A Letter To Church Parents Concerning Communion

April 14, 2006
Lately, I’ve had many children and parents asking me about kids taking communion during worship. I thought the most efficient way to communicate with all of you would be email.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.” Matthew 19:14
“Baptized children who are being nurtured and instructed in the significance of the invitation to the Table and the meaning of their response are invited to receive the Lord’s Supper, recognizing that their understanding of participation will vary according to their maturity.” Book of Order of the PCUSA W-2.4011b
There are two schools of thought concerning children and communion. There was a time in the Presbyterian Church when children were not allowed to participate in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper until they were confirmed around the age of 12. Many parents still observe this with their children, feeling that after they go through Confirmation Class that they are better able to understand the meaning of Communion. I was not allowed to take Communion until I was confirmed and I remember receiving the Sacrament for the first time with my friends at church on Good Friday in 1990. When parents observe this “rule,” Confirmation becomes even more of a right of passage and even more reason to celebrate.
HOWEVER, the reason that the Book of Order changed is because it seems to contradict the call to not turn any believer away from the table. Some children just really want to participate–some just because it seems “neat,” but others because they really want to be part of the Body of Christ at the Table. I think that especially for families who attend the Early Service, where the service is less formal and we go forward to receive the elements, and because the older (unconfirmed) children are now staying in the 10:30 service, this may be the case. It is hard to say no to a child that really wants to participate! I remember when Elle Floyd was about 6 and we did a lesson on Communion in Sunday School, she was desperate to take Communion. Ginny and I decided that Elle had a good 6 year old understanding of Communion and let her take it. In that case, it was the right thing to do.
You, as parents, get to make the decision that is right for your children. I’m always glad to discuss Communion with your children or with you, and I know that Dr. Skelly is as well!