“Can my kid take communion?” That’s the essence of the question I’m asked by many parents trying to figure out the way our church approaches worship. In Scripture, especially the New Testament, most worship rituals are offered up under the individual’s own free will. There are no Biblical examples of babies being baptized. There are no examples of young children taking communion. Nothing says that they didn’t, but there’s no reason to assume that they did. I’m not judging any church or Christians who include babies or children in those rituals, it’s just not how we do things at Polaris. This creates some confusion for families who have a faith background that has age milestones for kids in worship.
My youngest son is 8 years old. He has been begging to get baptized for years now. Two years ago he started after he saw his older brother get dunked. He said he wanted “the snack” (communion) during the service, so he wanted to be baptized. As a family, we taught our boys that baptism is “saying yes” to Jesus, and that’s the qualification for being invited to God’s table for communion (the Eucharist). We knew he wasn’t quite mature enough to make the decision to follow Jesus.
My wife and I think he’s ready now. Let me briefly outline my thinking about kids saying “yes” to Jesus and participating in worship sacraments like baptism and communion:
- In the Bible, the individual made the decision to say “yes” to Jesus through baptism. There are no Biblical examples of a sacrament performed on an unknowing or unwilling participant. I appreciate that my parents had me baptized as a baby, growing up Methodist. They did whatever they could to commit me to the Lord. When I was in high school, I saw Biblical baptism as a believer saying “yes” on his own accord. I wanted that experience so I was baptized as a thinking person. The same is true for communion, which Jesus says we can participate in whenever we are able to recall, in faith, the implications of His sacrifice on the cross.
- I believe there are two elements of a child’s faith that can guide a parent toward a decision regarding the child choosing baptism and communion. Both of these elements of understanding revolve around the instead of of the cross.
- The first INSTEAD OF is a doctrine called Substitutionary Atonement. No need for the child to know the name of the doctrine! The essence of the cross is Jesus being executed, having become our sin, instead of us. Jesus took our death penalty for us. When a child can understand what sin is and understand that Jesus took the punishment for our sin by being crucified on the cross, that’s a big step toward being ready to follow Him. I knew our youngest son was getting close when I saw his lip begin to tremble at the thought of a real person dying to save him from a punishment. This is something I’ve grown all to familiar with, I wish my lip still trembled at the thought. Understanding this instead of frees us from religious guilt; it’s NOT about being good enough because there was a substitution already made!
- The second INSTEAD OF has to do with lifestyle. I believe it’s also necessary for a person saying “yes” to Jesus to accept the call of Jesus to follow His teachings no matter what. We do what Jesus wants, in any and every situation, INSTEAD OF what we’d like to do. Our life is no longer ours- we belong to Jesus.
- I believe that God has entrusted the parent to help the child make this decision. Your number one entrustment, as a parent, is to get your child connected with Jesus. This should not be outsourced to a church, priest, pastor, or grandparent. Like one of those airplane drop-down oxygen masks, you must first take care of your own spiritual decisions and habits. You can do a great job of predicting your child’s future connection with Jesus by taking a look in the mirror. Sure, there are exceptions to any rule, but you stack the deck in your child’s favor by living a commitment to Jesus with your own life.
I’m excited to baptize my son very soon. He’ll step down into the water, of his own decision, knowing that he’s linking himself eternally with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. When the communion tray is passed, he’ll take a wafer and contemplate Jesus, the one who died instead of him. He’ll take a cup of juice and remember that Jesus shed His own blood to cleanse us from the guilt of sin.
It’s very important that we help our children understand the truths of the Bible. We do that by teaching and by living out these truths ourselves. When your child is ready to say “yes”, they will do so with excitement and certainty. They’ll never look back and wonder if they knew what they were doing. They will have the certainty of their own faith and be very grateful for your involvement in their journey.