Background Studies and Ministry Tools Resource List

Background Studies: a listing of materials that both research and study the underlying theological and biblical considerations of welcoming children to the Lord's Supper. (assembled by Howard Vanderwell)

Ministry Tools: a listing of materials that are helpful for parents, pastors, and church leaders. (assembled by Howard Vanderwell)

Background Studies

“A New Order of Christian Nurture: Do Children Belong at the Table?” Mike Abma, Reformed Worship 91, pp. 22-23
This article by Pastor Abma asks a key question: If we believe baptism is a sign and seal of membership in a covenant relationship with God, and if the Lord’s Supper is designed to nourish that covenant relationship, then why has the church allowed children to experience one but not the other?

“Affirming Baptism and Forming Faith,” also available in summary form and as a Study Guide for small groups; Agenda for Synod 2011, pp. 550-69
An extensive document that examines the significance of our baptismal identity, affirming our baptismal identity as a lifelong practice, revitalizing public profession of faith and the Lord’s Supper. Discussion on this document will bring fresh understandings to old practices.

Celebrating the Milestones of Faith, Laura and Robert J. Keeley, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009
This booklet of five chapters is designed for parents and church leaders to help us understand the importance of milestones in a child’s faith development. In addition, many helpful milestone directives are noted.

“Children and Church Membership,” Reformed Churches of Australia, Acts of Synod 1994
An extensive study report for the Synod of the Reformed Churches of Australia examining all the biblical and confessional evidence and coming to the conclusion that membership in the covenant is that of full membership in the church.

“Children at the Table,” the decision of CRC Synod 2010; Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 810-12
Synod’s key decision on the matter in 2010: “All baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord’s table and called to obey the scriptural commands about participation (e.g., to “examine themselves,” to “discern the body,” to “proclaim the Lord’s death,” to “wait for others”) in an age- and ability-appropriate way, under the supervision of the elders. The elders have responsibility to nurture in the congregation grateful and obedient participation through encouragement, instruction, and accountability.”

“Children at the Lord’s Table: Toward a Guiding Principle for Biblically Faithful Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Agenda for Synod 2011, pp. 577-609
This substantial document explains the foundational principle that led to the decision of Synod 2010 allowing participation at the Lord’s Supper with age- and ability-appropriate responses of faith. Here is good insight into 1 Corinthians 11, children at the table, profession of faith, and advised ministry practices.

“Children at the Table: A Summary with Discussion Questions,” Faith Formation website
A concise and helpful summary of the above-cited report to Synod 2010.

“Children at the Lord’s Supper and Reformed Theology,” Lyle Bierma, in Calvin Theological Seminary Forum, Spring 2007
The Reformed confessions teach that there is one community of God throughout all of redemptive history, and children are full members of that community.

“Children at the Lord’s Supper and the Key Text of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34,” Jeffrey Wiema, in Calvin Theological Seminary Forum, Spring 2007
This article addresses the issues at stake in our interpretations of 1 Corinthians 11, pointing out that Paul is clearly concerned about exclusion and actions that treat some as unequal members of the body of Christ.

“Children at the Table: Some Provisional Answers to the Practical Questions,” John Witvliet, in Calvin Theological Seminary Forum, Spring 2007
This article addresses some of the key and most frequently asked questions about children at the table and provides wise, winsome answers.

“Children at the Lord’s Supper: Suggested Procedural Guidelines for Boards of Elders,” RCA General Synod, 1990
This report of the Commission on Christian Worship, submitted to the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America in 1990, includes a helpful section on “Suggested Procedural Guidelines for Boards of Elders re children at the Lord’s Table.” Later this report addresses the matter of membership categories and definitions in light of children coming to the Lord’s table.

“Children of the Covenant: Towards a Re-thinking of the Place of Children at the Lord’s Table,” Presbyterian Church of Canada, 1984
In 1984, this report was presented to the Presbyterian Church of Canada about the role of children in the community of faith. The issues are outlined for congregations exploring the questions, and this is a resource to be used by congregations who have already invited children to the Lord’s table.

