Our Statement of Faith says:
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been given to the churches by Christ as visible signs of the gospel. Baptism is a symbol of union with Christ and entry into his Church but does not impart spiritual life. The Lord’s Supper is a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice offered once for all and involves no change in the bread and wine. All its blessings are received by faith.
Children and baptism
We love to see children expressing trust in Jesus and we want to do all we can to encourage this. Our Lord commanded the church to baptise all new believers (Matt. 28:18-20). So, when a child is believing in Jesus will we baptise them?
This is the right question because no one baptises themselves! The church must decide whether to baptise someone. It is also the right question because baptism is a picture of someone being joined to Jesus and the Bible tells us that members of Christ are members of his body (i.e., the local church, Rom. 12:5). When we baptise someone, we are marking them out in public as someone who belongs to Jesus and is a visible member of our church with all the responsibilities of membership. This means that the church must decide whether the faith of the person asking to be baptised is visible and accountable.
Therefore, we want to ask two questions about children who are trusting Jesus to help decide whether or not to baptise them:
- Can this child give a credible profession of their faith? Children can certainly have a saving faith; but in the tenderness of younger years, it can be hard for others to see this. This is especially the case for those brought up in Christian households. If a church cannot make a reasonable assessment, then it would be wise to wait before baptising.
- Where is the best place for this young expression of faith to be nurtured? God puts children in families where they can receive nurture and care, even when they are wayward. When someone is baptised their walk with the Lord becomes accountable to the whole church. In many cases, whilst someone is under the care of their parent(s) it is best to allow their faith to be nurtured under the authority of the home rather than the church; and therefore, to wait before baptising. This must be judged on a case-by-case basis according to the individual and the home environment.
Children and the Lord’s Supper
We love to see children expressing trust in Jesus and we want to do all we can to encourage this. Our Lord commanded the church to share bread & wine in remembrance of him. Should children share this meal?
The cup represents the new covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:25). That new covenant includes all the believing family of God who are trusting Jesus Christ. Therefore, we ask those who are not Christians not to share in this meal. The church in Corinth abused this meal (so that it couldn’t be called the Lord’s Supper, 1 Cor. 11:20) and Paul gives them corrective warnings not to eat and drink in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:27) and to examine themselves beforehand (1 Cor. 11:28). He then adds this reason, “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgement on themselves” (1 Cor. 11:29). This mention of Christ’s body picks up on what Paul said a little earlier: “Is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:16-17). The great promise that is offered at the Lord’s Supper is a participation in the body of Christ! That is, by faith we share the benefits of all Christ is and has done. Then Paul adds something more. The sharing in Christ is a sharing together. The many who trust Jesus are one body and this body is seen by eating one loaf together (at the meal the many are seen to be one). The Lord’s Supper pictures our relationship with Christ and one another.
At Kingfisher we encourage parents to take responsibility for their own children at the Lord’s Supper and to decide whether they think it is appropriate for their children to share the meal. There are two approaches that families at Kingfisher adopt,
- Since the meal is for all who are trusting Jesus, some families will wait until they discern a very clear profession of faith (this is likely to follow many questions and conversations); then, at that point, will encourage their child to partake.
- Since the meal is where the church as a body is seen, some families decide that it is best to wait until after baptism before their children share the meal.
We would encourage all families to carefully think through these approaches and, where required, to speak to one of the elders.
Jesus started the Lord’s Supper at a Passover meal; there is wonderful continuity between the two meals. At the Passover the children were to ask their grownups: “What does this ceremony mean to you?” (Ex. 12:26). Every time we share this meal, we want to encourage our children to watch what is happening and think about what it means. We want to encourage our children to ask their grownups: What does this mean to you?