My son Elijah and I were pretty excited that evening in March of 2011. That night, at our community group, Eli was preparing to speak to our church elders about taking Communion for the first time. Because he is my son and I love him deeply, we had been working to prepare for that night for a few months.
Here is an important question: What should parents do to help prepare their children for this big moment of meeting with the elders before taking the Lord's Supper?
As a church in the Reformed tradition, we have a high view of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (see WCF 27 and 29). We believe that this is more than just a memorial of Christ's death (although it certainly IS that) but that we are also brought into the Real Presence of Jesus Christ at the Table. For this reason, it is necessary for us ALL to heed Paul's advice in 1 Corinthians 11:28 that a believer "examine himself before he eats the bread and drinks of the cup."
While our elders have not created hard and fast rules for children who profess their faith in Jesus, I would suggest that the following guidelines make a good mental checklist for parents before having a child come before the elders for their interview:
1) Does the child have an awareness of his or her sinful condition before a holy God? If so, can he or she give a credible explanation about how the cross "paid for our sins"? Can he or she state this in personal terms?
2) Is there an emphasis on God's Word at home to correspond with what is taught at church? Have the parents been working through the Children's Catechism Scripture memory system together? Is the child making adequate progress in learning the basic story of redemption?
3) Has the child memorized the Apostle's Creed yet? Being able to state the content of the Christian faith from memory is an important ability that he or she will want to acquire as soon as possible.
4) Has the child learned the Ten Commandments by heart yet? Can she give an age-appropriate definition of some of the more difficult words in the Commandments such as "Sabbath,” "adultery" or "coveting"?
5) Has the child learned the Lord's Prayer by heart yet? This is a vital component of the prayer life of any believer. Also, is he or she able to pray in his or her own words aloud yet?
While we should be cautious not to make any legalistic requirements in order to "quantify" a child's faith, nevertheless, the thoughtful parent should be helping children to grow in their faith by consistently working on these five steps.
For both of my older children, Soriah and Elijah, these steps took a number of months to master. But that night, Elijah was so confident in his knowledge of these Christian basics, he couldn't wait to nail the interview in my office. And he did.
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Brooksville Florida. Follow him on Twitter @matt_everhard