At Fleetwood CRC in Surrey, British Columbia, children of any age and their parent(s) are invited to attend ‘Children at the Table: A Course for Children and Parents’ a two-session course (offered twice a year depending on interest) to learn more about God’s invitation to them in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper. Led by the pastors and held on Sunday afternoons, the course is held around the communion table and lasts about 45 minutes to an hour.
At the end of the second session, each child is given a simple form on which they are invited to write or draw a personal Statement of Faith following this prompt: “I want to participate in communion because . . .” On the next Lord’s Supper Sunday following the course, the children’s responses (which the pastors say are a joy to read) are included in the worship service bulletin, and the children are identified by their first name and the initial letter of their last name. Parents receive a letter with encouraging ideas to help them prepare their child both for their first communion and for future Lord’s Supper participation.
Pastor Tom Bomhof says that there is no pressure placed on people to take the class—it’s up to the discretion of the parents, and it’s not a requirement in order to participate in the Lord’s Supper—but the class is available for any child who has ever wondered about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper or who has ever asked, “Can I do that?”
Children at the Lord’s Table
A two session course for children and their parent(s) written by Rev. Tom Bomhof, Fleetwood CRC
Session One: We are the Family of God
What You Need:
Children should bring to the event (as they are able):
- Birth certificate
- Baptismal certificate
- Baptism day photo
Pastor/Leader should bring:
- A baby photo and photo(s) of the pastor/leader with family members doing some of the things they like to do together. Tip: Put photos on powerpoint or make them available in a format that can be passed around.
- White board or chart paper and a marker
- Paper and pencils, one per family, optional
What You Do:
Begin by gathering together at the front of the sanctuary, near the communion table.
Use the following talking points as you begin your time together:
- you’re here as a response to the invitation in the bulletin; to God’s invitation
- you’ve come with your family to learn about the bigger family of God.
- there will be two sessions, let by [name of pastor/leader]
- have participants go around the circle and introduce themselves
2. Jesus and Children
Read Matthew 19: 13-15.
Pray: Dear Jesus, thank you that you accepted us no matter who we are, no matter what age we are. Thank you that you know each one of us and have brought us here to this place. Help us to learn about and be encouraged in your family. Amen
3. What is Family?
Print the following on the whiteboard or chart paper: “What is a Family?”
Invite each family to respond verbally or by writing down a one line response.
After a few moments, ask:
“How do you know you’re a member of a family?”
“Is everyone the same in a family?”
“How do you become a member of a family?”
“Do you remember joining your family?
“Are there any stories about how you joined your family?
Show the birth certificates and ask, “What do these documents tell you?”
4. The Church as Family
Say: “You were also born into a bigger family, the family of God, the church.”
a. The Church is a family: How did you join the family of God?
b. Baptism: Entering the family of God
Invite everyone to look their baptism certificates and baptism pictures.
Ask the following questions:
What happens in baptism?
- parent(s) promise
- congregation promises
- pastor says the baby’s name and the three names for God
- pastor sprinkles baby’s head with water
What does baptism mean?
- that God loves us even before we know about him
- that God is working in the world to heal us
- that Jesus’ life and death show us how to live and what to be confident about
- that the Spirit of God makes us new people
Why do we baptize with water?
Does anyone remember being baptized?
Point out that baptism is done differently in different churches: babies/adults; sprinkling/immersion; back of church/front of church; in the church/at the beach, etc.
Session 2: God’s Family at the Table
What you need:
- power point images you’ve gathered to help explain the talking points in Part 2 below, optional
- Copies of the order of worship bulletins
What you do:
Begin by gathering together around the baptismal font.
During Session 1 we talked about:
we belong to TWO families—can you tell me about those two families?
tell me what we learned about baptism.
Act out a baptism, inviting two children to act as parents, using the doll as their child
Ask the kids to tell you about what’s happening.
Talk about God’s covenant, and joining God’s family
2. Gather together around the communion table.
Invite kids to tell you about what they do at home around the dinner table.
Talking points (show power point images to help explain each point, optional):
Old Testament, Passover
- reminded people of a big event that saved people
New Testament, Lord’s Supper
- Jesus had Passover, made it new, no killing animals
Early church, communion
- later became a bigger thing, Mass, Eucharist
Today, we still do it; we try to be more like Jesus did it, around a table
Other names for this sacrament:
- Lord’s Supper
- Breaking the Bread
Communion We Remember: Past, Present, Future
- Remember Jesus’ life and death (past)
- Being part of God’s family NOW (present)
- Looking forward to the great wedding banquet. The Bible says that heaven is like a great banquet. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of what we are looking forward to in heaven. (future)
3. Tour of the Table
- special table cloth and dishes
- not enough food to fill you up! (as the food got less, the meaning got more)
- NOT magic: don’t turn into Jesus’ body and blood; ordinary bread, ordinary juice used in a special way;
- different ways of celebrating it: individually, communally, sitting down, standing up, receiving it or taking it etc. etc.
Practice holding the bread and cup together.
