What is Communion? Part 1

Participating in communion is an important milestone in a child’s spiritual journey. But what exactly is communion? Why is it important? How can we communicate the basic principles to children in a way they can understand? One place to begin is with the idea of symbols. Our culture is full of symbols, and even fairly young children have some understanding of them. Using the idea of symbols, we can help children begin to grasp how communion is symbolic – and yet, how it is significantly more meaningful than other symbols we encounter in the world.

Understanding Communion: A Story of Symbols


What does it mean when someone gives you a “thumbs-up”? It’s a symbol for “good job”, right?


How about when an officer is directing traffic and he holds up his hand? We all know it means we need to stop.

People use these and other symbols all the time. Some symbols are easy to recognize, but don’t mean anything super-important, like the “Golden Arches” you can see on every McDonald’s sign.

Other symbols are easy to recognize AND they mean something important.

flagOur flag is a good example. It’s a whole lot more than a bunch of red, white and blue pieces of material stitched together. It stands for something: the United States of America. In fact, for some of us, and stands for even more than that, right? It might stand for freedom, democracy…you get the idea.

cakeSome things symbolize an event. What do you think of when you see a cake with candles on top? It must be somebody’s birthday! It’s more than just a yummy dessert; those candles mean that we are celebrating something. We’re remembering the day somebody was born. But it’s even more than that, isn’t it? We’re not only remembering the day of that person’s birth, we’re celebrating that person’s whole existence, right? We’re celebrating the fact that someone special to us got born, and is alive right now, and is a special part of our lives. So some symbols do more than represent the past; they also celebrate the present.

communion-wineCommunion is a little bit like that.

When we pass around the bits of cracker and cups of juice on Communion Sunday, those are symbols. They represent the bread and the wine that Jesus shared with his disciples the last time he shared a meal with them before he died. That night, before he passed the bread around the table, he told his disciples, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk. 22:19)

Next he passed around the wine. He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk. 22:20)

Communion reminds us of that time in history when Jesus had that special meal with his disciples. But it’s MORE than that! Communion is also a time when we celebrate the fact that Jesus came to earth, died for us and came back to life. When we eat the crackers and drink the juice, we are saying that we know Jesus died for US, that His Spirit is with us right now, and that we are glad and grateful for that.


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