When is it Appropriate for Children to Participate in the Lord's Supper? A Perspective from Developmental Theory

From: Volume 10, Issue 1: Spring 2013, Technological Innovation & Educational Ministry Pages 30-47


After the Fourth Lateran Council (A.D. 1215), the church, with the exception of the Eastern Orthodox Church, restricted the participation of children in eucharistic celebrations based on the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:29 regarding “recognizing the body of the Lord” and Roman Catholicism’s emphasis on the doctrine of transubstantiation. It has long been common for adults to believe that children lack the degree of cognitive ability necessary to give a confession of faith in order to receive the Lord’s Supper. After the publication of Christian L. Keidel’s article “Is the Lord’s Supper for Children?” in 1975, however, many Reformed churches in North America began to reconsider age appropriate participation of children in the Lord’s Supper. Because there is no mention of the Lord’s Supper for children in the Bible or in any historical documents from the first to the third century, scholars have been unable to establish clear guidelines for acceptance or refusal. Therefore, researching children’s religious thinking in relation to cognitive development is essential in deciding the matter of their participation in the Lord’s Supper.
Keywords: cognitive development, children, communion, experience, faith formation.



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