This is a guide to help you discern whether or not, and how, you might invite your child to participate in Communion with our church family. Here are some things to remember:
- God can be trusted, with you, and with your child.
- This is meant to be a guide, not a checklist. It is meant to help you discern when and how to join God in inviting your child into practicing Communion.
- Keep the end in mind. Together, we want to set your child up for a lifelong pursuit of experiencing Jesus at the Lord’s Table.
- Prioritize you and your child’s relationship with Jesus. You are listening in your relationship with Jesus, and for your child’s relationship with Jesus. You may feel unsure or feel clear. You may make a different decision than other parents. That’s okay!
- You may decide to proceed with your child or you may decide to wait. Either can be a good and helpful leadership for your child. Waiting can increase the understanding and distinctiveness of Communion.
- We are in this with you and our church family wants to support, encourage, and equip you. Share your questions, celebrations, and concerns, with your missional community, other parents, and our staff team. You are not alone!
Communion is a symbol rich with meaning. It’s like a multifaceted prism. As a representation of the gospel, followers of Jesus can spend their entire life understanding and experiencing those different facets, and never grasp all of them! It’s simple and yet mysterious.
Communion is a physical symbol of loyalty to Jesus Christ. As a member of your family, your child joins you in your loyalty to Jesus. As your child grows, you increasingly invite them to take hold of their own loyalty to Jesus.
In your spiritual conversations, work to calibrate support and challenge. Do this by noticing and affirming their heart for God and communicating a spirit of generosity and welcome to join you in Communion. Communicate a spirit of generosity and welcome and maintain the seriousness of the practice.
Exploring God’s activity through Communion in your life:
It’s important to pay attention to what is stirred in us as you discern for and with your child. Reflect on the questions below:
- What has been your experience with Communion? When did you first take Communion? When have you had a positive experience? When has it been difficult?
- When you think about participating with your child in Communion, what comes to mind? What do you feel? Do you have any concerns or worries?
- Why is Communion important to you? Share this with your child.
- Do I feel any pressure? If so, what it is and where is it coming from? Offer that God, asking him to give you his perspective.
Exploring God’s activity in your child’s life:
These questions are conversation starters, to help you see how your child already relates to Jesus. No need to ask them all or force conversation. You may have some of your own questions. You can talk about these at a time and place that best suits your family. Maybe drawing some answers or writing them out will be a better fit for your child. Ask God to give you the awareness of the right time to ask.
- What do you know about Communion?
- What do you love about Jesus?
- Tell me the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Why did Jesus die on the cross and come back to life?
- What does Jesus think of you?
- If you could tell Jesus in person what you love about him, what would you say?
- If you could ask Jesus some questions, what would you ask?
- What do you feel when you think about Jesus?
- What do you do to show Jesus you love him?
- Who in our church family helps you follow Jesus?
This section offers some questions to guide your discernment as you discern inviting your child to participate in Communion.
Will my child remember this? How can I help them remember?
Spiritual experiences earlier in life build a foundation of trust and connection with God, that can propel a child to continue in that trust and connection when they’re older. The gift of childhood faith is that it’s becomes familiar--your child can live a long life knowing God’s love! And, that familiarity is why you want to ensure that certain experiences are marked, so that they stand out. Some research suggests that children lose memories that occurred before age 7. Because Communion is a distinct and significant practice, by treating it as such in your preparation and in your practicing of it, you help to ensure that he remembers it. Conversation before and after Communion and helping your child articulate what he feels and thinks increases the likelihood of remembrance. Consider both having your child write things down in a special journal and writing your observations of them, too.
Can my child articulate the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection?
Communion is a symbol of Jesus’ defeat of death and the power of sin. You want your child to know this story and see how it connects to the Communion practice. At the same time, Communion is a mystery, too, so there’s much that can’t be understood--and that’s a gift.
Does my child express loyalty to Jesus in word and action?
The Communion practice is an expression of loyalty to Jesus. In what ways do you see your child paying attention to Jesus’ presence in their lives? Does she spontaneously and/or energetically express care for and interest in Jesus? Does she add to or ask questions when spiritual conversations come up? Does she respond with age-appropriate thoughtfulness to your prompting?
Has my child expressed trusting Jesus to be the Forgiver of their sins and the leader of their life? Have they been invited to do so?
Through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, God invites each of us to trust him as the Forgiver of our sins and as the Leader of their life. This changes our spirit from “dead” to “alive.” It makes it possible for us to be empowered with God’s Spirit to participate in making all the sad things come untrue, in our life, and in the world around us. And it makes it possible for us to experience eternity with God. Communion is a symbol of this reality. While your child will grow in understanding of this (as we all do) in ever-increasing ways, has your child said “yes” to this clear invitation? In what ways have you seen them respond to God already? Understanding isn’t limited to the mind, but also includes ways you have seen them practice following Jesus.
Children belong to and are welcome in God’s family. We want to continue to give children opportunities to respond “yes” to Jesus as they grow in maturity. While not a formula or checklist, offering a clear invitation for a child to put their faith in Jesus is important. The practice of Communion may create the environment in which this invitation can be made.
Again, this isn’t a formula. It’s about offering their heart to God. We do encourage children who understand Jesus’ sacrifice and whose hearts want to say “yes,” to express that to God in some way--through writing or through telling God out loud through prayer. If this happens for your child, please encourage them to share that decision with a pastor!
Does my child want to take Communion?
For children, it’s important to emphasize the invitational aspect of the Communion table. Of course, you want your child to join you in responding to Jesus through practicing Communion and your extending them invitation to them is a gift at the discerned time. Do not persuade or convince. Respect his no. You can let him know that he is welcome to join when he is ready.
Is my child giving to and receiving from our church family?
Communion is a communal practice, too, in which individuals express loyalty to Christ within the family of God. Is your child growing in Christian community? Does she have Christian friends? Does she participate in serving? Does she willingly engage in conversation in spiritual environments? If you would like more insight, consider asking your children’s ministry leader about what they notice in your child.
To what extent can my child participate in the practice of Communion with maturity?
Children are welcome to be children in the presence of Jesus! Communion is to be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be completely serious as it’s practiced. Feelings like joy and excitement are welcome, as are feelings like sadness or hesitancy. Some questions to further discern: Does my child express interest in engaging in other spiritual practices? Is my child willing and able to learn more about Communion? Do I trust my child to follow my or another adult’s lead? At what level of independence can my child participate in Communion? In what ways can I support their limitations, while not doing for them what they can do for themselves? How do they typically respond when they do something for the first time? Consider what kind of preparation your child may need to participate.