Children Communing before Confirmation

When the pastor gives the very body and blood of Jesus under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, the believer receives forgiveness, life and salvation. For that reason, Martin Luther said about the Lord’s Supper: “This sacrament is the gospel.” It is nothing less than a miracle that Jesus, who is true God and true man, gives us his very body and blood – the same body and blood given and shed on the cross, and risen from the dead – to eat and to drink so that we might be forgiven of our sins and preserved for our own resurrection to eternal life.

At Our Savior’s we include the celebration of Holy Communion at every weekend and feast day service because it is the gospel – and we need the gospel! Catechesis and preaching regularly call attention to what Christ gives us in the Sacrament. It is not surprising then that children notice and want to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Or at least it shouldn’t be surprising. Children can understand the simple gospel of Holy Communion, which Jesus himself explains when he said, “Take, eat/drink. This is my body/blood. For you. For the forgiveness of sins.” Simple. In fact, based on what our Lord said about children and faith, children may even find the theology of Holy Communion easier to believe than adults do. In the Small Catechism Luther asks and answers the question about who is worthy to receive Holy Communion: “Who receives this sacrament worthily? …that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’” Children can understand what Holy Communion is and offers. They can be worthy and prepared to receive it.

The practice of most Lutherans in America has been that children do not receive Holy Communion until after taking part in a rite of Confirmation at the end of eighth grade. The longer-standing practice in the Christian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church from the time of the Reformation has been that believers in Jesus received Holy Communion when they were ready at any age, and the age varied. The process and rite of Confirmation as we practice it today is the result of later developments in the Lutheran Church that emphasized a personal confession of faith and a vow of obedience to life in the Church. Unfortunately, because of these later emphases an unintended consequence developed where instruction in the Christian faith using the Catechism became a means to an end. Catechesis was regarded as a required course to qualify for receiving Holy Communion, rather than as part of the life-long process of forming faith through hearing God’s Word and receiving Holy Communion. Not only the Lutheran Church, but other denominations that practice Confirmation as we do today, often see the confirmed drift away from regular worship and life in the church soon after Confirmation because they have come to believe they have “graduated” from church.

Many in the Lutheran Church today are trying to reverse that trend with practices that better reflect the theology of Holy Communion and the purpose of catechesis in our time and culture. Because Holy Communion is the gospel, because children often want to and can receive Holy Communion, and because for almost two centuries after the Reformation the Lutheran Church did not deny it to them, Our Savior’s offers a process that allows children to commune who are prepared to receive it.

The process happens like this: When a child wishes to receive the Sacrament, and the child’s parents believe he or she is ready to do so, they begin to prepare them to receive the Sacrament. The primary focus of this process is in the home. Working with the parents, children learn by heart the Small Catechism: Ten Commandments, Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and institution texts for Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and the Sacrament of the Altar (see below). They also learn the basic meaning of the Small Catechism, both at home with their parents and at church with the pastor. If the parents think their child is ready, and the child is sufficiently prepared as demonstrated in the examination with the pastor, the pastor invites the child(ren) to receive the Sacrament using the “Rite of First Communion Prior to Confirmation,” which is found in the LCMS Lutheran Service Book Agenda.

This does not mean that Confirmation as it has been practiced at Our Savior’s has changed. Children who wish to commune will be expected to have an understanding that matches their age and ability. Catechesis in our Christian Education Program (CEP) will continue to be the time during which children develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of Christianity that we expect of confessing congregation members. Youth who began communing as a child but for no legitimate reason do not take part in CEP will not be allowed to continue to commune because it undermines the unity of our common confession.

Offering to commune children before Confirmation is not required nor expected. Parents and children who wish to wait until after Confirmation in eighth grade are free to do so. Our goal is to make Christ’s gift of the Sacrament available to children who are prepared to receive it, to encourage learning about the basic truths of Christianity in the home, and to affirm the on-going, life-long importance of God’s Word and Holy Communion in the believer’s life in Christ.

Texts from the Small Catechism to memorize and understand in a simple way

Ten Commandments

The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods.

The Second Commandment
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

The Third Commandment
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

The Fourth Commandment
Honor your father and your mother.

The Fifth Commandment
You shall not murder.

The Sixth Commandment
You shall not commit adultery.

The Seventh Commandment
You shall not steal.

The Eighth Commandment
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

The Ninth Commandment
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

The Tenth Commandment
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;
give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Sacrament of Holy Baptism

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

+ Mark 16:16 +

Confession

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven;
if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

+ John 20:22–23 +

Sacrament of the Altar

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

+ The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul +