Pastor and author John MacArthur once shared a story from his childhood when his dad told him “Son, we are going to take The Lord’s Supper and we’d like for you to participate.” The young John MacArthur said “Well, I hope they’re not having peas!” This prompted his dad to have John wait a while before he participated in the ordinance of The Lord’s Supper!
Children need to have an understanding of The Lord’s Supper before participating in it. The question is, at what age do they understand? There is no “age of accountabil- ity” or explicit age given in the Bible. So when does a “childlike faith” become “saving faith”? It varies from child to child based on several factors including how much teaching on the subject the child has been exposed to, their rate of maturity, and most important – the work of the Holy Spirit revealing spiritual truth in their lives.
Ultimately, the decision of when the time is right is up to the parents of a child. Parents know their children best, and are responsible for teaching their kids the truth of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Parents should approach this decision thoughtfully and prayerfully.
Here are some important things for parents to keep in mind when determining if the time is right for their children to participate:
- Has your child made a convincing profession of faith in Jesus Christ?
- Do you see a love for God and the desire to follow and obey Jesus in their life?
Does the child understand and can they explain, to some degree, the significance of The Lord’s Supper?
It’s not something to rush into. The Lord’s Supper doesn’t grant them salvation or gain them special favor with God. It’s a way to, by symbolism, remember and celebrate the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Waiting until a child has a better understanding can likely add to the significance of them participating when the time is right.
It’s also not something to delay too long. The Lord’s Supper is a starting point, not something to be strived for and achieved. As Christians, we’ll spend the rest of our lives gaining a deeper understanding of The Lord’s Supper. Children shouldn’t be expected to know it all, but rather a working understanding of the basics.
In our family, we waited until our children were baptized. This seemed like a natural time, and made sense to our kids. When they had grasped the gospel, and made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ through baptism, they could also articulate the significance of The Lord’s Supper and participate. This has happened at different ages for each of my kids. The youngest being 7 years old.
When you feel like the time has come for your child to participate, you might find this article to be a helpful tool. Also, consider discussing the following passages of Scripture with your child: 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, Luke 22:14-23, Mathew 26:26-29