40 Things to Give Up for Lent
During the season of Lent (starting with Ash Wednesday and ending the Thursday before Easter), many people commit to sacrificing something as a reminder of the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. This list includes ideas for encouraging others during the days of Lent.
Give Time to Bless Others
- The Gift of Remembering - Handwritten notes are meaningful to both the person on the receiving end and the giver. Set aside time on the weekend or every other day to jot a handwritten note. It can be a simple, happy memory of the person or a letter of appreciation.
- Encouragement Texts - If snail mail isn’t your thing, then take the time to text one person a day and thank them for blessing your life. It can even be an old acquaintance you haven’t thought about in years, but you see them on social media. Give up your time to send them a small text of thanks and you will find that the blessing goes both ways.
- Chores for Others - If you are the head of the household, challenge family members to take up the burdens of other family members. Organize family members with a SignUpGenius page and make slots for chores. Examples include gathering all the laundry for mom on weekends, taking out the trash for dad on Tuesdays or cleaning up the toy room for younger siblings on Sunday nights. Having them commit “in writing” is especially motivating.
- Sticky Note Sentiments - Write a sentence of thanks each day on a sticky note and put in on a family member’s bedroom door or a coworker’s computer screen. By Easter, they will have an abundance of appreciation to look at for encouragement!
- Power Up Prayer - Harness the power of accountability to focus daily prayer time during Lent. Send out a SignUpGenius page to family members or a small group. Ask them to commit to 15-minute increments of praying for a country of the world, mission organization, a mutual friend or family member in need of extra prayer.
- Days of Saving - Keep a “Giving Up IOU” note in your phone where you write down each time you forgo buying something extra for yourself. Maybe it is a coffee on the way to work, a vending machine item you get every day at work or a treat you would normally grab at the store. Each time, write down the dollar amount of the item that you are giving up. At the end of Lent, total up the money and give that amount to a church or local charity.
- Pass on Primo Parking - During the days of Lent, bypass any perfect parking spots when you can (and are physically able) and leave them for someone else, especially on busy weekends. Use the extra walking time to pray for those who are less fortunate or ill.
- Thank You Challenge - When a family member or co-worker does something to lighten your load, be intentional about saying, “thank you.” Give away as much gratitude as possible and watch your appreciation of those around you grow.
- Lenten Learning - An excellent series of books called “Christian Heroes: Then and Now” is a great tool for learning about heroes of the faith across the years and denominations. Use the time before Easter to read these together with family or explore your Lenten learning by reading biographies of the faithful.
- Honoring Elders - Ask your church secretary or pastor for suggestions of elderly church members who may be too ill to attend services or would enjoy an uplifting visit. Set aside an evening or two during the weekends of Lent and bring by freshly arranged flowers and a meal.
Organize a Lent service project for your youth group with a sign up. SAMPLE
- First Look of the Day - Is grabbing your phone your first impulse each morning? For Lent, try getting up and stretching, grabbing a glass of water or choosing an encouraging devotional or gratitude journal as your first look of the day (the Bible is always a great first look, too). You may find that this steers you in a positive direction.
- Take a Headphone Break - Instead of popping in headphones in class or at work, give up “tuning out,” and be intentional about “tuning in.” Start up a conversation with someone new around you.
- Fasting from Binge Watching - If you find your television gluing you to the couch for hours at a time, be intentional about breaking the binge during Lent. Use a kitchen timer or phone alarm to remind you to get up after an episode and take a walk, call a friend or do a chore you have been putting off.
- App Swap - If you obsess over a social media app, consider deleting it and adding a devotional app with daily inspiration and reflection topics in its place. If you won’t completely let yourself remove the app, move it to an obscure location on your home screen and commit to only checking it once a day or once a week.
- Prop Up Productivity - During Lent, keep your phone in a drawer or your bag and leave it on airplane mode for a portion of your day. You will break the habit of looking at it when there are no incoming calls or messages. Instead choose a time of quiet reflection or get ahead of your workload.
- Snap Out of Negativity - It may be time to break away from negativity and snapping back at people. Focus on the words that come out of your mouth and your body language. Try only posting things on social media that are inspiring or encouraging for the month, focus less on you and more on others.
- No Scroll Policy - Instead of scrolling endlessly through social media, adopt a “no scroll” policy during Lent by setting time limits. This allows you to check for personal messages, but then end your session if there are no messages that need your attention. If you can’t completely shut down technology, no scroll may be a good option to try.
- Paper vs. Digital - Many folks increase church attendance during Lent which is great, but if scripture is mentioned, it’s all too easy to take out your phone and get distracted by checking your grocery list or glancing at the score of the game. Challenge yourself to take your physical Bible with you to church in an effort to focus solely on the messages of the season.
- Connect with Tech - Instead of banning TV altogether, agree to engage and give up using phones or other technology during movie- or TV-watching. Host a weekly family/friend movie night and agree to set time aside to talk about what’s going on, exchange some friendly banter and even pause during the movie for snack breaks or to ask questions.
- Open Tab Policy - Do you obsessively check your email inbox or social channels? Consider leaving your email messages open in a browser tab while you work, so that you see any notifications right away. INC.com suggests that if you leave your email inbox and social media open while you work you may recognize that you don’t get that many urgent messages through those channels and check them less often.
