Children may not have the language to talk explicitly and connectedly about God, but their sense of God is direct and vivid: they “move with ease in the world of the transcendent.” Adults who have not altogether forgotten what it was like to be a child will recall this sense of the closeness and obviousness of God. It is connected to a child’s sense of wonder, and to his or her ability to ask profound and simple questions. “Who made God?” “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The fact that the child cannot yet develop such a question in the way that an adult philosopher of religion would does not mean that it is not a real question, really asked. In the baptism service, the whole congregation takes on a responsibility to help children to become gradually more articulate in developing their intuitive sense of God. But the sense of God is there already, and children’s worship is to be taken seriously as a present reality, not as a future hope.
We need to ensure that children are confident, both about any words that they are to say and sing, and any actions they are to perform. Because of this, it is a good thing to give children special preparation in which they can rehearse the celebration, as a whole and in parts, so that children feel properly supported and confident in every contribution that they are making. At the same time, children should not be drilled in a way that will make them anxious. The celebration should be seemly and practised and it need not be liturgically perfect.
Whose job is it to prepare children?
The responsibility for the preparation of children for communion lies primarily with the parents or carers of the children. We encourage all parents who are familiar with the theology and practice of eucharistic celebration in the Church of England to help prepare their children for communion. However, we also offer the opportunity for all children to prepare for communion through the children and young people’s groups. This preparation is part of the on-going programme of teaching and takes place on Sunday mornings.
About the Lessons
This article contains resources and information that will help you, whether you are a children’s leader or parent, to prepare children for communion. We provide six ten-minute lessons that make up an hour-long preparation class. Each lesson contains:
- Learning objective
- Bible reading(s)
- Theory or theology
These lessons can be used in sequence as part of a single, hour-long preparation class, or you can develop the lessons and use them individually. Alternatively, you may wish to use this resource as a starting point for your own preparation course or class. The six lessons include an introductory module outlining the whole service, followed by five modules outlining the five major ingredients of communion.
- Lesson 1: The Pattern of a Communion Service
- Lesson 2: We exchange the peace with each other (The Peace)
- Lesson 3: We prepare the table
- Lesson 4: We say a special prayer of thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer)
- Lesson 5: We break the bread
- Lesson 6: We receive the bread and the wine (The Distribution)
This online presentation may help you with preparing your child(ren).
Lesson 1: The Pattern of a Communion Service
A plain piece of paper and marker pen, or a whiteboard/flipchart and pen
At the end of this section, the child will be able to list at least three ingredients in the communion part of a communion service!
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to breaking bread, and to prayer. (Acts 2:27)
Just like a recipe for making a cake, the communion service has a recipe too. In the communion service recipe there are five different steps and each step uses different ingredients. These different steps have been used by the church since it started.
You don’t have to remember all the different steps or ingredients as the leader leads us through them, but it is good to know that we are following a recipe! Each ingredient has a special name too – these are in brackets – but we don’t need to learn these names right now.
If you have been to a church service, can you think of the different ingredients? Perhaps you could write them on a sheet of paper or whiteboard, then when you have thought of everything you could fill in the blanks.
1. The beginning (preparation)
- We welcome each other (greeting)
- We say sorry to God and be assured of God’s forgiveness (confession and absolution)
- We pray a special prayer (collect)
- We read from the Bible and we must include a Gospel reading (reading)
- We have a talk based on the Bible reading (sermon)
- We say what we believe together (affirmation of faith or creed)
- We pray for the church and the world (intercessions)
- We exchange peace with each other (The Peace)
- We prepare the table
- We say a special prayer of thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer)
- We break the bread
- We receive the bread and the wine (The Distribution)
5. The Ending (dismissal)
- We go with God’s blessing (blessing)
Question: The communion part of the service has five ingredients. Without looking at the paper/whiteboard, can you name three of them?
Lesson 2: We exchange the peace with each other (The Peace)
At the end of the lesson the child will be able to exchange a sign of peace with another person.
If you are presenting a gift at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your gift to God. (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV)
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19 NIV)
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 NIV)
A person ought to examine himself or herself before he eating the bread and drinking from the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28)
- Jesus taught it.
- Jesus did it.
- Jesus’ disciples taught it.
- Jesus disciples did it.
- Therefore, we should do it!
When a football team all put on the same football shirt, they show that they are all playing together. However, if they are all arguing with each other in the changing rooms, even if they all wear the same football shirt, in what way are they really working as a team? In the same way, in communion we show that we are all together as followers of Jesus and that we are all part of the same team. But if we are arguing with each other, how can we really take communion to show we are all one team, working together for Jesus?
The peace is an opportunity for us to show that we are friends with each other, and that we love our neighbours as ourselves.
Question: What could we do or say to offer each other a sign of peace?
Answers: A smile, shaking hands, a hug, words of encouragament such as “Peace be with you.”
Let’s practice offering one another a sign of peace using the words from a communion service:
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
All: And also with you.
Let us offer one another a sign of peace.
