Children at the Lord's Supper

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Would anybody care to discuss why we *don't* include children at Communion?

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As far as I know, and I'm no expert, children are welcome after they've made profession of faith. Communion is a sign between Christ and his Church. And while children are part of the covenant, they're not full members of the church until they'll professed Christ.

At this time, the CRC Church Order allows "members by baptism" to be admitted to the Lord's Supper "upon a public profession of faith." This is an age-appropriate profession indicating an Apostles' Creed-like faith awareness and sufficient understanding of the sacrament. Children in many congregations do this anywhere between the ages of 9 and 12. Other churches still operate according to the older model or tradition that has people doing profession of faith at approximately age 18 or older.

Everyone is invited to go to www.crcna.org and view the latest discussions on the matter provided by the Faith Formation Committee, a study committee of synod that will present a final report to Synod 2012.

So while we currently do not believe that people are welcome by reason of their baptism, we do allow for children 9-12 at communion and we are continuing the discussion of whether to make new changes in the future.

Now folks, great answers, but you have answered the question "When do we allow children to partake", not "Why *don't* we allow children", which was the question I asked.

I'm heading toward "Why isn't communion open to all age children?" After all, the Lord's Supper is about remembering Christ's sacrifice- I see no link anywhere about profession of faith. I see a special meal/symbol designed to remember Christ's sacrifice- why do we impose these restrictions about profession of faith?

Nice to see some activity, by the way!

Clay,

It's a good question. A friend of mine told me about a practice that they had in their EV Free church--when a child/young person decided that they wanted to partake of communion, all that they had to do was reach out and take the wine and bread when it passed by them, and let someone know afterwards. I thought at first, hey, that's pretty neat, but at the same time, there was something unsatisfying about it...something was missing.

Thinking about it in light of your question, I think that the thing that was missing was that it was very much a "me and Jesus" mindset, which didn't really take into account the organic community that the person was a part of. That organic community has within it spiritual guides and leaders--elders--that help people discern and live by God's word. Among other things, the Belgic confession says that the church should be marked by "proper administration of the sacraments", and this falls under the calling of the elders...not so much to restrict and hold back people from the table, as to help people understand the meal, and come to appreciate it. To paraphrase Philip the Evangelist talking to the Ethiopan, to ask "Do you understand what you are eating?"

Historically this time of discernment has taken place through the confirmation/profession of faith process. Once again, I don't see it as restricting so much as showing that this faith this is not just between you and Jesus, but in taking this step towards the table you are also taking a step towards the living community around the table...what it means to be a part of this community, to walk in the Way of Jesus.

Children were allowed to partake of the Passover meal, yes. But even in this celebration, the requirement was also that the child would ask the question about why this was being done so that they could be taught--so that it would not be simply a ritual moment but a catechetical moment.

I think that we do need new forms, new models, but at the same time I love the element of *guidance* that takes place through profession of faith. How can we hold on to that?

Jeff,
I greatly appreciate your well-thought out answer. As you mention, the passover was open to all, as long as they understood the significance of what they were doing- but it was not tied to an artificial ceremony. Don't get me wrong- I truly value profession of faith, and I think it's an extremely valuable thing, but to tie the Lord's Supper to it doesn't make sense.

My understanding of why we do not allow children at the Lord's Supper goes back to medieval times, and the doctrine of transubstantiation. When this incorrect doctrine was accepted, children were excluded from the sacrament, since if a child were to drop Christ's body it would be sacrilegious. This "tradition" is largely the reason why children do not partake today- due to tradition based on a faulty doctrine.

While I agree that children should understand what the Lord's Supper is, I do not think it should continue to be tied to Profession of Faith. At baptism we accept children into the arms of the church family- to me any time after this, once a child understands the significance of the supper, they should be allowed to participate. Profession of faith and the Lord's Supper are two separate, important things in the life of a young person in church.