Coordinate usher volunteers with a sign up. SAMPLE
Give Up Habits that Bring You Down
- Snap Criticism - Try this trick: put a rubber band on your wrist during the days of Lent and every time you criticize a family member, yourself or the person at work that annoys you the most, give it a snap to remind yourself that you are giving up criticism for Lent. Exchange negativity for positivity and watch your mindset change.
- Trade Obsess for Bless - Commit the last few minutes before you drift off to sleep counting your blessings and being thankful. Give up obsessing about your to-do list or worrying about things you can’t control.
- Fear for Faith - Copy out a verse-a-day that addresses faith instead of fear (like Deuteronomy 31:8) and put them on a key or binder ring and carry them with you everywhere. When fear or fretting strike, hold yourself accountable to take out your ring and pray through a verse each day to help you give up fear and embrace faith.
- Sacrifice the Snooze - If you are someone who struggles with overusing the snooze button, challenge yourself to get up the first time the alarm goes off and forego the snooze button for Lent.
- Break Down Barriers - Do you sense it’s time to open yourself up to new experiences and/or new people? It might be time to give up isolation, starting small with the season of Lent. Trying a new activity, joining a small group, volunteering at church or joining a book club are just a few ideas for to giving up loneliness as Easter approaches.
- Fashion Forward - Scrambling for what to wear can leave you frustrated and running late. Commit to planning your next day’s outfit the night before (and take pictures so you can remember favorite combinations) to free up your mornings. You will have more time to breathe, pray and get ready for your day.
- Day of Rest - Use these weeks to add in a day of rest and tell yourself, “I don’t need to work, God is at work.” Begin by intentionally doing work the day before or waiting until the day after and spend the entire day resting, doing activities you enjoy and practicing the presence of God.
- Swear No More - If anger or frustration brings out the worst in your vocabulary, give it up for Lent. Try to replace frustrated explosions of anger at spills and accidents at home with a deep breath and remind yourself of the loving way God handles our messes.
- Compare No More - Break away from destructive comparison by heightening awareness of situations that magnify the tendency to compare (not just online, but in social situations, too). Be intentional for the season of Lent to turn instead to thankfulness (write it down even), accept that which isn’t perfect and give yourself a pat on the back for steps you are taking to grow.
- Thought Swap - Is there a situation, person, or even negative self-talk that crosses your mind too often? Lent is a great time to swap out negative or useless thinking. Using an easily memorized prayer like the Lord’s prayer (and saying it over and over till the thought passes) is an easy way to turn from sadness or a discouraging situation and put yourself back in the present moment and moving ahead.
Give the gift of meal delivery to someone with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Coffee for Water - During Lent, trade in your morning coffee for a glass of water and say a prayer for those in the world experiencing a water shortage or limited access to drinking water.
- Snacks for Silence - If you enjoy an afternoon or before bed snack, use Lent as a time to give up the snack and instead have a moment of silence, praying for those who are hungry today in your community. If you usually splurge on a vending machine item, use the money you’ve saved and put it in the offering at church on Easter Sunday.
- Silverware for Chopsticks - Give up using traditional silverware and instead eat with chopsticks or your hands, as they do in many third world countries. Use the meal time to talk with friends and family about Lent and what observing it means to you.
- Buy Two, Give One - You can encourage generosity with this idea and help your community as well. As you shop for groceries, buy two of everything non-perishable (or more!) and donate the second item to a local food pantry. You can get kids involved with reminding you to get two and make it a family affair!
- Break Bread Together - If you tend to take lunch at your desk, use the season of Lent to invite a coworker or friend for a once-a-week (or more) meal together. Bring bagged lunches and sit outside in the (hopefully) spring weather to enjoy a meal together. If the weather doesn’t cooperate then meet in a common space in your office.
- Pantry Party - Invite neighbors to a Lenten feast using a SignUpGenius invite and ask each to bring either an appetizer, side, main dish or dessert. The catch that they need to use ingredients that they already have in their pantry (as much as possible) as a way to acknowledge the blessing of provision and sharing with others.
- Fast from Fast Food - Don’t just give up fast food, commit to “slow” food for Lent. If you find yourself rarely connecting with a friend or family member during meal times, commit to being present with someone while you eat. For families, pack paper sack dinners for the car and have a “parking lot picnic.” Talk to one another instead of running through the drive-thru to eat quickly on the way to activities.
- Drink in Peace - While alcohol in moderation is meant for enjoyment, it can become a dependency when we count on it to bring us peace. Consider fasting from alcohol during Lent and drinking water or tea instead. Ask God to give you real and lasting peace that can only come from a relationship with Him.
- Plan More, Waste Less - If you have found yourself trashing a lot of food because you have overbought or under-planned (or both), use this time to plan well-balanced meals. Be intentional to consume fruits and veggies right away, make smaller batches so there are fewer leftovers (or make things that can be frozen later).
- Downsize the Sweets - We often hear of people completely giving up chocolate for Lent, but for some that can feel extreme. What about downsizing and putting out a few chocolate chips or a small drop of chocolate each day? Maybe the symbolism of the sacrifice will feel more lasting as you create a positive habit of sugar in moderation and may consider extending it beyond the season.
Sacrifice during Lent is about being intentional and staying committed. Use these ideas to approach the season in a new way, re-energize your relationship with God, and experience lasting change that positively impacts you — and others — during Lent, and beyond.
Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She currently leads a small group of high school junior girls.