“Deep-in-the-Bones Belonging,” Syd Hielema, The Banner, June 2007, pp. 18-20
In this article the CRCNA Faith Formation specialist adds momentum to the discussion in the church to think about the relationship of our children and youth to the church of Jesus Christ.

“Erosion at the Font,” Henry De Moor, Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1, April 1994, pp. 168-179
The author sees the willingness of many CRC churches to offer the option of dedication of newborn children as an expression of the pressure on our churches to more readily gather members in, but also as an indication that our theology of the church is not as healthy as it ought to be. He affirms the sacrament of infant baptism as an expression of God’s covenant with us.

“Faith Formation: A Model for a Healthy Congregational Culture,” Faith Formation Committee website
Five phases of a congregational culture are outlined and explained so that faith formation can become a lifelong process. Church leaders will find this discussion very helpful in providing a culture of nurture within congregational care.

“Infant Baptism in Our Reformed Confessions,” Lyle Bierma, in Calvin Theological Seminary Forum, Fall 2008
This article shows how the Reformed confessions portray infant baptism. He points out that nowhere in Scripture are covenant children considered as anything other than full members of the visible church.

“Infant Dedication and the Christian Reformed Church,” Agenda for Synod 2012, pp. 425-34
Before the Faith Formation Committee concluded its work, synod asked it to explore the issue of child dedication and its propriety (or not) for covenant children. Both the history and current practices of child dedication are explained, noting synod’s advice to discourage child dedication ceremonies.

“Paedocommunion and the Reformed Confessions” (3 parts), Cornelis Venema, The Outlook, 2007.
Three articles examine how the confessions of the Reformed churches indicate that paedocommunion is not to be allowed.

Q & A: A Summary of Biblical Teachings, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2008
This booklet contains a compendium-style summary of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony in 84 questions and answers, designed for use in preparing youth for profession of faith.

“Recognizing Baptism and Profession of Faith,” RCA General Synod, 1995
This report to the RCA Synod of 1995 examines the significance of our baptism and our profession of faith and the implications of each for our status of church membership.

“Report of the Committee on Paedocommunion,” Orthodox Presbyterian Church, General Assembly, 2006
The Committee on Paedocommunion for the OPC reports on its studies supporting the confessional/traditional position of rejecting paedocommunion. Two minority reports are included.

“Report of the Ad-Interim Committee to Study the Question of Paedocommunion,” PCA General Assembly, 1988
The Presbyterian Church in America receives reports, with minority reports, that it continue the practice of admitting to the Lord’s Supper only those who are of years and ability to examine themselves.

Shaped by God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth, and Adults, ed. Robert J. Keeley, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2010
This book is indispensable reading for pastors, church leaders, parents, and educators. Faith formation doesn’t just happen, it’s a Spirit-shaped lifelong process of shaping and reshaping.

“The New Testament Evidence Regarding Paedocommunion” (7 parts), Cornelis Venema, The Outlook, 2006
These seven articles provide an analysis of the New Testament evidence that the author claims indicates there is dissimilarity between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper in that the latter includes an indication of the reception of and commitment to continue in the teachings of the apostles.

“The Old Testament Evidence Regarding the Participation of Children in Covenant Observance” (3 parts), Cornelis Venema, The Outlook, 2006
These three articles examine how the evidence from the Old Testament indicates that children of the covenant participated fully in covenant observances, yet full participation in the Lord’s Supper is different in that it carries a requirement of active faith.

“United, Separated, Re-united: The Story of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,” David Rylaarsdam in Calvin Theological Seminary Forum, Spring 2007
Professor Rylaarsdam shows from church history that both baptism and communion were part of the ceremonies marking a person’s entrance into the church.

Ministry Tools

“Affirming Baptism and Forming Faith,” Sermon/Service Series suggestions, Faith Formation website.
A series of six worship services are suggested with Scripture passages, confessional references, songs, and other resources available. Pastors and others who plan worship will benefit from all of these ideas.

“Affirming Baptism and Professing Faith,” Lift Up Your Hearts, 848; Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013
This liturgical tool will aid churches in including in their worship life the opportunity for members to meaningfully affirm the significance of their baptism and profess their faith.

