Children and Communion

The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual contradicts itself on the subject of Communion. On the one hand the manual states that Adventists hold open communion, meaning that one need not be a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in order to take communion with us. On the other hand, the manual states that children must be baptized before taking communion demonstrating that, in fact, we do not hold open communion. Some North American pastors point out that either we hold open communion or we do not. We cannot discriminate against any group and continue to make the claim for openness.

NAD Children's Ministries suggests that since the manual contradicts itself, parents and pastors should pay more attention to children on communion day. They should consider what is happening and the messages children take from communion.

In many churches, unbaptized children and youth stand around outside the church during communion. They enjoy being outside and talking with their friends. When they are older it is hard to coax them back inside to take part. Churches should consider the message they are giving when they exclude children from communion.

What About Taking Part Unworthily

If we do not worry about all the adults who may be taking part unworthily, why are we assuming that kids are unworthy, that they don't understand, that they cannot set their hearts to rights during the sermon just as many adults do.

And who is responsible if they do take part unworthily? Their parents. So we need to leave that responsibility with the parents and educate parents to prepare children for communion.

One leading theologian in the church, a particularly good friend of children, points out that within the context of the statement about taking part unworthily, the Bible writer was talking about a lack of unity as being the cause of unworthiness. Lack of unity is a problem of adults.

Suggestions for Children Taking Part in Communion

1. At least once a year, have a program for families, similar to the "Visit to the Upper Room" so children can experience and understand communion in its original context.

2. Hold a family seminar on communion. Discuss the issues and encourage parents to take responsibility for preparing their children for communion.

3. When very small children ask to take part, parents might break off a little of their bread to share with the child.

4. When older children ask to take part, parents might talk to them about the responsibilities of membership in the community of believers. Talk about stewardship/tithing, listening to the sermon in church, regular attendance, helping at church, etc. If the kids feel ready to take responsibility for these things, grant them the right to take part in communion. Make communion a family event.

5. Do not rush children into baptism just so they can take part in communion.

North American Division Children's Ministries Statement on Children and Communion. Issued June 1, 1998.

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