Can unbaptized children participate in the communion service?

Questions & Answers September 23, 2016

Q: Is it right for unbaptized children to participate in the communion service? — Angelina, from Canada

A: Angelina, this is a question that many people have wondered about — especially parents of young children. It’s an important topic that has been studied by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and has resulted in the following statement in the church’s official Church Manual:

“Who May Participate — The church practices open communion. All who have committed their lives to the Savior may participate. Children learn the significance of the service by observing others participating. After receiving formal instruction in baptismal classes and making their commitment to Jesus in baptism, they are thereby prepared to partake in the service themselves.” — Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2015, p. 126.

You may view and download a PDF of the Church Manual here.

This position grows out of an understanding of the original Lord’s Supper, which was attended by those who had publicly made their commitment to Jesus. When Peter asked for Jesus to wash not just his feet but his head and hands also, Jesus indicated that Peter didn’t need the entire washing again but only his feet (see John 13:10).

We sometimes refer to the foot washing at communion as a “miniature baptism,” which renews the experience one testified to in his or her original baptism. If a person is mature enough to understand the meaning of and benefit from the symbols of foot washing and of the bread and wine, he or she should be mature enough to proclaim allegiance to Christ as Savior and Lord through baptism.

A helpful resource on this topic is an article, “Children and the Lord’s Supper,” written by Dr. Angel Manual Rodriguez. It’s available on the Biblical Research Institute website.

You may also wish to read the helpful comments that Ellen G. White makes on the topic of foot washing and the Lord’s supper in “The Desire of Ages,” (see especially pp. 645-646) You may read and download the book at