Planning a Communion Meal

Tips and Ideas to Help

Since our ministry began, I’ve asked myself some serious questions.  One of them — what constitutes a ‘church service’?  What I’ve learned, is that we tend to allow our tradition, and not scripture, to answer that question.  The Bible never describes a ‘church service’ as people reverently sitting in sanctuary pews, while singing hymns and listening to a well-dressed pastor.  Can a ‘church service’ look like that?  Sure!  But it’s not what actually defines a ‘church service’.

Planning A Communion Meal

The Underground Church

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of being a part of a short-term missions team.  I’ll never forget experiencing an underground youth group.  Yes, they sang songs.  Yes, they heard from God’s Word.  But other than that, the ‘service’ looked NOTHING like what the average North American would call a ‘church service.’

It was full of community, unity, friendship, authentic connection, love, and selflessness.  Their goal wasn’t to serve themselves and welcome Jesus to ‘their service’, their goal was to celebrate Jesus through their community and serve Jesus.

A ‘church #service’ is about #Communion together as we celebrate Jesus. #unity #community #Acts2 Click To TweetWhat did I learn?  A ‘church service’ is about communion together as we celebrate Jesus.  Outside of the basics, the format doesn’t really matter.  The only fundamentals we know of, include teaching the Word, breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42).

So, what if we planned a service around one of the most significant aspects of our faith?  What if Holy Communion was actually the focus of our service?  What if we didn’t just ‘partake’ together, but actually ate together, like Jesus’ and his disciples did during the Last Supper?  (Check out What Happens During Communion? for more.)

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What Happens During Communion?

Questions About Easter

Have you ever wondered what Communion is all about?  We probably know the basics — as an act of remembrance, Jesus told his followers to break bread and drink wine.  But is that it?  Is there anything else happening during a Communion service?

What Happens During Communion

Growing up I was taught about the symbolism and what Jesus did on the cross, but I missed out on how important and fundamentally central communion actually is.

Jesus modeled the Communion service

Communion is so important, it was one of the last things Jesus did with his disciples before his death.  We take the words of Jesus and model our Communion service after them word-for-word:

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6 Lessons from Eating Together

Our church recently tried something different – we ate together on a Sunday morning as part of our service.  Before you say, “that sounds crazy”, let me back up a little.  We wanted to connect the Lord’s Supper (Jesus celebrating Passover on the night He was betrayed) with our traditional Communion service we experience today (usually a small cup and wafer).  So, we tried something new – we gathered together on a Sunday morning around tables, sang songs, prayed, read scripture, learned about the Passover meal, shared in a meal together, experienced Communion, shared testimonies, and prayed for the sick.  You can read more about why we went down this road, by reading: “5 Reasons Why Our Church Is Eating Together Sunday Morning.”

After reflecting on this event, we have some lessons from eating together that we’d like to share with you.

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to take the risk.

If you want to move forward, you have to take on risk.  From what I know, this is the first time such an endeavor has been tried within our movement of churches.  It would have been easy to wait for someone else to try it, but avoiding risk will stunt growth every time.  All risks will end in failure or success; however, both will bring you forward.  Failure doesn’t mean timing wasn’t right, it simply means there is more to learn.  Success doesn’t mean we know everything, it simply means we are on the right track.  In any case, we learned that eating together on a Sunday morning is a risk, but it was a risk we were willing to take.  As a result, we grew as a body of believers.

Lesson #2: Teaching, promoting and communicating are all keys to success.

This cannot be underestimated.  In fact, I’m not sure if they can even be over-done.  This communion experience was birthed out of a Sunday Night study and discussion on Communion.  The weeks and months that followed included Church Board discussions, further Sunday Morning sermons, related topics, blog posts, social media posts, and even one-on-one conversations.  With that said, if there was one thing I wish we did more of before the event, it would be even more communication.  People want to know the benefits of risk, and everyone processes their understanding on different timelines.

Lesson #3: Don’t let the few who won’t participate, decide if you will take the risk.

Although we tried to be optimistic, we knew it may happen – some just didn’t participate, or want to be a part of something new.  It’s true, we could have always taught more, promoted more, or provided more opportunity to ask questions.  At the end of the day, however, some just refused to listen to the potential benefits of doing something new.  My prayer will continue to be: “God, help them see the Gospel before their tradition, so that their tradition is fueled by the Gospel, and not the other way around.”  Our second lesson was clear – we didn’t let the few who didn’t want to participate decide whether or we pursued God’s call.  We are all on different journeys and we need to respect each other while moving forward.  At the very least, it will be a great reason to try this experience again in an effort to give everyone the chance to participate in the future.

Lesson #4: Completely changing a traditional experience can help in spiritual growth.

While new experiences can be uncomfortable, they often force us to put tradition aside.  When we lay aside the “normal” way of doing something, the usual routine becomes a whole new experience.  In this case, Communion took on a new form and that new form created an environment of spiritual growth.  It wasn’t just a meal, it was an experience that linked our tradition of communion with the Jewish Passover and Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples.  Our communion service was successful because it was so different from the tradition that people allowed for a new connection to be made – it made spiritual growth a reality.

Lesson #5: The spirit of unity must be the central focus.

Out of all of the comments and feedback we received, “unity” continued to be a strong theme.  When Paul discussed Communion in 1 Corinthians, one of his concerns was the lack of unity among the Church.  Unfortunately, our Communion tradition normally expects us to separately examine ourselves before God, before partaking of individual cups and wafers in our individual seats.  While we commune in one building, the practice is very individualistic.  By eating together, like the early Church would have done, the concept of Communion encouraged the church family to partake in the experience together and not separately.  It also encouraged both families and couples, young and old, male and female to join together in unity.  The spirit of unity was undeniable.

Lesson #6: Expect the unexpected.

In a natural fashion, we had planned for a few people to share a few testimonies after we shared in communion.  To get the ball started, we asked one person to think about what they could share before the morning started.  What followed that testimony, however, was amazing!  Several people, from different generations and situations deeply shared about how God has challenged them, strengthen them or otherwise impacted them.  The key for us was to make sure this moment was as free as possible.  I was willing to plan to a degree, but God was welcomed to take over at any moment.  As these testimonies progressed, God took over, and we started to pray for the sick.  The final call was for anyone dealing with sickness, or wanted to stand in for someone dealing with sickness.  Nearly everyone gathered around the altar and was prayed for and anointed with oil. It was a powerful moment! Expect the unexpected!

 

This new experience was a huge success for us, and I would recommend any assembly to give it a try.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send a message (andrewholm@gmail.com), and I would love to help you in any way!