In this section:
This approach is supported by extensive research into childrens spirituality.Our children are spiritual beings who need the church to provide opportunities to engage and nurture their spirituality, which could be explored sacramentally. Further support comes from the Canon Law of the Church of England. Canon Law B15 A states:
2.Children who have been baptised but who have not yet been confirmed and who are not yet ready and desirous to be confirmed as required by paragraph 1(a) of Canon B15A may be admitted to Holy Communion provided that the conditions set out in these Regulations are satisfied.
With this in mind and in order to provide further clarity and guidance, in 2015 the Bishops of Lichfield Diocese have agreed that the following practices may be permitted:
1.Admission to Holy Communion following preparation through school or church from Year 3 (age 7) upwards, with possibly Confirmation from Year7 (age 11) upwards
2.Confirmation in Year 5 (age 10) with preparation through school or church with admission to Holy Communion following this.
When exploring Holy Communion and confirmation it is important to ensure that these events arent stand alone events.Both Holy Communion and Confirmation alongside effective follow-up and on-going discipleship considering questions such as; How do we ensure that our children continue to meet together and share life experiences?What events and groups have we put in place to encourage children and young people to continue to meet together following their confirmation and having received communion for the first time?
If your local school is encouraging you to explore Holy Communion before Confirmation you need to ensure that this has been thoroughly thoughts through and planned as part of a whole-school approach and agreed by the PCC.
Click here for Bishops' Guidelines on Communion and Confirmation
Click here for key questions for PCCs to discuss when exploring admitting children to Communion before Confirmation
Holy Communion is an active way which helps us remember Jesuss death and resurrection we are reminded regularly about the Good News of Jesus
Connecting with children and young people as you prepare them for Holy Communion and Confirmation can be a hugely valuable time where faith and what it means to the children can be
Holy Communion is an opportunity for the whole church community to celebrate a very special time together.People, regardless of age can feel a strong sense of belonging and help them experience what it means to be a part of Gods family
Under the diocesan guidelines the Bishops request that children and young people are thouroughly prepared before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.This might be through church or through the local school.Either way, ensure that the material used is age appropriate.
Here are some resources for your church to read through, discuss at PCC as well as ways in which they can be planned to roll out throughout the school.
Below are some examples of preparation that has been used to prepare children for Holy Communion;
Click here for a School Action Plan for introducing Holy Communion in a Church School
Click here for a downloadable resource that can be used as part of whole school preparation
When preparing the children of your church community choosing the right material for the children is important.One suggestion is that there is opportunity each year for all age groups (adults included) to explore what Holy Communion is and what it means to their own Christian journey.Below are 2 resources which explores Holy Communion for the whole family
Ready to Share One Bread Ready to Share One Bread is a one-stop-shop for all those who would like to explore this issue with their church… (it) also includes an easy-to-run, two-session preparation programme for the whole family (N.Harding,S.Millar SPCK Publishing 2015)
Welcome to the Lords Table - Aimed primarily at clergy, childrens workers, parents and teachers who want to enable children aged 7-9 to participate fully in Eucharistic worship…the course itself comprises ten flexible teaching units plus four punctuation points to mark the journey. (M.Withers, Barnabas 2000)
Liturgy refers to the patterns, forms, words and actions through which public worship is conducted (ChurchofEngland.org).If as a church we are holding Holy Communion Services where there are children present, there is then the need to consider that all elements of the service are accessible to people present.Liturgy is valued by a huge proportion of our churches so there are numerous resources available which have include adapted the language in order for children and young people to be able to connect with.
Below are some examples of Liturgy that are helpful when children and young people are present.
Examples of liturgy that are recommended include;
Click here for samples of Liturgy and order of services
Click here for a sample Messy Communion
It is hoped that Confirmation is a very poignant time in a persons life when they publically declare their faith, take on their baptismal promises for themselves and commit to a life of being a disciple of Jesus. Various scholars have researched spirituality and the developmental stages. Perhaps one of the best known researchers in the arena of Young Peoples spiritual development is Westerhoffs which states that there are four stages of faith development:
Stage One - Experienced Faith (Pre-School and Childhood)
This is the stage where the child is discovering and experiencing faith. They will test, explore and react to all thats going on around them and tend to copy the ways of others.
Stage Two - Affliative Faith (Adolescence)
Here Westerhoff suggests that the development of our faith is influenced by those people who journey with us. There is a strong sense of belonging to a group and being with others who are exploring similar faith journeys, as well as being positively affected by those who are part of their wider faith community (church).
Stage Three - Searching Faith (Late Adolescence)
Westerhoff suggests that this is the stage where older young people might begin to question and doubt all that they have learnt and explored about faith. Its a stage where they might explore other spiritualties and phenomena, but also a stage where they explore their faith more deeply and different ways in which they could express their faith.
Stage Four - Owned Faith (Adults)
Here the person has worked through the other existing stages of faith and now has their own.They are characterised by what they believe and readily look for ways to witness as a way of responding to their owned faith.
(Reconnecting with Confirmation, pp58-64)
These are useful stages to consider when posing the question What is the right age for Confirmation? It needs to be noted at this point that although there are age groups associated with each stage, these should be used merely as a guideline for development bearing in mind that there are some adults who are at the start of their spiritual journey and remain in Stage One and there are some children who are so sure of their own faith and spirituality that they are actively sharing the gospel with their peers and teaching their adult leaders. For the purpose of confirmation the Four Stages described are useful when looking at our current practice. Across the diocese we are generally confirming our children at Stage 2 (Affiliative Faith) of their spiritual development- where they are imitating what their peers are doing and many admit to being prepared for confirmation because it is what their friends are doing or because it was what their parents and grandparents did when they were that age. What is the purpose of confirmation? According to the Church of England Our Faith web site,
Confirmation marks the point in the Christian journey at which you affirm for yourself the faith into which you have been baptised and your intention to live a life of committed discipleship
It is important to share and learn from examples of good practice, but it is also of vital importance to engage our young people in this conversation to find out from them what it is that they want, how they want it to run, as well as what it is that they need. Our young people are the church of today, often with responsibilities of leading our younger children, leading in Messy Churches as well as being significant members of the worship group or choir. Lets ensure that they are empowered and listened to when it comes to how they need to be discipled.
Below are some resources to consider when preparing young people for Confirmation
LINK TO RESOURCE PAGE
Involving children and young people
One purpose of Holy Communion is to create community.In order to work to establish community with children present there are some simple ways that could be considered.
- Being a server
- Helping with administering the sacraments
- Doing one of the Bible Readings
- Leading the intercessions
- Leading the relevant questions as part of Additional Eucharistic Prayers: Prayer 2