Clay,

I don't believe that the doctrine of transubstantiation and the fear of children dropping the "body" and spilling the "wine" are the initial cause here. They have probably contributed, as you say. However, the original impulse for the making of an age-appropriate profession of faith is the difference between the two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is meant to be "passive" but the Lord's Supper is about active participation -- eating and drinking and, as has now been pointed out, having at least some understanding of the "body of Christ" that is the community of God's people.

I do hope that people have read in the 1995 and 2006 and 2007 Acts of Synod the denomination wrestling with this issue and are continuing to follow the current discussions of the Faith Formation Committee.

Grace and peace,

Here's the link to the Faith Formation website: www.crcna.org/FaithFormation

We've also set up a Faith Formation discussion network. This particularly conversation is perfectly appropriate here in the Church Order network, but folks interested in this issue may want to keep an eye on the Faith Formation network as well.

Taking part of the Lord's Supper is a confession "the bread that we break is a communion of the body of Christ.Take,eat,remember and believe that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for a complete remission of all our sins." see also "the cup of thanksgiving......"
Also:Cathechism:" ---that I,with body and soul,both in life and death,am not my own,but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,who with his precious blood------"
This is confessing;can this be seperated from :"Confession of Faith"?
At what age can we really, totally,deep in us, comprehend this and take this on as our personal acceptance?

[quote=Jan Klaassen]Taking part of the Lord's Supper is a confession "the bread that we break is a communion of the body of Christ.Take,eat,remember and believe that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for a complete remission of all our sins." see also "the cup of thanksgiving......" Also:Cathechism:" ---that I,with body and soul,both in life and death,am not my own,but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,who with his precious blood------" This is confessing;can this be seperated from :"Confession of Faith"? At what age can we really, totally,deep in us, comprehend this and take this on as our personal acceptance?[/quote]

 

I see I didn't really address this on Jan, although Ken did.  To that point, I agree that children can just as readily confess this point- do we need a "deeper" understanding of these issues to make the confession "real"?  I used to be of the mindset that a young person couldn't really make profession of faith, since they hadn't been "tried" or really "tested" in life yet.  I thought it should wait until later- once they have matured.  However, later it struck me that there are many older confessing believers out there that have not really been "tested", and even if, what constitutes that point?  After all, it's not an age issue, but really a spiritual maturity issue.  In that case, the discussion should be about what constitutes spiritual maturity?  I found myself at a loss there- the Bible tells us that confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior is what it takes- and to me that makes sense- and can be done at nearly any age- and sometimes, as Ken pointed out, the simplest, most real confessions can come from those children.

hello there,

i thought that i read in the spring issue of Calvin Seminary's Forum that baptized children could be admitted, i didn't realize there were restrictions on that. i've seen churches practicing this form of children communion, is that not correct?

thanks!

Why? Because allowing children to participate without a public confession of faith would nullify Lord's Day 30. In my Baptist days I have talked with people who said they had five year old children who should receive believer's baptism because they "invited Jesus into their hearts." You want 5 year olds taking communion?

I have not heard anyone address the time spent in examining one owns heart in preparation for the celebration of communion. We read quite a list of sins in the form for preparation and can a child properly examine there life as an adult? What about the infant partaking of the elements as pictured on the cover of the banner? This seems as though churches have already opened the door to infants coming to the table for the bread and wine.

I know alot of young people who have a better grasp of what being a Chrstian means than alot of the adults in our church. Why do we seek more laws when Jesus simplified and fullfilled them? Why do we feel the need to be gatekeepers of what we consider true faith and understanding? God chose David to slay the giant as adults cowardly complained and doudted. Public declaration of faith can happen at many ages according to His will. I think we need a case by case examination of younger people more than a church law. I do agree that to participate in communion should be treated as sacred when being performed accorrding to Scriptures.

I've been gone for a long time, but I'm back.  Ken, I think you nailed it- many of these things are *our* concepts, not those of our Savior.  I really like some of the reasoning in the new report.  Christianity is not a complex thing- at its heart it is very basic- and I *do* think a child can grasp it.

I would have no problem with a 5 year old participating as long as they understand what we are doing.  Through baptism they are members.

