Practicing Lent for Spiritual Leaders

Many of us as pastors and ministry leaders are at this very moment preparing to guide others into this most significant season of the church year. One of the great temptations of life in leadership is that we become so focused on leading others—it is our job, after all!—that we cease entering into these seasons of transformation for ourselves. We put off paying attention to the places where God is calling us to the rigors of self-examination and repentance.

There is no doubt that Lent requires something of us. But there can be no feasting without fasting. Entering into the Lenten discipline of giving up something in order to create more space for prayer is the fast that prepares us to fully enjoy the Feast of the Resurrection.  My prayer and my plea is that part of your preparation would be to consider your own Lenten disciplines and bravely ask God, “Where in my life do I need to acknowledge my humanness and renounce my sinfulness? What are the disciplines that will help me return to God with all my heart?”

Let us approach Lent, then, as an opportunity, not a requirement. Let us approach it as a joyful season.  “After all, it is meant to lead us into the church’s Springtime, a time when out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant empowered people emerges.” (Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter)

Journey with us Through Lent

Lent is just around the corner, and we are invited to enter this season as an opportunity to face more bravely the complexity of the human struggle for authentic transformation through greater surrender to God. To support this journey, we are launching a new season of the Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership podcast entitled, “Lent for Leaders: With God in the Wilderness.” Steve Weins returns with Ruth for conversations around self-examination bringing expertise and insight into various aspects of the transformational process. We will face different aspects of the human struggle honestly and bravely, seeking God’s help to transcend the false and live into the True.

On Good Friday, we will also be hosting a virtual Stations of the Cross prayer service with Ruth Haley Barton and the Transforming Center team. More details coming soon. Lastly, visit our online store for exclusive Transforming Resources for Lent for yourself and your congregations.

Ruth’s Top Five Book Recommendations for Lent


Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter—Penetrating readings from a variety of spiritual writers offers breadth and depth of insight on the themes of this season.  

Small Surrenders:  A Lenten Journey by Emilie Griffin—Short, simple reflections encourage us to move beyond the surface question, What are you giving up for Lent?, and to embrace small surrenders—“a series of large and small conversions, inner revolutions, that lead to our transformation in Christ.” 

The Way of the Heart by Henri NouwenIn his inimitable style, Henri Nouwen teaches us very practical ways to “fashion our own wilderness”—one of the great themes of Lent.  

Show Me the Way:  Readings for Each Day of Lent by Henri Nouwen—With simple and utterly human expressions of longing and need, Nouwen helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy as we enter into this holy season.  Especially if you are new to the practice of observing Lent, this is the guide book for you!

Eastertide: Prayers for Lent through Easter by Phyllis TickleWhatever disciplines we do or don’t choose for Lent, at the very least we need a way to pray. Taken from her larger work, The Divine Hours, this small, paperback volume provides fixed hour prayers to carry you prayerfully through the season of Lent. Don’t leave home without it!

Journey through Lent with words and music

Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder and chief essence officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
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