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Should Children Be Allowed to Take Communion?

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

When your child expresses an interest in taking communion, you could wonder at what age or under what conditions you should allow your child to participate in communion. Church denominations have various requirements about children and communion, including classes kids must take to prepare for communion or whether the child must first profess faith in Christ. Many denominations allow parents to determine when a child is ready to take communion.

Scriptures Concerning Communion

The story of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples occurs in all four of the gospels. The Last Supper takes place in conjunction with the Passover, which actively includes children in the meal. In Luke, 22:14-20, Jesus tells his disciples to repeat the Last Supper in remembrance of him, as the true meaning of the Passover. In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus forbids his disciples to keep the children away from his presence. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-32, Paul gives instructions about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Paul writes that believers should understand the purpose and take communion with reverence. All of these scriptures play a part in determining when a denomination or parents decide children are ready to participate in communion.

Exclusion and Inclusion

Churches such as Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches and some nondenominational churches believe that children should not be excluded from Communion because it sends the wrong message to children. They suggest that Jesus forbid the exclusion of children from his presence, so excluding children from the communion table says they are unwelcome and unloved by God. The Catholic church says that children can understand that communion is a mystery and should be taken with understanding, much as the position Paul took in 1 Corinthians 11. If children don’t feel they are excluded from God, it is possible that excluding them from participation at the communion table can create a healthy spirit of anticipation for later inclusion in the sacrament.

Educated Participation

Paul writes that those who take communion without proper understanding sin against Jesus and could become ill by the practice. Churches who believe that children should understand the sacrament before taking their first communion can encourage parents to educate their child about the sacrament, provide classes that educate children or include an explanation prior to communion and in kids’ Sunday school classes. You can read passages about the Last Supper in any of the gospels to your child so your child understands that Jesus’ instituted the sacrament. You might say, “Jesus said that those who love him and God should share the bread and the cup to remember his sacrifice. We think of him when we take communion and give thanks that he died so we can be reconciled to God.”

Parental Choice

Churches that allow parents to choose when a child is old enough to take communion do so because the parent knows the child best. You know when your child understands communion and when your child is interested in participating. Your knowledge of your child also makes you the best judge of whether your child will feel excluded from God if not allowed to participate. If you determine that your child is too young, you also must decide what to do with your child when you go forward for communion. If you must take your child with you, excluding your child can cause your child to receive the wrong message and create an emotional scene.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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