Valentine’s Day happens on February 14 every year. In 2018, that day also happens to be Ash Wednesday.

These are two pretty different holidays. Valentine’s Day mostly involves excess—cheesy love songs, over-the-top romance and elaborate gifts. Conversely, Ash Wednesday is primarily about moderation. It marks the start of Lent, when most people give up something for 40 days.

Despite these differences, there is one similarity between these two days—love. Valentine’s Day revolves around romantic love. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of Christ’s sacrificial love for us.

What Does This Mean For The Church?

What is the church to do when one of our traditional Christian holidays falls on the same day as a flower-filled, Hallmark-driven, love-fest? This is actually a great opportunity to connect with those people in your community who don’t know about your church.

Ash Wednesday is an event some within the church know. For others, it’s a tradition that’s at least vaguely familiar. However, it’s not something those outside the church know at all.

The fact that these holidays fall on the same day gives us the chance to make a church tradition relevant to what society does. We have the chance to spread God’s love on a wider scale.

Connect Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day

  1. Combine your traditional Ash Wednesday service with a Valentine’s celebration; find a balance between the colorful Valentine’s decor and the humble trappings of Ash Wednesday
  2. Send out handwritten love notes to every house in a one-mile radius of your church—this could even be an opportunity to explain why we celebrate Ash Wednesday
  3. Partner with a local restaurant to give couples a discount on their date night meal if they mention your church’s name
  4. Host a relationship/marriage focused sermon series leading up to the big day that focuses on the humility of Ash Wednesday
  5. Give away relationship/marriage books that your church can read during Lent
  6. Instead of giving something up for Lent, give couples ideas of things they can start doing to improve their relationships
  7. Give your the couples in your church date night ideas—each date could start at the Ash Wednesday service so the couples can connect spiritually
  8. Host a free fancy dinner at your church for everyone in the community who can’t afford one—offer childcare so couples are more likely to attend
  9. Publish a short Lent devotional with the theme of God’s love
  10. Organize a service project to help those who don’t feel as loved in the community—encourage couples to come serve together, or singles to be a part of something that’s not all about coupled romance
  11. Post quotes about love on social media to let people know you care; then post a few verses of scripture referring back to Ash Wednesday
  12. Write words of encouragement in chalk on the sidewalks of your town—chalk isn’t the same as ash, but it’s close enough (it’ll look even closer if you use those sticks of black chalk you normally avoid).
  13. Instead of marking people’s foreheads with ash crosses, draw some ash hearts on foreheads
  14. Buy extra Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to give away to any of the busy significant others who forgot at the last minute—they can pick them up while getting their foreheads ashed

What is your church planning on doing this February 14?

Robert Carnes is the editor on the MarriedPeople team. He’s worked in marketing and communications for a number of churches and nonprofits. Robert lives in Atlanta with his wife, Victoria.