May children receive communion?

A child takes communion at First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News.
A child takes communion at First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News.

The table of Holy Communion is Christ's table, open to all who respond to Christ's love, regardless of age or church membership. The United Methodist Church places no age restrictions on participation in the Lord’s Supper. Even infants and children are invited. The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards explains, "To whatever degree they're able to participate in the Great Thanksgiving—even if that's simply being held in their mother's arms while they sleep—they are there. They are part of what we are all doing together, so they are welcome to receive."

Do children or infants understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do many adults! Holy Communion is a mystery too deep for words. Through this sacrament, God discloses things that are beyond human capacity to know through reason alone. So we don’t turn anyone away from the table because of age or any other condition that might limit understanding of the sacrament. 

The United Methodist Church also baptizes infants and children. For Christians baptism means that God has chosen us as daughters and sons. Our baptism ritual notes that communion is an appropriate part of the service and that those newly baptized (including infants!) be the first to receive. Infants can understand they are being loved and fed. Children can understand that this sacred meal is a celebration of God’s unconditional love and experience belonging in the faith community as a child of God. 

The church community has a responsibility to continually nurture and teach children, beginning in infancy, to understand and appreciate the Lord’s Supper as they mature in faith. 

We remember Jesus’ words: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV). So let the littlest children come to the table of the Lord.

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