Now show someone a sign of peace. Remember to say some words of encouragement too!
Lesson 3: We prepare the table
Table, tablecloth (optional), paten (plate), cup, wine, a loaf of bread (not sliced)
At the end of this section the child will be able to tell us that we are all one body with Jesus.
…in [Jesus] Christ, we who are many [different people] form one body, and each person belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5)
…you are the body of [Jesus] Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV)
And though we are many [different people], we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. (1 Corinthians 10:17 NLT)
In this part of the service, the leader pours wine into a cup, and places the bread on a plate. In some churches they use wafers but we like to use bread. When Jesus used the bread and wine he would have used a special bread called matzo – a bit like a large cream cracker.
Lay up a table, placing the bread roll on the plate and pouring wine into the cup.
Even though each different person loves Jesus on their own, we all become part of his family. But more than that, the Bible teachers say that we become joined with Jesus and are all parts of his body.
It doesn’t matter where you live, or how old you are, when we join in with communion we are showing that we are all one body with Jesus.
Repeat these questions over and over until the all the children (or child) can shout the responses!
Question: To show that we are all one body with Jesus, how many different loaves of bread does the leader use?
Question: To show that we are all one body with Jesus, how many different cups does the leader use?
Question: Why does the leader use one loaf of bread?
Answer: Because we are one body!
Question: Why does the leader use one cup of wine?
Answer: Because we are one body!
Lesson 4: We say a special prayer of thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer)
Copies of the Eucharistic prayer on paper or on PowerPoint.
At the end of the lesson the child will be able to participate and engage with the Eucharistic Prayer.
On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-25 NLT)
The New Testament part of the Bible is written in another language called Greek. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving and so we call this prayer a Eucharistic Prayer. Much of the prayer comes from different bits in the Bible that we have put together. It starts with praising God, then we remember Jesus through the bread and wine and Jesus giving his life for the world, and finally it finishes with a prayer that God will help us to follow Jesus. When we say the prayer we are also setting apart the bread and the wine to be a special symbol.
Here is an example of the Eucharistic (thanksgiving) prayer. Go through the prayer reading it out loud and asking the child(ren) to join in with the responses. Are there any bits that the children do not understand?
|The Lord be with you
All: and also with you.Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
Question: Why is it right to give thanks and praise?
Lord of all life,
You give us your love,
You give us happy times
You made us all,
All: Holy, holy, holy Lord,
We thank you, loving Father,
Question: Why do we share this bread and wine?
On the night before he died,
After they had eaten, he took the cup,
Father, with this bread and this cup
Question: Why do we follow Jesus Christ?
Help us to love one another,
With all the people of God
Lesson 5: We break the bread
A bread roll or loaf of bread.
At the end of this section, the child will understand why the bread needs to be broken.
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 NLT)
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. (John 6:51 NLT)
The [followers of Jesus] worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper (breaking bread together), and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. (Acts 2:46)
Jesus said that he was the bread of life given to the world. He also broke bread, sharing it with his friends and followers – both before he died and after he had risen again. When Jesus finally went up into heaven, the followers of Jesus continued to break bread together. There is something very special about taking the bread and physically breaking it apart. It is a symbol of Jesus breaking his own body when he died on the cross. His life was given to many and in the same way we take the bread, break it and give it to many. Breaking bread is a very powerful symbol.
Take the bread roll and break it as you say the following and asking the children to say the response.
We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.
All: Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.
Lesson 6: We receive the bread and the wine (The Distribution)
Bread, plate or paten, cup and wine
At the end of this lesson the child will be able to receive communion both reverently and respectfully.
…whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27 NIV)
When we receive the bread and the wine, we must remember that this is a very special moment. It is not a time to chat or play. At communion, it is a time where God, through Jesus, tells you how special you are and how much he loves you. There will be people around you who will be taking the bread and the wine and God will also be telling them how precious they are to him. We must not disturb them as they meet with God. It might be a good idea to think about Jesus as you receive the bread and wine and to say thank you to him in your heart.
When the child receives communion, they come up to the front of the church, to the table, and they can either stand or kneel. Some people prefer to kneel as a sign of receiving from God. The people then hold up their hands – again, this is a sign of being open to receive from God. The leader will place a piece of bread into the child’s hands saying something like, “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ” and they reply “Amen“. The leader will then give them the cup saying something like, “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” and they reply “Amen“. If the child is big enough to hold it themselves, then they can take the cup and have a small sip of the wine. If they are very little, the leader may help them hold the cup as they take a sip.
If a child does not wish to receive the bread and the wine, or they are not ready to take the bread and wine, then the leader will pray for them, asking that God will bless them. Also, children are allowed to have just the bread if they do not like the taste of wine or you, as a parent or carer do not wish them to consume any alcohol.
Practice receiving the bread and the wine with the child(ren). Ask them to think about whether they will kneel or stand. Ask them to think about how they will hold their hands – high enough so that the leader does not have to bend down too far! Can they remember what to say after receiving the bread and the wine?