Read these thoughts on communion and kids from pastor and Bible teacher John Piper.
Sooner or later, a child who is regularly sitting through a Sunday morning worship service is bound to ask something like, “Why can’t I have a ‘snack’ like everyone else?” So it’s not surprising that people often ask me, “When should my child take the Lord’s Supper?” Because that’s such a prevalent question, I want to share some insights on the subject.
A General Response
When people inquire about children taking the Lord’s Supper, I have two perspectives to share. The first is that our communion services are open to all present, including children, who:
- trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and the fulfillment of all his promises to us (including eternal life) and
- intend to follow him as Lord and obey his commandments.
Therefore, children are welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper:
- when they can understand its significance,
- when they are able to give a credible profession of faith in Christ, and
- when they consciously intend to follow the Lord in obedience.
Children don’t have to take a test or attend a class to establish their readiness. We simply leave it up to parents to decide when their young disciples are ready.
A Personal Response
My other response to this question is to share how Sally and I dealt with the issue for our two daughters. Our way is certainly not the only acceptable way to handle the issue. Other spiritually wise parents at Bethlehem, including respected colleagues on the staff, have handled it differently. Nevertheless, I commend “our way” to you for your consideration as you lay out a path for your children.
When our girls were small, we explained they would be able to fully participate in the Lord’s Supper sometime after they were 13. Admittedly, this response was somewhat arbitrary and sounds a bit legalistic. But it was a simple response they could grasp, and it was enough to settle the issue for them.
We encouraged our children to wait to take communion for several reasons. Here are six of them.
Why Children Should Wait to Take Communion
1. Wait for Understanding
Probably the most compelling reason for us came out of 1 Corinthians 11:27. Paul warns us of the perils of eating and drinking in an “unworthy manner.” Though both our girls confessed faith in Christ before their sixth birthday, we wanted them to be old enough to contemplate the significance of the Lord’s Supper. We wanted them to understand the meaning of the ordinance and also have enough maturity to do the self-examination that Paul calls for in verse 28.
2. Wait for More Independent Thinking
We decided our girls should come to the Lord’s Table after they were baptized, and we didn’t want them to be baptized before age 13. Although we don’t believe baptism must necessarily precede participation in the Lord’s Supper, it seemed more natural to follow in that order.
Children are thinking more independently as they enter the teen years. Therefore, they’re more likely to embrace the decisions and commitments they make as their own. Our pre-teen decisions and commitments are often suspect in our minds as we get older. They are suspect in that we barely connect with the reason why we made the commitment.
From age 7, I have a vague memory of raising my hand in Sunday school and indicating a desire to follow Jesus. I remember sitting with my Mom, praying and writing the date of my conversion into my Bible. However, I’m at a loss to tell you what was so compelling to me. I don’t know if I understood what I was doing. I simply have no recollection now. Neither did I at age 13. Without that recollection, it was difficult to have confidence in my decision. This is probably why I felt a need to “accept Jesus into my heart” again during my teen years.
It’s not uncommon for those who were baptized as pre-teens to feel a need to be “re-baptized” when they’re older. Therefore, it made sense for us to encourage our children to hold off on baptism until it would be more meaningful to them. When they could more fully embrace the commitment behind this public declaration of faith.