A question that comes up often is “when is the right time for my kids to begin participating in Communion?” Here are a few thoughts in answer to this question.
Communion was commanded by Christ to be done as part of the unified gathering of the church, where redeemed believers were to remember His death on the Cross. Very few specific guidelines are given around communion other than it should be done often (we observe Communion on the first Sunday of every month) and by those who wish to enter into His suffering and death and identify with His family, the church.
Our primary responsibility as parents, outside of caring for our children’s well-being, is to disciple them. Scripture instructs us to teach, train and encourage them spiritually, in the hopes that they will make the personal decision to follow Jesus Christ. This is my greatest desire for my kids, that they will make the decision to give their lives to Jesus!
Communion, like baptism, is not simply a ritual, but an individual and personal response of faith towards Jesus. Since children are in different stages of maturity, we do not baptize infants or children until they are able to understand, repent, and profess faith. In this sense, baptism and communion are linked.
One of the main reasons we invite our 2-6th graders into our worship service is to expose them as early as possible to corporate worship; so they see, hear and experience the reality of God’s family, the church and learn how to worship. We want them to know they belong, in the same way they belong in your family living room. Our teachers are instructed to have the children in the auditorium observe Communion as it happens. This is NOT to exclude them, but to allow parents' discipleship process to lead the way so that communion is not simply a ritual.
How Dana and I handle it:
My children do not yet participate in communion - I believe there is value in holding something back to mark the transition from immature child to individual follower of Jesus. Natalia, my 9 year old, began asking questions and exploring the topic with us, which opened opportunity to talk about Jesus, sin, repentance, baptism and faith. Recently, she has expressed a desire (unprompted by us) to be baptized, and it is with great joy that Dana and I are beginning to walk on this journey of faith with her. After she is baptized, she will be welcomed to take Communion with us as a personal follower of Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, the decision on when your child will receive communion is up to the parents. I hope you will use our times of communion as a launching pad to instruct your children to grow and mature in faith. There can be no greater joy for a parent than to see our kids express a desire to follow Jesus into the waters of baptism and to joyfully participate in Communion as a redeemed member of the God’s church.