“A Letter from the Faith Formation Committee,” Faith Formation website
This communication from the Faith Formation Committee to church leaders points out the key themes to be considered when aiming to strengthen profession of faith practices.

“A Model for a Profession of Faith Liturgy,” Faith Formation website, Acts of Synod 1995, pp. 715-16
This formulary, designed for hearing the professions of faith of younger children, was first approved in 1989 and later modified in 1995. It is a suitable and understandable formulary for use with younger children.

“A Primer for Welcoming Children to the Lord’s Supper and the Role of Public Profession of Faith,” Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 329-31
This short document includes 15 questions and answers that are frequently asked by churches about the impact that welcoming children to the table will have on public profession of faith.

At Your Baptism, Carrie Steenwyk and John D. Witvliet, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011
An excellent board book to read to little children as they learn about their baptism.

“Celebrating Baptismal Identity: Ideas for Marking the Beginning of a New Church Season,” John Witvliet, Reformed Worship 92, p. 14
Helpful creative ideas for worship planners and pastors to begin a new church season with a meaningful celebration of our baptism identity.

Children’s Profession of Faith: A Guidebook for Pastors and Elders, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009
Pastors and elders will be served well by this booklet in developing their ministry to prepare youth for their profession of faith. Both understanding and practical help are involved.

“Faith Formation: A Checklist for Congregations,” Faith Formation website
This tool is designed for pastors and councils to insightfully evaluate the culture and ministries of their congregation with an eye to effective faith formation efforts.

“Faith Formation: Best Practices from Real Churches,” Laura Keeley, Reformed Worship 92, pp. 12-13
Here you will find a variety of ideas for people of all ages to continue their formation of faith through practices and disciplines designed to make the local congregation a healthily nurturing place.

“Forms for Baptism and Profession of Faith” (from the Reformed Church in America), Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 333-47
These two liturgical forms, for baptism and for profession of faith, will be very helpful to churches in their ministries to children and youth. These forms have recently been approved for use in the Reformed Church in America.

“Forms for Public Profession of Faith,” 1932, 1976, 1989, 2013
The CRC now has four approved forms for use in Public Profession of Faith. Each of these can be found in the Acts of Synod and on the CRCNA website as liturgical resources.

Home Grown Handbook for Christian Parenting (with a Study Guide), Karen De Boer, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2010
Seven chapters include 111 real-life questions and answers. This book is ideal for parents, and a study guide makes it an accessible tool for groups to study.

I Believe: Getting Ready to Profess My Faith, Jesse Schut, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2004
A mentorship-based resource designed to prepare youth for professing their faith. They are directed to proper thoughts and convictions.

Nurturing Your Child’s Faith: Leading Your Child to the Lord’s Table, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009
A pamphlet from Faith Alive Christian Resources that helps parents think clearly about helping their children grow in faith.

“Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows,” Sing! A New Creation, 240; Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001
A liturgical tool for worshiping congregations to use at times when they desire to make a reaffirmation of their baptism vows.

“Strengthening Profession of Faith: A Guide for Councils,” Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 331-33
Most churches, out of a love for their youth, desire to see profession of faith thrive among them as a milestone event. Here are eight helpful suggestions, with discussion questions to aid in the process.

“Table Fellowship: A Liturgy for Welcoming Children,” Stan Mast, Reformed Worship 92, pp. 24-25
Here’s the story of one congregation that took the issue of children at the Lord’s table seriously, designed a meaningful procedure to follow in ministry to them, and also designed a liturgy for their admission to table fellowship to be used in public worship.

Taste and See, Beth Jewett, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013
This downloadable two-session course (in PDF format) is filled with meaningful, hands-on activities to help children understand their baptism and prepare for participation in the Lord's Supper.

You’re Invited, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2012
A one-week devotional guide that will help parents and caretakers explain what the Lord’s Supper is all about and prepare children to participate.

Children at the Lord's Table Webinar
A recorded webinar from April 25, 2012, focusing on ideas for introducing and implementing changes related to the decision of synod to welcome children to the Lord’s table.