I walked to the front of the church donning the most beautiful white dress, matched only in sweetness by the simple veil with delicate flower petals adorning my head. After the service, my parents hosted a party at our home complete with a cross cake (is that sacrilegious?) and gifts (my favorite being a St. Francis charm from my grandmother). This same grandmother would pass away when I was at the peak of emotional stability (age 13) and would never know how much that simple present would be treasured over the years. My attachment to this small token is not because of the pretty little box it came in, and not because it was St. Francis, but because it is a symbol of her love for me and her devotion to supporting me that day—the day I had my first communion.
While I have not been Catholic for 17 years, there are things from how I was raised that still factor into decisions I make concerning my children and their faith formation. For instance, my children will obviously never take part in a “first communion” service, but it is still something I want them to approach with reverence and understanding before receiving this precious gift. But does reverence mean a certain place or script must be followed? In 1 Corinthians 11:18, Paul writes, “I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it.”
The topic of communion and various aspects of worship is one that caused division then and continues to cause division now. And yet, the very term communion tells us it should be done in unity. As we think about this topic as parents and how we teach our children, let’s think of it like those early believers who were meeting in their homes and coming together, breaking the bread typically as part of a full meal and fellowship with one another. While communion is most certainly to be held in high regard, the high church events surrounding it are not mandatory and are not a picture of how it began. Remember, the Last Supper was also the first communion service. The roots of this sacrament are all the more important to recognize if you have older kids who may not be accustomed to going to a church service alongside you but have accepted Jesus as their Savior.
On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until He comes again. (1 Corinthians 23-26).
Those who are in Christ are never without Him—whether in the sanctuary or in the home. How beautiful and marvelous is this? Just as the disciples looked to Jesus for instruction, we are to do the same. So whether you have a 2 year old or a 22 year old at your dinner table, what matters is not your children’s ages, but their understanding of what communion is about. So teach them from the earliest of moments and do not hinder them. Communion is a symbolic act where we reflect on the person and work of our Savior, Jesus. Jesus and His disciples were not decked out in their Sunday best, following a rote script of events when Jesus broke the bread and told them to do this in remembrance of Him. Their meeting place did not matter. Their wardrobe had no bearing. And there was no walking down an aisle in front of a crowd to accept what Jesus was offering. All that mattered was who they were with—the Savior. And I would like to suggest to you that the same is still true for us today. It does not matter where we are meeting or what we are wearing. What matters is the reason behind it all—to break bread and remember the One who poured out His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Do not allow division to separate you and your family from what should unite the body of believers.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Each one must examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)
While you talk through the salvation story and focus on leading those you love to grow closer in their relationship to Christ, help them understand that as we take communion—the Lord’s Supper—we are not only thanking God for His forgiveness of our sins, but we need to make certain we have forgiven others for those things done against us. When you have prayerfully considered the appropriate time, consider introducing breaking the bread together at home, as it would have taken place in the earliest days before the formal church service came to be. I know for many this may feel wrong or too casual, as it once did for me, but I was putting a physical ritual within a church building above the spiritual relationship with my ever-present Savior. And if it does seem wrong for your family, then do not do it. Unity—not division!
As the parent, you have a front row seat to recognizing how God is working in the lives of your children. If you ask the right questions, you will find yourself amazed not only at the answers, but at the questions asked in return. When it comes to The Lord’s Supper, celebrate as a family and teach your children what unity means within the immediate family and within the church family. Know what your church home teaches, and stand in unity with them as to the details of when you introduce communion to your children in that context (after baptism, certain classes, etc.). In the home, set the stage for a relationship with the Savior and stand in unity as you break the bread together around your table.
By His Grace,
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and one gentle, joy-filled, little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city. She loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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