When should a child take part in the Lord’s Supper?
By Pastor Tedd Mathis
Written for the congregation of Pueblo West Baptist Church
Dear dads and moms, grandpas and grammas, uncles, and aunts:
How I thank the Lord you are bringing your children to church and desiring them to live in faith and obedience to Christ. May your tribe increase!
It is highly likely you are going to be asked by the children you are bringing to church, “Can I take communion?” My wife, Dawn, and I went through it with our children: When the trays of bread and juice were passed out, they were curious, starving!, bored, wanting to be included.
Below are several questions that came to mind and my answers from the Bible. I trust they will help you. I am confident that with God’s grace and your love for our Lord, the Holy Spirit will help you bring your children up in the fear of the Lord (Ps. 34:11; Eph. 6:1-2).
Q: Who should eat the bread and drink the cup at the Lord’s Supper (Communion)?
A: One who can examine himself and confirm he is of the faith – I Cor. 11:28; II Cor. 13:5
Q: What are the evidences my child is of the faith?
A: The following are evidenced in his or her life.
+ In their own words (not by rote, or parroting you or others), they can articulate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and tell of their personally receiving Christ and why they did so – Romans 10:9-13; John 1:12, 13; Ephesians 2:1-10; Acts 2:37-41.
+ Upon profession of faith, they have been baptized, witnessed by Christ’s church, done so in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. — Acts 2:37-41; Matthew 28:19-20
+ They are able to confess their sins (again not by rote or parroting you or others) – I John 1:5-10.
+ When instructed, corrected, or disciplined by you as their parent or guardian, they respond in obedience – I John 5:1-3; Ephesians 6:1-2.
Q: What should I tell my child when they ask if they can take part?
A: If the above are not true, tell them no. That is your responsibility as their parent or guardian. At Pueblo West Baptist Church, it is no secret when we observe Communion; it is announced before hand and when you enter the building, you can see the Communion Table has been prepared for the Lord’s Supper. If needed, the day before, or before the church service begins, remind your children they are not to take part.
Q: What if my child thinks the bread and the wine/juice are a snack?
A: Feed your children a hearty breakfast before they come to church (every Sunday, not just Communion Sunday). If they are toddlers, a quiet snack during the church service (Cheerios, etc.) may be needed. But older children can be told ahead of time, the elements are not a snack, and they are not to ask to eat it.
Q: Won’t my child feel left out if I don’t let them participate?
A: Yes, they are apt to feel left out. They also may feel left out if you don’t let them drive your car to the bowling alley. Your 11-year-old is apt to feel left out if you do not permit her to marry the neighbor boy. There are many things our children will have to wait to participate in until they are old enough to grasp the privilege and responsibility of doing so. That goes for the Lord’s Supper. Until they can articulate the Gospel and their own need for Christ and have been baptized, they should not participate in the Lord’s Supper.
Q: By telling them no, won’t that tell them they are not a Christian?
A: Remember, neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper are necessary for salvation. The thief on the cross was with Christ in paradise “that very day,” having experienced neither. To hold off on allowing your child to be baptized and participate in the Lords’ Supper because you are not certain they understand, will not keep them out of heaven if they are saved. But neither will baptism and the Lord’s Supper get them into heaven if they are not. The Lord knows who are His – II Timothy 2:19.
Q: Is there an age when a child should be baptized and then participate in the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Bible does not tie baptism to a specific age. Water baptism follows circumcision of the heart (Col. 2:11-14; Acts 2:37-41). Teen years tend to reveal if that inner work of God has occurred and can be observed by others.
While a teen’s profession of faith can still be out of peer pressure or pleasing/appeasing parents, a godly parent is likely to see that weakness in their child. Dawn and I kept our 12-year-old daughter from being baptized. We could not tell her motives. Two years later, we had a greater confidence her profession of faith was genuine, and I had the privilege of baptizing her. In God’s grace, she is now an adult woman, and to the best of our knowledge, living obediently to Christ.
Q: What if my child was baptized and has participated in the Lord’s Supper but is now a teen and is defiant towards me? Should I let them take the Lord’s Supper?
A: As a teen under your roof, eating your food, using your wi-fi, they are accountable to you. Before the matter of the Lord’s Supper is addressed, their defiance toward you must be confronted, and if not repented of, discipline administered.
As a person who voluntarily professed faith in Christ and was baptized, they also are accountable to their Lord and the church leaders who watch over their soul (Hebrews 13:17; I Peter 5:1-5). If they persist in their sin and yet also insist on taking part in the Lord’s Supper, show them I Corinthians 11:28-32 and warn them of their impending condemnation along with the world if they do not repent. If they persist in their sin and defiance, it should become a matter of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20; I Cor. 5).
If you have other questions or need clarification of what I have written, as always, I will do my best to help.
Thanking our Lord for you!
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – II Timothy 3:14-17