The Lord’s Supper—When Should Children Go to the Table?

by Sally Matheny

The Lord's Supper--When Should Children
Go to the Table?
     Observance of the Lord’s Supper varies in churches from style to frequency. 

    However, there is one common concern among many Christian parents:

“How do we prepare our children for this special part of the worship service?”


     Why do we have the Lord’s Supper?
     How do we explain the bread as the body and the wine (or grape juice) as          the blood?
     How old should children be before allowing them to participate?
     A good place to start is by reading the following:
Exodus 12:24-27
Matthew 26:26-28
Mark 14:22-24
Luke 22:19-20
Acts 2:42-47
I Corinthians 11:23-31

     The first Lord’s Supper occurred as a Passover meal that Jesus hosted the night before his betrayal. The traditional foods were ready to serve but Jesus gave them a fresh meaning that night.
     Traditionally, the host reminded the people of the history of the Passover. The bread represented the affliction of the Israelites. Jesus conveyed to his guests that the bread now represented the afflictions he would take upon himself—his body would be broken for us. He would die for our sins.
     Then, Jesus said the wine symbolized his blood that he would shed in order to save us. Jesus died willingly on the cross. He was innocent of all sin, which made him the only sacrifice acceptable to cover the cost of our sin, which is death.
     In the past, people sacrificed animals. But they were only representatives of the perfect sacrifice to come. The animals did not have the power to take away sins. They merely pointed the way to the one who would come, and is able to cleanse us from all sin.
     Jesus asked those at his table to observe a new covenant in remembrance of Him.
     According to Vine’s Dictionary of Bible Words, the original word used for “remembrance” in this text does not refer” to ‘in memory of’ but in an affectionate calling of the Person Himself to mind.”
     The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, something sacred and set apart. It is an outward testimony of a change that has taken place on the inside. We live our lives based on what we believe to be true.
     Children may become confused when they hear the words, Take, eat. This is my body and drink, this is my blood. 
     Show them a photo of one of their friends. Is the photo itself the friend? No, it is only a representation of the friend. Likewise, draw them a picture of a red heart. When they see the heart, what does it make them think of? The heart itself is not love. It symbolizes love. 
     The bread is not the actual body of Christ. The juice is not his actual blood. These are used as symbols of what Christ did for us. He loved us so much he died for our sins, so that we may live forever in heaven when our bodies cease to exist on this earth.
     The Bible doesn’t mention an appropriate age for participating in the Lord’s Supper. The best policy is to talk with your child before he asks, “When can I have the snack and drink from the little cup?”
     Receiving the Lord’s Supper is not to be taken lightly. The apostle Paul says,
Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
I Corinthians 11:28-29 (NIV)    
    Most of all, parents need to demonstrate their love for Christ by how they live their lives outside the church. Be consistent in showing your child how to love God and to love others.  

     Parents can explain to children what it means to be a Christian. We are all sinners. Give examples of sin (lying, stealing, greed). Talk about our need for Jesus Christ and why he was the only one who could pay the price for our sins (Acts 4:11-12). No one is worthy of taking the Lord’s Supper, but as Christians we come remembering our need and our joy. 

     We can explain and teach, but we must let God do His calling in His time.

     Children are eager to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Parents know when their child is ready—as an act of their own faith. Don’t rush them. Patiently wait on the Lord to work in their hearts.   
     While waiting in anticipation for the day their child accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, and then for the day when he takes the Lord’s Supper, parents can pray for wisdom as they provide salt and light in their homes.

 What suggestions do you have for parents on teaching their children about the Lord's Supper?