February 1st, 2018
At Austin Mustard Seed we practice an open table. That means when we celebrate the Eucharist everyone is welcome to receive the bread and wine, including children of all ages. In many churches children must attend a class or meet certain requirements before participating in Communion. For us, however, the Eucharist is a family event. Jesus’ ministry centered around table fellowship which included children. Passover itself, which is what we’re reenacting as we celebrate Eucharist, was a family celebration. Being present at the table with their parents is a way children learn to understand and respond to the gospel.
Here are four simple things you can do as parents to increase your child’s understanding of the Eucharist:
Read the story of the Last Supper. This story is told beautifully in the Jesus Storybook Bible or the Spark Story Bible. Children of all ages benefit from hearing scripture read directly from the Bible as well (Matthew 26:17-30 or Luke 22:7-38). Read the story around the dinner table as a family and have everyone imagine what it was like to be there. What were the smells, tastes? What did it feel like to have been one of Jesus’ disciples at that supper, or to have been Jesus himself?
Help your kids pay attention to the prayers during Eucharist. Some of the words change from season to season, but one part of it stays the same. Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Take, eat this is my body which is broken for you,” and, “Drink this, all of you, for the remembrance of me,” are said Sunday after Sunday. Draw your child’s attention to those words as they’re said.
Instruct your child what the bread and wine means. An easy way to do this is to tell them to listen to what the servers say as you tear off the bread and dip it in the wine. Let’s be honest. Eucharist happens close to lunch. We’re all hungry. And to the kids it looks like snack time. It’s ok to correct your child if they call it a snack or bread time. They may need a reminder each week that this is a special time our church shares together, as a family. Some kids may also need instruction to tear off only a small piece of bread as well.
Spend time reflecting as a family. The Eucharist means thanksgiving or to give praise. It is right and good to give thanks to God in all circumstances and at all times. As you return to your seats, say a short prayer together as a family about what you’re thankful for. This will help your children understand that the Eucharist is a special, sacred meal.
This may sound like an idealized view of family Eucharist. There will be Sundays when it doesn’t work out. But you can still set expectations and create a habit for your family.
Alongside these conversations you can have as a family, Karen Jordan and I are collaborating on a Kids’ Time class to teach the kids about Jesus’ Last Supper and Eucharist. This will take place on Palm Sunday. The PreK-5th graders will combine classes for a special Sunday. We’re excited for an opportunity to create a special lesson for the kids.
I value your commitment as parents to your children’s discipleship. It’s important work you’re all doing. We hope to offer support. If you have questions or other ideas to add about how to include kids in Eucharist or our Liturgy, please let me know.