I grew up in a church where the communion elements consisted of unsalted crackers and a plastic shot glass of Welch’s grape juice. You can understand how it might be a bit confusing to a 7-year-old boy staving off boredom in “big church” when the grown ups start passing around snacks (“look, the glasses are even kid sized!”) and you don’t get any.
Fast-forward 30 years–I’m in a different church, but they’re still using the same plastic communion cups and economy-sized grape juice. And this time, it’s my 8-year-old daughter who turns to me and says, “Can I have a snack too, Daddy?”
Usually we take communion while the kids are in Sunday school, but this past week we were celebrating the end of a series we’d been studying as a congregation, and all the children stayed for the service. So for the first time, our kids got to see the grown ups taking communion.
We weren’t really prepared for the “can I have some, too” question. I know my little girl believes in Jesus, but the timing didn’t feel right. Both Carolyn and I attended a class as children prior to taking our first communion, and I think there should be some kind of reflection prior to partaking in communion for the first time. There is a reverence and respect for the Lord’s Supper, even at a church where flip flops and shorts are acceptable attire.
At the same time, it shouldn’t just be a head-knowledge quiz where a passing grade gets you a seat at the table. So as Carolyn and I have wrestled with the question, “when is it appropriate for our child to take communion?” I’ve begun to cobble together a rough set of criteria to help guide the process with our kids.
- Have they confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior?
- Do they understand the significance of communion?
- Is their faith their own?
I don’t think there is an exact age we can point to–in fact, I think it’s likely that our kids may start taking communion at different ages. For us, though, it’s going to start with a conversation when they’re ready and seeking; this year, we’re using Passover as an opportunity to explain the significance of communion and help our daughter make the connection.
What about your family? How have you made the kids and communion decision?