Children & The Lord’s Supper

Thoughts on Children and the Lord’s Supper
“WHY CAN’T I HAVE A ‘SNACK’ LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?”

Sooner or later, a child who is regularly sitting through a Sunday morning worship service is bound to ask something like, “Why can’t I have a ‘snack’ like everyone else?”  So it is not surprising that the second most-frequent question I am asked in children’s ministry is, “When should my child take the Lord’s Supper?”  Since it is such a prevalent question, I have been encouraged to write an article on the subject.

A General Response

When people inquire about children taking the Lord’s Supper, I have two perspectives to share with them.  The first is that our communion services are open to all present, including children, who are:

  •  trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and the fulfillment of all his promises to us (including eternal life); and

Therefore, children are welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper:

when they can understand its significance;  when they are able to give a credible profession of faith in Christ;

  • and when they consciously intend to follow the Lord in obedience.

There is no test they take or class they attend to help establish their readiness.  We simply leave it up to parents to decide when their young disciples are ready.

Still want more guidelines?

1.   Wait for Understanding

Probably the most compelling reason comes out of 1 Corinthians 11:27 where Paul warns of the perils of eating and drinking in an “unworthy manner.”  We want our children to understand the meaning of the ordinance and also have enough maturity to do the self-examination that Paul calls for in verse 28.

2.   Wait for More Independent Thinking

Children are thinking more independently as they enter the teen years and therefore are more likely to embrace the decisions and commitments they make as their own.  Our pre-teen decisions and commitments are often suspect in our minds as we get older.  They are suspect in that we barely connect with the reason why we made the commitment We’re not saying that this is the age you must wait until for communion and baptism, but the reasoning is there.

It is not uncommon for those who were baptized during their pre-teen years to feel a need to be “re-baptized” when they are older.  Although we do not believe baptism must necessarily precede participation in the Lord’s Supper, it seemed more natural for our children to join the Lord at his table after they followed the Lord in the obedience of baptism.

3.   Wait for Significance

Even when children would have “qualified” for baptism and the Lord’s Supper at an earlier age, we believe that waiting helps to impress on them the significance of these ordinances and the unspeakable privilege it is to participate in them.

4.   Wait for Anticipation

Each time the tray passed a child by, they can look forward to the day when they will join in this celebration. I believe that this period of anticipation makes their first and subsequent experiences at the table sweeter and more meaningful to children.

5.   Wait for Memories

We like our children to remember their first experience at the Lord’s Table.  Memories of the first decade of our lives are often fuzzy at best.  Therefore, it makes sense for children to wait until a time when they would more likely remember the experience.

6.   Wait for Maturity

There is nothing particularly significant about age thirteen.  As arbitrary as it may seem, there can be tremendous value in having a tangible point where we begin to place certain expectations and to offer certain privileges that are associated with maturity.

Even though we may ask our children to wait for a season before they fully participate in the Lord’s Supper, it can still be a significant experience for them in their pre-teen years.  We should not wait to teach them about the meaning of the celebration and how to examine themselves, confess their sins, and remember the Lord’s death until he comes.

© 2005 Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis.