Fasting is the spiritual discipline of abstaining from food or drink for spiritual purposes. It allows us to remove distraction, focus on God’s blessings or callings, and develop the discipline of training our minds and our bodies. (I highly recommend Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline for an in-depth study and application of fasting and other spiritual disciplines.) Jesus (Luke 4), Daniel (Daniel 10), and Esther (Esther 4) are all Biblical examples of fasting, so we know it can be an important part of our faith journey.
But what about kids? Should kids fast?
While I don’t recommend kids fasting from meals, there are safe ways kids can develop the discipline of fasting. Fasting is all about sacrifice, about giving something up so that something else can take its place as a priority or consuming thought in our lives. It’s a way we empty ourselves of our own desires and distractions that keep us from God and let Him fill us up. It’s a way we grow in our dependence on Him and in our faith.
When teaching kids about fasting or leading them through a time of fasting…
- Give up something tangible and desired. Whether it’s their favorite drink, favorite snack, time on the tablet, a video game, or their favorite tv show, invite kids to give up something they will miss.
- Teach them the spiritual purpose of fasting. I don’t recommend encouraging a child to fast for the purpose of losing weight, earning money, or counting up points or gold stars on a chore chart or similar item. Fasting should be God-centered and God-focused, with no rewards for completing the fast. What goes on spiritually during a time of fasting is more important than what goes on physically.
- Provide an alternative. Instead of just giving something up, encourage kids to spend that time allowing God to fill them up with something to help them grow in Him. Maybe during the time they’d usually watch their favorite tv show, they read their Bible instead. Or maybe when they are eating carrot sticks instead of their favorite snack, they can pray.
Here’s a free download that will give kids a fun and tactile way to fast using solo cups and ideas for giving up and filling up. This activity gives kids a tangible object or activity to sacrifice (#1) AND provides an alternative (#3) that helps them draw nearer to God.
(Psst – to help kids understand the spiritual purpose of fasting (#2), check out the Fasting for Kids Lesson in the DKM Marketplace!)