Extend the invitation using words like the following:
If you love Jesus and you can remember things about his life and death and if you want to learn more about him and learn to love the world like he did: you’re invited! Don’t need to know everything, remember everything. God will use the food of his Table to help you grow, just like your dinner table food helps you to grow.
- when do we celebrate communion? Do we celebrate it at home? With just our own family? (no, we celebrate communion in worship, with our spiritual family)
- worship is the special way Christian give honor/glory to God for being great and mighty and loving and for teaching us so much about himself in Jesus
- worship is a conversation between us and God with the pastor or other worship leaders giving us God’s words and to show He is with us and us responding with our songs and prayers and gifts and bodies (we leave!!!)
- look at our morning worship (pass out copies) and see if you can find these things there:
we sing praise
we go out to serve
- sacraments come as part of the whole conversation in worship which has many ways to show God loves us but the sacraments are extra special and includes the pastor saying: “The gifts of God for the people of God”
- at our church we celebrate every __ weeks
Consider together the mood of worship:
- what does worship feel like to you?
- sad and serious (sometimes, b/c there’s a lot that is wrong with the world and a lot of things that take a lot of our attention to understand; sometimes we’re sad about our sin, how we don’t love each other very well or how sad things happen; Good Friday especially somber)
- happy and lively (sometimes, b/c we’re happy to be alive, happy God loves us and gives us his world: Easter and Christmas especially happy)
- need BOTH; don’t need to stay away because you’re too happy OR too sad/mixed up
- Lord’s Supper can feel sad and serious OR happy and lively (Remember: it’s not only Good Friday we remember when we remember Jesus!)
6. Who is the Supper For?
Read Luke 5: Dinner with the Tax Collectors
- EVERYONE is invited: sometimes we have a hard time with this; want to leave someone out
- doesn’t matter if your skin is light or dark, if you’re tall or short, if you can remember everything we talked about these three weeks or just a few things, if you’re a boy or a girl, if you’re a kid or a grown-up: you’re invited!!!
- you were baptized because your parent(s) trusted that God knew you before you knew him
- you can eat the supper because that same God still knows you and is giving you a way to know him better
- just like the rice and chicken on your dinner plate fill your stomach up and help you grow, this little meal will help your heart to grow
Invite everyone to stand around the Lord’s Supper table so that all can get a good look as you close by demonstrating what happens during a Lord’s Supper celebration.
“Now let us hear the story of how this sacrament began.
On the night on which Jesus was betrayed, he sat at supper with his disciples. While they were eating, he took a piece of bread, said a blessing, broke it, and gave it to them with the words, “This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me.”
Later, he took a cup of wine, saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Drink from it, all of you, to remember me”
So now, following Jesus’ example and command, we take this bread and this cup, the ordinary things of the world, which Christ made special.
And as he said a prayer before sharing, let us do so too.”
“Gratitude, praise, hearts lifted high, voices full and joyful, minds alert and attentive…all these things you deserve, O Gracious God.
For when we were nothing, you made us something. When we had no name and no faith and no future, you called us your children. When we lost our way or turned away, you did not abandon us. When we came back to you, you ran to us, your arms opened wide in welcome.
And look, you prepare a table for us offering not just bread, not just wine, but your very self so that we may be filled, forgiven, healed, blessed, and made new again. You are worth all our praise.
And so now we bless you and join our voices with the church on earth and heaven in saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as we do in this place what you did in an upstairs room, send down your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts of bread and wine that they may become for us your body, healing, forgiving and making us whole; and that we may become, for you, your body, loving and caring in the world until your kingdom comes.
In the name of Jesus, Amen”
“This is the table, not of the church, but of the Lord.
It is made ready for those who love him and who want to love him more.
So come, you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often, and you who have not been for a long time,
you who have tried to follow and succeeded, and you who have tried and failed.
Come, because it is not I who invite you: it is our Lord.
It is his will that those who want him should meet him here.
The gifts of God for the people of God.”
Song: “Eat This Bread, Drink This Cup”
“The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
Take, eat, remember and believe that the body our Lord Jesus Christ was given for your forgiveness.”
“The cup which we drink is a sharing in the blood of Christ.
Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of Christ was shed for your redemption.”
Read: Psalm 103:1-5
Pray: “In gratitude, in deep gratitude for this moment, this meal, these people, on this day, we give ourselves to you. Take us out to live as changed people because we have shared the Living Bread and cannot remain the same. Ask much of us, expect much from us, enable much by us, encourage many through us. So, Lord, may we live to your glory, both as inhabitants of earth and citizens of the commonwealth of heaven. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”
8. Statement of Faith
Distribute the Dear Parents letters a Statement of Faith paper to each child/family. Invite the children to talk with their parent(s) at home about whether they would like to participate in the Lord’s Supper and if so, why they would like to do that. Let the children know that after that conversation and when they feel ready to do, they are encouraged to fill out the Statement of Faith themselves—using words or pictures—and to give that to the pastor, who looks forward to reading/seeing it.