Guest Post by
Sam Pettersen


The word Lent may bring different experiences to mind. Maybe some of you experienced the stuffier version of a traditional Lent that had no breathing room. Maybe it feels like a Bible Calendar that isn’t relevant to your walk. Or maybe you’ve experienced something profound that changed the landscape of your spiritual life. 

I’ve talked with youth workers across the nation and everyone has a different thought about the practice of Lent, but one thing we can all agree on is this: Our lives and our student’s lives are filled with chaos. Everyday there are several things that claw at our attention, and each distraction wants to be your priority. For you it could be your family, your ministry, your bills, or the latest Netflix original. For our students it could be their future, relationships, or school. 

These are just scratching the surface of what can distract us, and with distraction come the things that we run to in order to comfort us in the chaos. That’s where Lent comes in. Lent was never supposed to be 40-day bible study where you give up sugar and then binge eat at the end. Lent is an odyssey of self-discovery and reorienting our lives with the one who gives us life. Its not designed to just cut things out but to add value to how we live. I like that word: odyssey. Odyssey: an epic adventure filled with challenges that lead to character development. That’s what Lent should be: an epic adventure that leads us to be better followers. Its not designed to just cut things out but to add value to how we live. When handled effectively, Lent does 3 things for us:

1 // Lent Forms a Habit

Matt Cutts does an amazing Ted Talk called Try Something New for 30 Days and he notices that something amazing happens when he commits to trying something new for 30 days. Matt realizes that a habit is formed, and with that habit comes joy. Lent is an amazing season where we, as the church, can encourage this idea of forming new habits to make a better life. 

But its not enough to cut something out. If you give up playing video games for 30 days, you’ll probably just replace it with a new distraction like Netflix. Healthy habits come from subtracting distractions and adding disciplines that bring value to your life. Maybe its you giving up TV time and replacing it with family time. Maybe for your students it could be giving up one day a week and serving inside or outside the church. Out of Lent we can form healthy spiritual habits as well. Like when we run into trouble, where do you run for comfort? Is it Netflix, a pint of ice cream, or do you go to God?  Lent gives us the space to start healthy habits that will lead us to the next thing it adds: Confidence

2 // Lent Builds Confidence

When done right, with the right material, Lent can lead us to a greater spiritual confidence. In this time of self-evaluation, we gain strength in our understanding of who we are and how we can grow. Lent can do that, but it has to be done in a way that challenges us the right way. Remember, an odyssey builds character by presenting trials. A good Lent devotional has to have good challenges that lead to growth. These challenges can be self-reflection or even a challenge to live differently that week. When a student can meet a challenge’s demands they gain confidence. But in order for a student to gain confidence the challenge needs to be worth their attention, and it needs to be attainable. 

Its not enough to tell students to go read 40 different chapters of the bible. If we’re going to point students to scripture, it has to be relevant and attainable for them to gain confidence. One of my biggest pet peeves with devotionals is when they tell me to go read a verse and I can’t figure out how it had anything to do with the topic that day. I don’t like wasting my time, and when the challenge or intention isn’t clear, your students will tap-out and give up. 

The challenge must be achievable in a way that they can gain confidence no matter how spiritually mature we are. When the challenge isn’t feasible, students gain doubt in the place of confidence. Lent can give the framework to build spiritual confidence, but we have to give them the right material. When you give something up and add something in its place, there is satisfaction knowing that you did it. You can feel accomplished in what you’ve started, and that confidence can lead you to even bigger challenges and bigger expectations of God.

3 // Lent Makes Room for a Relationship

When you spend 30-40 days being challenged by God’s word and adding value to your life, you’ll find yourself in a new spiritual depth. Why? Because application will always bring understanding. Lent puts us in a place where we have to invite the Holy Spirit into our self evaluation. Its in this transparent process that God reveals where we’ve been struggling, and it shows us why we’ve been so exhausted. It forces us to apply what we’re reading, and out of application comes understanding. 

Its not enough to just read the Bible. Reading the bible will only make you smarter, and to students that can come off as shallow. When we’re put in a position to interact with God as a person, we shift from trying to gain more knowledge to wanting to know God more. Relationship is the key word here. Lent makes room for us to strengthen our relationship with the Creator.  Application will always lead to understanding, understanding will lead us back to application, and out of the two will come a deeper relationship with the Father.  

Come Alive in 40


I hope you can see how Lent could be a game-changer in your ministry. I’m not a traditionalist in any sense, but I can see the value of what God can do in your life, if you only gave Him those 40 days. I think that time could be the doorway to something even bigger in your student’s walk with Christ. That’s why I created “Come Alive in 40”. 

Come Alive in 40 is a devotional that is designed to take you on a spiritual odyssey. It doesn’t follow a liturgical calendar; instead it takes your students through 40 days of evaluation and challenges. This is a journey that will make you ask yourself, “Am I merely existing, or am I alive?” Because at the end of the day, there is a difference. The idea behind it all is to take you from your spiritual death, all the way to the death of Jesus. This is a journey that will embolden new believers and reinvigorate the more spiritually mature. I’ve seen student and adult ministries use this devotional and the response is usually the same: “This is the first study I’ve ever completed, and I can’t wait to do it again.” 

I believe this study has the power to start something great in your ministry, and if you’re still unsure check out the first 5 days for free

lent resources

Whether your church annually practices the observance of Lent or this is the first time you and your youth ministry are considering it, check out some great resources to stir-up life-change in the hearts of your students and revival in your ministry: Lent Resources.