Communion is a powerful mystery…
but we often don’t treat it that way. Mostly, it’s relegated to “adult church,” and it’s never translated into something that makes everyday sense to teenagers. You can connect your kids to Christ and each other more deeply by exploring the true meaning of communion through these uncommon communion ideas.
Author’s Note: One beautiful aspect of the body of Christ is its diversity. Our worship styles, buildings, and traditions are different — yet we worship one Savior who’s asked us to remember him through communion. We don’t all interpret that call the same way. Some Christians view Holy Communion as a sacrament only to be administered by a member of the clergy. Others see it as an ordinance of the church — any believer can give or receive it. This article will argue neither theology nor church polity. It’s written to help those who hold the latter view to assist their young people in connecting with Christ and his body through communion.
1. Hold communion at a homeless shelter.
Arrange with a homeless shelter to serve an evening meal to folks living there. Bring extra food so your teenagers can eat at the shelter (after you finish serving and cleaning up) and you won’t be taking food away from those who really need it. Over dinner lead a discussion about how your kids feel knowing that many in your area go without food and shelter. Some of your young people will say they feel great compassion for those who are desperately needy.
After the discussion and meal, present your kids with the communion elements. Distribute them, then ask: Does it occur to you that there are people all around us who can’t eat this meal because they don’t know Christ?
Say: They’re as desperately hungry as those we just served. Let’s brainstorm one thing we can do to “feed” those who need this meal.
After 10 or 15 minutes of brainstorming, partake of the communion elements, thanking God for the grace of the “meal.”
2. Take your group to a vineyard or wheat field for communion.
Arrange ahead of time to have the owner of the vineyard or field explain the planting/harvesting process, and all the “products” that will result from that harvest. After the owner’s presentation, show kids two harvest products — the bread and the juice. Read aloud Luke 22:14-20, where Jesus explains that the bread and wine are his “body” and “blood.” Ask your teenagers to compare the planting/harvesting process they just heard about to the planting/harvesting process of Jesus’ incarnation.
Ask: Why didn’t God simply send a mature Messiah to us instead of “planting” him as a baby? What was the point of Jesus’ long time of growing before he began his ministry? How do we benefit from his “harvest”? After your discussion, share communion together. Thank God for offering his Son’s body and blood for our deep healing.
3. Invite teenagers to a surprise “communion meal” at church.
Don’t tell your kids they’ll be sharing communion. As they enter, ask them each to think of one thing about them that’s unique — it can’t be related to their appearance or something they own. They should think of something that’s a unique experience or characteristic. Sit down for dinner. Purposely serve the bread first and while they eat, ask everyone to tell about their unique feature. Then serve the rest of your meal.
After dinner, ask: What brings us all together at this table if we’re so different, with so many unique experiences and characteristics? If no one says it, remind them that, ultimately, they’re sitting at this common table because of Jesus. Then bring out the juice for communion. When we did this, one student asked jokingly, “What, are we going to take communion?” I responded, “What do you think we’ve been doing?” Luke records that Jesus took the bread and broke it with his disciples, then after supper took the cup. Make the point that communion brings together every gender, ethnicity, and nationality into one common body.
4. To emphasize the unifying power of faith in Christ, serve communion using breads that represent many cultures.
Your options could include Cuban, French, Italian, bagels, biscuits, pumpernickel, rye, tortilla, pita, and sourdough breads. As you serve communion using a plethora of breads, you could show photos of other cultures on a screen in the background.1 After communion, have someone in your church who’s done missionary work talk about his or her experiences with Christians in another culture, including the particular communion customs of that culture. You could follow up communion by sharing a meal together — ask teenagers to bring foods that represent their ethnicity or nationality.
5. Serve a “hide and seek communion” at a park.
Take your group to a park to play hide and seek. When everyone’s been found, gather in a circle and read aloud Luke 11:10. Ask: How have you tried to seek Jesus? How have you found him? Has Jesus made it hard or easy to find him? Why does Jesus want us to find him? After your discussion, bring out the elements and share communion with one another, celebrating that Jesus first sought and found us.
6. Play TriBond in conjunction with communion to emphasize the unifying power of Christ.
The premise of the game is to guess what three objects, people, or locations have in common. After you play for awhile, have someone from your church staff who’s familiar with your missions work give a brief overview of the countries and work your church supports. Then ask: TriBond is a game of common threads — what are some things we have in common with Christians around the world? Are there more things that unify us than separate us? In what ways might sharing in communion help unify us?
After your discussion, bring out the communion elements and serve them. Build upon the reality that in Christ we all have something in common regardless of our differences.
7. Have the guys serve the girls communion, or vice versa.
The goal here is to have your kids serve one another in humility as Christ served others, and to emphasize that, in Christ, there’s neither male nor female. Humble service breaks down gender stereotypes.
8. Have teenagers partake of communion blindfolded to engage the other four senses.
Too often we take communion without stopping to appreciate or fully experience the elements. Our sense of sight can overwhelm the other senses, blocking the sensory celebration that is communion. Blindfolded, your kids can reflect on the taste and texture of the communion elements. They’ll smell the juice and bread, feel the softness of the bread, and hear themselves drink and chew. That might sound disgusting, but this is what Jesus asked us to do — fully plunge ourselves into him through eating his body and drinking his blood.
9. Set up a communion station in your youth room.
Communion is a means for us to be reconciled with Christ and with one another through his sacrifice. During your worship times, your students might sometimes feel the need to repent or be reconciled to Christ or others. Let kids know the communion station is available whenever you’re together as a group, and its purpose is to provide them an opportunity for reconciliation whenever God’s Spirit moves them to seek it.
10. Serve communion in small groups.
Form groups of three and distribute the elements to them — you could give each one a small loaf of bread and a cup to share. Ask kids to each share with the other two in their group how Jesus has changed/is changing their life, or how they came to faith in Christ.
11. Have your group make fresh bread and squeeze fresh juice for communion.
Borrow several bread makers and have your kids prepare and bake bread loaves. After all the bread makers are baking, get a large bunch of red grapes and have your kids squeeze fresh juice from them using large wooden spoons or whatever kitchen implements you can find. Separate the skins from the juice and pour the juice into a carafe or serving cup.
While the bread is baking, ask: Was it easy to make the elements? Why or why not? Was it more work than you expected? Why or why not? How is this process like and unlike Christ’s work of salvation for us?
When the bread is finished, serve communion.
12. Serve communion inside a jail, prison, or juvenile detention center.
Get permission to take your group to a jail, then teach a lesson on sin and salvation there. Help kids make the connection between living in sin and living in a prison cell. And compare getting released from jail to finding salvation in Christ. When you’re finished, go outside. Ask kids what meal they’d eat if they’d just been released from a long stay in prison. Then serve communion, and tell how it’s the perfect meal for those who’ve just been released from the prison of sin. Help kids make connections between prisoners who’ve rejoined the free community and sinners who’ve joined God’s community of grace. Ask some teenagers to talk about their journey from the prison of sin to the freedom of Christ’s grace.
Garland Owensby is a veteran youth pastor and a professor of youth ministry at a Christian university in Texas.
1 You can find photos of other cultures to put into a PowerPoint presentation by going to National Geographic’s Web site. Just point your browser to www.nationalgeograhic.com, click on History and Culture, next click on Cultural Photos, and then click on People. Drag your chosen photos to your desktop and, then insert them into your presentation.