14th Street Christian Reformed Church, Holland, MI Children at the Table, Our Congregation’s Journey Written by Marv Hofman, pastor March 2015
Tell us about your congregation's journey to including children at the Lord's Supper.
Our church had a long history of inviting young children to make profession of faith. The church had been encouraging this since the 1980s. The conversation on bringing baptized members to the table began at staff meetings when Bob Keeley, Laura Keeley and I started talking about this issue, which had been raised at a conferences we had attended. We looked at the scriptural issues and talked about the practical issues and we became convinced that inviting baptized children to the table was appropriate and that the present profession of faith system wasn’t working well in our congregation. We had children who professed their faith at 10 years old taking communion and 18 years old teens who demonstrated a love of the Lord in their lives but hadn’t made profession of faith who weren’t at the table. In addition our congregation included people like Dalton, a person with disability who would never be able to make a profession of faith and Owen, a man with Alzheimer’s disease who needed help taking the elements. These two extreme cases also caused us to reconsider our practice. We decided to begin congregational discussions on the issue.
Over the course of the next year, 14th Street CRC held multiple roundtable discussions with the congregation and I preached sermons based on 1 Corinthians 11. With the support of the council and the congregation, Bob, Laura and I wrote an overture to the church council.
In December 2005 the 14th Street Church Council approved an overture to allow baptism-based participation in communion. This proposal was sent from the council to the Classis Holland which then went to Synod. Our congregation waited for Synod to change the church order to allow children at the table and in September 2010, we welcomed all baptized people to participate in Communion.
Describe the impact this journey, this examination, of the Lord’s Supper has had on your congregation.
Our congregation has been blessed by this practice. The elders often mention how meaningful it is to offer the elements to the children. The children treat the practice with respect.
What could we [other congregations] learn from your experience?
Our congregation needed time to process the idea of children at the table without a profession of faith. During the time when we discussed this topic we had several Professions of Faith by our teens. Since 2011, the number of professions has dropped off and we need to find better ways to encourage profession of faith by our young people.