by Billy Strother
I am often asked by leaders, “How does one lead an effective communion devotion?”
Just as there is no one way to take communion (glass or plastic communion cups are both good options; before or after the sermon are equally optional; there is no company biblically-mandated from which to order communion bread or juice), there is no one biblical way to offer a communion devotion.
But, since it is the weekly practice for most of us, I offer a few suggestions which may help someone asking you that question.
- Open with the “mechanics” of taking communion in your service.
Many will end their devotion talking about how to take communion, or never mention the mechanics at all. Even mature church visitors may come from a church which does it differently. Opening with “here is how we take communion” puts visitors at ease. It also implicitly communicates “we want and expect visitors to be here” to the congregation. Sharing the mechanics after the devotion breaks the dynamic spiritual flow of the devotion into prayer. Share the mechanics first – holding elements or taking them when passed, walking forward to tables, etc.
- Prepare hearts, not heads, for communion.
The purpose of the devotion is to orient the hearts of those in attendance to a focus on partaking of communion. The devotion should simply arrest the attention of those in corporate worship and then point their hearts to the elements on the Lord’s table, symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, the sweet and terrible sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. One cannot worthily examine themselves unless they take a fresh look at the cross.
- Retell a brief story or anecdote that’s personal or biblical.
People love stories. I have noticed through the years that anytime I say, “that reminds me of a story,” that no matter how boring my sermon has been, people will give it another chance. Two minutes is enough time to tell a brief personal story well. It is enough time to retell a biblical story. It is enough time to tell someone else’s story. Anyone can ramble on forever. It takes real work to hone a story down to the memorable. Let’s face it, there is only so much shared time for a worship service in our culture. Like it or not, that is the reality. The two-fold purpose of the communion devotion is: 1) to arrest audience attention; and 2) to put Jesus’ work on the Cross in the spotlight.
- Anchor your story to the Bible.
Sincerely, your communion devotion need not be tethered to the preacher’s sermon text for the day. But your communion devotion is well-served connected to a verse or two of Scripture (and not a long text—well, because of the time restraint we are under in our culture, if we desire to have a sincere influence for Jesus).
- Take it all to The Cross.
I have heard communion devotions which never mentioned Jesus or the cross or the elements. That might be a devotion, but it is not a communion devotion. An effective communion devotion takes our hearts directly to the symbols of the cross.
- Remember to pray for the elements and the hearts taking them.
More than once I have heard someone say, “I got so nervous, I forgot to pray!” The small prayer at the end of the Communion devotion builds a significant bridge between people’s hearts and the symbols on the Lord’s table.
Are you intentionally leading communion devotions as a church leader? Speaking for myself, without a specific and deliberate plan, my next communion devotion is capable of becoming “The Worst Communion Devotion Ever.”