Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Children and Communion

Play figures from Godly Play:
"The Good Shepherd and the World Wide Communion"
Should young children be allowed to participate in holy communion? An interesting and potentially controversial question, depending on what faith tradition you come from. 

Before I had children of my own, I was of the firm opinion that children should not be allowed to participate in communion until they understood in an age-appropriate manner what they were doing.  This was partially influenced by the Protestant denomination that I was raised in where children were not encouraged to participate in communion until they had been baptized as older children, teenagers or adults.  (In fact, if I am completely honest with myself, a huge motivating factor in my wanting to be baptized at age 12 was the desire to be allowed to take communion and not be left out!) Another factor was my very different understanding of child development at that stage of my life.

However, since having my own children and working full-time with children, I have completely changed my opinion on the whole matter.  Montessori, Godly Play, and my own observations of children have helped me see how children learn about and internalize abstract concepts. I became aware that children learn in a sensorimotor way, that is, through their five senses and by doing.  

Because of this, I became open to letting the children in our church come to the communion table with their parents and partake of the elements together. I felt that this "learn-by-doing" approach would make communion more meaningful for them as adults when they would finally come to the communion table alone. 

Most of the children in our church plant are already aware of the communion table and connect it to the Jesus through the Godly Play story, "The Good Shepherd and the Worldwide Communion".  Also, the Feast element in our Godly Play worship services is a symbolic preparation for taking communion. 

That having been said, I would not want the children to come alone to the communion table. I feel it is very important for them to do this with their parents who can explain and guide them through it.  This helps keep holy communion from being confused with a snack time.  

Coming to the Good Shepherd's table together has become a beautiful thing for our family. No doubt, my children do not understand everything that takes place when we are at the Lord's table together, but neither do we as adults understand everything either!  My 8-year-old son at the very least understands that we are remembering what Jesus did for us by going to the cross and that is certainly a start.  

If you are from a Christian tradition that takes a much different stance on children and communion, please know that I respect your opinion and am not writing this as a "must". It is simply my opinion and what our church has chosen to do. But I am curious . . . 

How do you feel about young children taking holy communion with their parents? 
What does your faith tradition do?


  1. What a very thought-provoking topic to have raised. I'm not sure I can even begin to address this in a comment - it deserves a whole post (or more)! What I will say, though, is that as a Protestant child with lots of Roman Catholic school-friends, I would have liked some degree of ceremony or marking out of my own "first communion". It was precisely because I had had to wait that I felt that there should be some significance to the occasion when I finally did get to take the bread and wine with the grown-ups... and was rather disappointed that there was none.

  2. Storyteller, I would love to hear more about your views on this topic as well. I also felt it was a little anti-climatic when I finally did get to take communion, as if no one noticed.