As I scanned through the updated CRS Rice Bowl App for Lent 2015, three ideas of how I could utilize this fantastic app with my teenage boys started to formulate.

While teens can be difficult to engage in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, tapping into their technology-focused lives may help plant the seeds for future development in those areas. Even small steps are forward progress.

Download the updated CRS Rice Bowl 2.0 app and consider the following three ideas:

1. Utilize the Tweeter Feed and Posting Features

Ask your teen to FOLLOW both CRS Rice Bowl (@CRSRiceBowl) and Pontifex (@Pontifex) (the Pope) on Twitter for Lent.  Use the Twitter content as part of your dinner conversation or as discussion points while traveling in the car.  Encourage your teen to RETWEET content or even to reply to the Pope’s Tweets.

2. Make a Pledge / Bribe a Teen

The cardboard ‘rice bowl’ boxes have been part of the Lenten landscape for 40 years.  Most of today’s Catholic teenagers grew up placing their loose change in the perfect coin sized hole on top, and then returning them to their parish at Easter.

Teens comprehend the charity aspect, but do they fully understand the sacrifice – the fasting component? The app’s ‘Today’s Sacrifice” feature provides a beautiful new dimension for teaching about this discipline of Lent.  This visual reminder that you are not just giving up a handful of coins, but that you are refraining (fasting) that day from your dessert at school or a pack of gum at the checkout is powerful.

Set a goal and then each day select your offering, be it a cup of coffee or a bottle of soda, then receive a “Thank You!” complete with a scripture verse or saint quote to ponder.

*As an aside, I do love the convenience of being able to submit my pledge right from my phone at the end of month – I am that person who never remembers to return the rice bowl.  I can even use my PayPal account, regardless of the method; it is nice to have this secure and easy payment option.

What about the bribe? That does sound a bit shifty, doesn’t it?  I am not above using financial reward for motivating my teenager to participate in something I know will have great benefits spiritually for them when they are not presently 100% convinced or interested.  The funny thing is, whenever I have done this in the past, both have blown me away by using their bounty to give even more to whatever cause we’ve been sacrificing or praying for.

This year, I will be offering a matching “pledge” to my sons for participating in the 40 days of Lent with me, particularly to ensure they partake in the last item on my list –

3. Let Someone Else Do the Talking

More specifically, allowing the Daily Reflections, Videos, and Stories of Hope abundantly and beautiful provided in the CRS Rice Bowl app to help teach my sons about the “poorest and most vulnerable” and open their hearts to want to respond with compassion and action.  The bribe quite honestly will be used to reinforce the odds my sons actually read the material.

In January, my husband began sending a group message each day with a scripture verse to our boys and myself.  It is fantastic that he sends it, and we learned early they had to be ONE line (think 140 character attention span) to even be considered readable.  They are good boys: we know each believes and we have brought them up soundly in the faith – however, they are still teenagers with many things vying for their social media attention.

Although this fabulous, free app has a convenient reminder feature, I know that without additional incentive, they may not faithfully read them.  We learned from our scripture messages that sending does not necessarily equal reading.

Enter the bribe – I mean matching donation.  What teenager doesn’t consider themselves a charity!  So each day I will match my pledge to CRS to my sons – and each day I will have a question ready regarding the reflection to see if they have earned it (that could be the homeschool mom in me too).  This will also provide a forum for me to discuss tithing, prudence, and fiscal responsibility with my sons after Easter (I bet I can find an app for that too)!

My responsibility to my children is to bring them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). This Lent, I am bringing together technology (CRS Rice Bowl App 2.0), the wise teaching of my faith on the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and a little creative parenting to nudge them down right path.

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Copyright 2015 Allison Gingras