How Are Communion Services Conducted?

Book lot in bookcase.jpg

A communion service reenacts Jesus' last supper with his disciples, which you can read about in Luke 22. Later, the Apostle Paul instructed his followers to "proclaim" the Lord's death by the communion celebration until he comes again. Communion is also called the Lord's Supper and the Eucharist. While liturgical and traditional Protestant denominations limit the people who can officiate at a communion service to ordained members of the clergy, many Christians do not find this restriction in the Bible and believe that any person who has been born again can conduct a communion service. Most communion services occur within the context of a larger worship service.

1 Prepare the communion elements

Prepare the communion elements ahead of time. Your theological interpretation may inform whether you choose unleavened bread like matzos or whether you allow regular bread for communion. Your tradition will also help you to decide whether to use wine or grape juice. Leave the bread whole on a plate. Pour the wine or juice into a common cup or chalice or into individual cups. You can use any kind of cup--disposable paper cups, or small plastic or glass communion cups that you buy at a Christian book store or church supply store.

2 Gather the congregation together

Gather the congregation together. Take the bread and recite the verses in I Corinthians 11:23-24. Break the bread into pieces and put them back on the serving plate. This dedicates the bread for the communion service.

3 Hold up a cup

Hold up a cup of the wine or grape juice. Recite the verses in I Corinthians 11:25-26. This dedicates the beverage for the communion service.

4 Follow your tradition

Follow your tradition to distribute the bread and the wine or grape juice to the members of the congregation. Many groups divide into family units so that the head of the household can serve his family members. Other groups expect each individual to take the elements and eat them privately, serving themselves. Still other groups line up so that the leader of the congregation or the elders serve each person in turn. Many Christians state something like: "This is the body of Christ, given for you," and they insert the person's name after the word, "you." When they serve the beverage, they say something like, "This is the blood of Christ, shed to cleanse you from your sins."

5 Allow time

Allow time in the communion service for personal reflection and prayer following the distribution of the elements. Many congregations include a communion service on a weekly basis, while others celebrate communion more rarely. Christians also differ about the significance of the elements. Some believe that the bread and wine or grape juice symbolize the body and blood of Christ, while others believe that a spiritual transformation occurs with the dedications.

Lesley Barker, director of the Bolduc House Museum, authored the books "St. Louis Gateway Rail—The 1970s," published by Arcadia, and the "Eye Can Too! Read" series of vision-related e-books. Her articles have appeared in print and online since the 1980s. Barker holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Washington University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Webster University.