Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Grandville, MI
Children at the Table, Our Congregation’s Journey
Written by Barb Sanders, Pastor of Discipleship and Education
Tell us about your congregation’s journey to include children at the Lord’s Supper.
Since the 1980s our congregation has witnessed grade school and middle school age students making profession of faith. We have a mentor ministry using the book I Believe by Jessie Schut. Those who participate, both adults and students, have found the relationship and preparation to be enriching and encouraging. The mentors have also commented that this experience has renewed their knowledge of and appreciation for the creeds and confessions.
When Synod 2007 appointed the Faith Formation Committee and this committee provided an annual update, I would provide a brief overview of this update at a Council meeting.
When Synod 2011 approved welcoming baptized children to the Table then the shepherding elders of our church appointed a “Children at the Table Committee.” At one of our first meetings we decided on the name “Welcome to the Table” as a way to acknowledge that some baptized members who are older than children have not yet made profession of faith; and that they too are welcome to the Table.
We gathered information from other churches and the Faith Formation website. We invited Rev. Howard Vanderwell, one of the CRC Faith Formation Committee members to one of our meetings. We also scheduled a congregation information meeting at which Rev. Vanderwell was the presenter.
The committee worked for about a year on a proposal which the congregation adopted in February 2012. This proposal provided a framework where two elders are part of a conversation with parents and the child prior to participation in the Lord’s Supper.
In the fall of 2013 we continued to provide education that highlights Children at the Table for all members in grade 2 through adult in a variety of ways in church school and adult education.
Rev. Kathy Smith, Associate Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and adjunct professor of Church Polity at Calvin Seminary gave an adult education presentation entitled “Children at the Lord’s Supper.”
When these sessions were completed the children in grades 2-6 church school and parents participated in two sessions from Taste and See. The church school teachers taught these interactive sessions; one focusing on baptism and one on the Lord’s Supper. Elders and members of our congregation’s Welcome to the Table Committee also participated in these sessions. Families were also given the devotion book You’re Invited.
During this same time the eight-session study entitled I Believe was incorporated into the church school curriculum for grades 7 and 8.
A three-session profession of faith class met for high school students and others interested in profession of faith. Faith Unfolded provided the foundation for these sessions. This class is offered once a year, more often if there is an interest.
Describe the impact this journey this examination of the Lord’s Supper has had on your congregation.
Even though we have provided information and education, we have not yet had any baptized non-professing children partake of the Lord’s Supper.
What could we [other congregations] learn from your experience?
The planning team continues to meet twice a year to continue the conversation. We invited Rev. Howard Vanderwell to the February 2014 Council meeting. An item that Rev. Vanderwell highlighted is patience and that it can take time for a new practice to be part of a congregation’s life.
There is also confusion regarding public profession of faith with the practice of welcoming baptized members to the Table.
Through discussions focusing on welcoming baptized children to the Table, we continue on this journey of growing in a deeper awareness of the grace our Triune God has shown to us in Jesus Christ.