post-it notes and put them on mirrors or stalls in bathrooms throughout the city. Another interesting challenge involved cursing.
“How would it be if every time you cursed, instead of doing something like putting money into a jar, instead you went up to a stranger and asked to shake their hand or give them a hug,” she said. “These are all things that make us uncomfortable, but can make our world a better place.”
She said the youth at her church were great at giving back in a big way during the summer and during the Mission Blitz in the fall, but she wanted to use Lent as a time to focus on the smaller everyday issues.
“What about the little stuff that carries a big impact?” she asked. “It is the random day to day stuff that we need to be better at.”
Hall invited the entire community to participate in the Lent challenges.
“I also want to invite everyone to our Crosswalk on Good Friday, March 25 at 11 a.m.,” she said. “Everyone meets in our sanctuary for a short prayer then we take turns carrying a large wooden cross in silence through the middle of town to the Moravian God’s Acre. We erect the cross in the graveyard and have a short devotional there. The long silence is a time for deep personal introspection, reflection and prayer. It has become more of a community event and lots of community people have joined us in recent years.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.