Thanks Clay,

You are better at this than I am, it took illness to humble me so I could look and listen to that "hunch" . I found the Lord convicting me in those spaces. A good kind of conviction that allows you to see more of God's kindom right around us at every moment. You blessed me today

Sorry for the mistakes I  haven't figured out spell check on this site. Poor mind to hand cordination(it's pretty funny sometimes) My family gives a hard time on this(I deserve it because I dish out my share of pranks on them)

Amen, Glory be to God

Thank you all for your comments, our church will have a meeting about this issue in a few weeks, it is a difficult thing, or is it? Just a small thing that popped into my mind, we are drinking wine (well, we use grape juice to avoid problems if a recovering alcoholic should be with us), are we breaking the law of the land if a young child drinks it, even the little bit we use? Another point, when one does profession they are full members of the church and allowed to vote, we sailed around that one by stipulating that the child was not able to vote until age 16, is this something that should be addressed?

Your question raised a valid concern to me- the legality.  I did a little research and found this:

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(3zvzfdj5nvixxz45lj0qh155))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=mcl-436-1703&query=on&highlight=religious%20AND%20alcohol

Section 436.1703, paragraph 11 of Michigan law states:

(11) The consumption by a minor of sacramental wine in connection with religious services at a church, synagogue, or temple is not prohibited by this act.

So, it would be perfectly legal under Michigan law.  

As for your question about the age of voting in church, the faith formation committee has this proposed change:

(Proposed Article 59c and supplement):

c. Confessing members receive all the

privileges and responsibilities of suchmembership. Privileges include but arenot limited to presentation of childrenfor infant baptism, the right to vote atcongregational meetings, and eligibilityto hold office. Responsibilities includefull participation in the work, life, andmutual discipline of the local congregationand the universal body of Christ.(supplement):Each congregation shall determine theappropriate age at which a confessingmember shall receive such privileges andresponsibilities.  I hope this helps!  The full report can be found here:  http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/resources/synodical/FaithFormation.pdf

Thanks for the info and links

One more note to this conversation....

Since the Faith Formation Committee's proposal has not yet been acted upon (it will go to Synod 2011), the current Church Order article 59b is in effect.  It says:

 

b. Confessing members who have reached the age of eighteen and who have made a commitment to the creeds of the Christian Reformed Church and the responsibilities of adult membership in the church shall be accordedthe full rights and privileges of such membership. http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/resources/2010_churchorder.pdf

 

 

Great point Kathy- none of this has yet been adopted by Synod.

We hold a two-session orientation to the Lord's Supper for any children who ask to join the congregation in celebrating communion.  We announce the sessions in the bulletin, the parents sign their kids up, we hold the two sessions on concurrent Sunday afternoons and we welcome them to the table the next time we have communion.  We ask them to answer the question, "I want to participate in the Lord's Supper because..." and then we put the answers on an insert which is in the bulletin on the day they are welcomed to the table.  Usually the sessions are made up of kids who are in Grade 4 and older since before that they are in Sunday School and don't experience communion very often.  Once they are in worship for the whole service and experience worship they start asking why they can't join in.  That's when the parents sign them up for the orientation.  We run the orientation at least once per year.  The first session focuses on the church as a family (how you join, what it means to belong, etc), and the second focuses on God's family at the table (where communion comes from, what it means, how it's done, etc.)  Enfolding our children into the life of the congregation this way has been a real blessing for us.

I've asked the question before and no one seems to want to touch it.  Are we supposed to use the front cover of the Banner some time ago which depicted an infant being given the bread & wine in celebration of the Lord's Supper as being age appropriate.  One might think this is an official endorsement from our demonination's leadership.

John,

  It is a magazine cover. It is moot to any issue on the Lord,s supper in most peoples minds. That is why you are not raising  interest with the question.

John,

I would agree with Ken but say it in a slightly different way.  Banner covers, like the covers of any magazine out there, are designed for only one purpose: to arouse interest in the reader to open up and read.  Since the denomination has studied and is continuing to study whether children may be included in one way or another, under whatever conditions, the Banner chose a picture to put in an image where we are probing, not where we have been in the past.

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