I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church (one where all the pastors sat on stage during the entire worship service) and was baptized at age 8 following my conversion and public profession of faith. At our church, the Lord’s Supper was taken on Sunday nights, so after I was baptized, my dad brought me to my first Sunday night service to take communion.
I remember having my mind blown away as the shiny gold plate passed in front of me containing what the pastor proclaimed to be “the body of Jesus.” I couldn’t believe it and was so excited that I took two pieces. One I ate, and the other I secretly slipped into my pocket because Monday morning was show-and-tell day at my school. I was going to blow every other kid’s show-and-tell item out of the water.
The next day I presented my class with what I thought was a tiny square of Jesus’ body. After the presentation, my teacher called my parents and let them know what I had shared. Thankfully, everything was cleared up for me when my dad sat me down and explained that we weren’t eating Jesus’ real body and drinking his actual blood, just a stale piece of bread and grape juice.
What to Look For
I share this story to help us understand communion from the perspective of a child and because the decision of when to allow your children to participate in communion is one every believing parent will and should wrestle with. In the Bible, there is no age of accountability or prescribed requirement. The only prerequisite is that the participant be a follower of Jesus Christ.
So when it comes to children, what is important and what must be determined by each parent for their own children is:
- Have they given a convincing profession of faith in Jesus?
- Are they showing fruit and evidence of conversion through obedience to and love for Jesus?
- Do they understand and can they articulate the significance of communion?
Don’t Rush It
I would suggest to never rush communion. It’s not magical so taking it sooner than later will not keep your kids from sin or earn them extra favor with God. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of remembrance and requires proper mental understanding and meaningful spiritual reflection to hold significance. Waiting and holding off for understanding, maturity, significance, anticipation and meaningful memories can be a good thing for your child. I know of families who make 13 the age for their believing children to take communion. This also allows it to become a rite of passage and marker for them on the road to adulthood.
When the Time is Right
When your wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit tells you that the time is right and your child is ready to participate in communion, I recommend setting up a conversation that covers the following topics:
What is Communion?
Make sure they understand what communion is and what communion isn’t. I recommend starting with Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper in Luke 22. Talk about what Jesus was teaching when He spoke to His disciples and how we continue to remember Jesus broken body and shed blood. Be sure to explain that what we are doing is symbolic and not literal. We are not literally drinking Jesus’ blood and eating His body. Communion is not magical.
Why Do We Take Communion?
Teach your child that we take communion because Jesus instructed us to and as a way of remembering and celebrating what He did for us. 1 Corinthians 11:26 tells us that as often as we eat of the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.
How Do We Take Communion?
Coach your child through the logistics and the spirit of taking communion. Communion is done differently at every church, so coach them on the proper way to receive and the proper time to partake of the bread and juice. Also, help and encourage them to be in the right mindset. 1 Corinthians 11 gives personal instructions for taking communion and tells a believer to “examine himself” before eating and drinking.
The decision for when your child begins to take communication is ultimately yours and yours alone. Be prayerful about it. No one knows your child better than you, and when it comes to a decision like this, trust the Lord’s guidance and your discernment as a parent.