Depending on our backgrounds, it is easy for us all to develop very different ideas of the traditions of communion and baptism. Some of us view them as a means to atone for our sins—a ceremony required for access to Heaven. For others, they are traditions that have become so dry over the years that they have lost all meaning. Communion has become something we do because it’s what we’re supposed to do at church. But if we look closely at scripture, we might find a fuller picture of what Jesus intended.
When Jesus sat with his disciples at the Last Supper, He was celebrating the Passover meal. Why? Because he was Jewish! And why did Jewish people celebrate Passover? To remember that God freed them from slavery in Egypt. When they would have surely died otherwise, He chose to pass over them and grant them freedom.
At this particular Passover, however, Jesus tells the disciples that this meal means more than they think. In Luke, chapter 22, when Jesus breaks bread with them he tells them to continue breaking bread in His memory. They didn’t know it yet, but very shortly after this meal, Jesus would die so that they could live. So why do we take communion all these years later? Just as God wanted His people to never forget how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, Jesus wants us never to forget that he delivered us from the slavery of sin. When we take communion, we are telling God, ourselves, and each other that we believe and remember what He did. We don’t need communion for Jesus to save us; He already did that! But when we celebrate communion with each other in church, when we never forget the sacrifice Christ made for us, it starts affecting what we do outside of church. And that’s what changes the world.
Many people ask me when it is okay for their children to start taking communion, and my answer is simple: when they understand what it means and believe that it’s true. Kids need to know that there’s nothing special about the bread or the wine. They are symbols to help remind us what Jesus did. And just as communion is a symbol of what Jesus did, baptism is a symbol of a decision we make. It is an outward expression of an inward change that has already happened.
To help explain it to kids in terms they understand, I like to say that baptism is like a wedding ring: It is a symbol of a commitment I already made. I don’t need to wear my wedding ring to be married, but I’m proud to wear it because I love my husband and want everyone to know it. If I had started wearing my ring before our wedding day, that wouldn’t have made me married because there’s nothing special about the ring. It’s the commitment that matters. Baptism is a symbol of the belief in the gospel and the commitment to allow the gospel to change my life. If you’re unsure of what I mean, the Gospel Project uses the following simple outline to help explain to kids what Christians call “the gospel,” or “good news”:
God Rules: The Bible tells us that God created everything, including you and me, and He is in charge of everything. Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17
We Sinned: We all choose to disobey God. The Bible calls this sin. Sin separates us from God and deserves God’s punishment of death. Romans 3:23; 6:23.
God Provided: God sent Jesus, the perfect solution to our sin problem, to rescue us from the punishment we deserve. It’s something we, as sinners, could never earn on our own. Jesus alone saves us. John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9
Jesus Gives: He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. Because Jesus gave up His life for us, we can be welcomed into God’s family for eternity. Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9
We Respond: Believe in your heart that Jesus alone saves you through what He’s already done on the cross. Repent, turning from self and sin to Jesus. Tell God and others that your faith is in Jesus. John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10, 13.
If you think your kids might be ready to be baptized, take them through this outline by asking prompting questions (click here for the free downloadable poster). Discern for yourself or ask a church staff member for help to see if they understand what it all means, and if they do, then celebrate! When we decide to believe that Jesus died for us, we become a part of His family right away. As you do this, keep in mind that, even if you are sure your child believes and understands, they still may not be ready to be baptized. That’s okay. You might see the change in them, but if they don’t see it and aren’t ready to declare it, then it may be a little too early.