One characteristic of Churches of Christ that sometimes surprises people is that we partake of Communion weekly. It is one of the qualities of our heritage that I consider a great blessing.
It is easy, though, to create rules about how to go about things that are a regular part of our religious practices. There are a lot of rules of human origin that become so much a part of our thinking that we can mistake them for Divine. For example in some churches only those wearing a coat and tie can serve communion to the assembly. In many churches of Christ only males are allowed to serve communion. In some churches unbaptized youngsters are allowed to participate in serving the elements, as a means of training. In some churches this is not allowed. So we have a lot of rules such as these that have no origin in Scripture and yet seem to be entrenched in practice. In fact, as far as I know, we have no Biblical instructions on how to go about serving communion when we gather in the assembly. It is the oddest thing to me that passing trays is regarded by some as an activity that suggests leadership and authority.
One of the rules I grew up hearing has to do with children partaking of communion. If you’ve ever watched a mom or dad trying to keep the tray just out of reach of their youngster who has both arms outstretched, it’s quite comical. It is intended that the child learn that this activity is for baptized believers (in Churches of Christ we are adult immersionists and do not practice infant baptism). Children taking communion is frowned upon because, as I have heard it said, “it won’t do them any good.” I don’t know where we learned that. Perhaps we are afraid of eating and drinking damnation unto ourselves.
1 Corinthians 11:29 (KJV) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
During communion, I believe in the participatory aspect of children. I usually take a bit of the cracker and give a small piece to each of my boys. I try to explain to them why we do this. I talk to them about remembering Jesus. I talk about others around the world who are doing the same thing. Yesterday, the three-year-old took his bit o’ cracker, looked up to the sky and whispered, “I love you Jesus.” Heart. Melted.
I’m not going to dictate to any parent how they are to deal with children at communion time. It seems to me, though, that participation and explanation are far more in keeping with the spirit of the moment than slapping hands and telling them ‘No’ when the body and blood of Christ are being observed. I think my friend Kyle has it right.
Since we do not have a word from the Lord on the matter, follow your conscience and maintain the spirit of the Supper.
Thanks for reading. JD