Yesterday started sharing a little about doing communion at a church for people who don’t like church. Here are a few more thoughts…
The first week of Verve we passed around gold communion trays that had cups of juice and broken up pieces of matza crackers on them. (By the way, I’m not a fan of the pre-made, pre-cut communion crackers that look like little chiclets. We use broken up matza crackers because it feels a little more organic and raw.) The first week of Verve was the last week we passed around gold communion trays. It just felt a little too formal for us. And putting those trays in the hands of the many non-believers felt a little weird. They knew they didn’t have to take it, but it still seemed awkward.
Starting the second week of Verve we created communion stations around the room. Little tables with little cups of juice and a tray with the broken pieces of matza crackers. As we’ve grown we’ve gone from two tables to three. Asking people to get up and walk to the stations may take a bit more time than passing trays, but we like it better. There’s something cool about having to choose to get up and move to participate in communion, and there’s something better about non-believers not having to worry about what to do, or not do, with the trays at all.
So what do we say to introduce communion? Typically we explain that we want to give everyone a chance to reflect on where they’re at with God, what they’ve experienced in the service, how it applies to their lives, and what the next step might be in their spiritual journey. We encourage people to pray, if they pray. Then we say something like, “During this time we also make communion available” and then explain what communion is (“The bread represents… The juice represents…”) and why we do it (“This is a tangible and beautiful way to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross, the sacrifice He made so He could take our sins away and bring us to God”) and how to do it (“You can go get the bread and juice at the tables, bring them back to your seat…”).
Two things that are essential to us, because of who we’re trying to reach… First, the order of our explanation, which has to go from broad to narrow. We start out with everyone (“This is a chance for all of us to reflect on…”) and then narrow (“We offer communion for those who want to take it…”) If we did it the other way (“This is the time for communion… If you’re not going to take communion, you might want to…”) then non-believers would feel like they’re intruders, and we’re offering some act of unwanted charity by giving them something to do while the rest of us do what everyone should really be doing. The order of the explanation is critical.
The other essential is to have something else happening during communion. If the room is silent and all the Christians are taking communion and praying, it’s just unbearably uncomfortable for non-Christians who aren’t taking communion or praying. So we typically have our band playing a song during communion. This gives those not taking communion something to engage with, and hopefully something that will touch them.