Church History for Kids: What are Sacraments?

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Sacraments are outward signs of our internal faith; they are practices that engage our senses (smell, taste, sight, feel, and sound) to regularly remind us of God’s grace. Sacraments are expressions of our faith that kids likely observe on a regular basis, but may have a lot of questions about!

Because sacraments are physical and tangible, they can be amazing teaching tools for kids about living an embodied faith. Faith isn’t just something we know in our minds, or feel in our hearts, but it is a whole-life experience. 

The Catholic church has seven sacraments, and protestant churches typically have two. Read on to learn more about where the sacraments came from and what they are for! 

What are the sacraments? 

The seven sacraments practiced by the Catholic church are: baptism, confirmation, communion, penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing the very sick. 

The protestant church, when it formed during the Reformation in the 1500s, only recognized two sacraments: baptism and communion. 

Sacraments are an important part of the tradition of the church, but they are more than routine. We don’t just do them for the sake of doing them; rather, each outward sign reveals to ourselves and the world that we belong to Jesus! 

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Big Word: SACRAMENT

A sacrament is a religious practice or ritual that is an outward sign of our internal faith.

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Where did the sacraments come from?

A group of church leaders decided on the seven sacraments way back at the Council of Trent, which started in 1545. Councils were frequently called for church leaders to come together and discuss disagreements, and many important decisions were made at councils. The Council of Trent happened at the same time as the Protestant Reformation, which was led by Martin Luther. The Protestants accepted two sacraments: baptism and communion. The Catholic church had seven. 

But sacraments find their real roots in Scripture. The two sacraments practiced by protestant churches were both instituted by Jesus. In Matthew 28:19, when Jesus gives His disciples the Great Commission, He tells them to baptize new believers in the “name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus also led the first communion, known as the Last Supper, when He commanded His disciples in Luke 22:19–20 to “do this in remembrance of me.” 

What is Baptism?

Baptism is a sacrament that involves water. People are either sprinkled with water as babies or immersed in water when they are older, usually after they have made a declaration that they are going to follow Jesus. 

Baptism shows the world that we have new life in Jesus and belong to Him! Baptism symbolizes the washing away of our sins and being raised up out of the water, clean and new, for a life with Christ.

When you talk to your kids about baptism, find out about your local church’s tradition. Was your child baptized as a baby, or does your church wait until kids or adults make a declaration of faith? Share with your children the story of your own baptism. Invite them to ask questions! 

Read the story of Jesus’s own baptism in your favorite storybook Bible or in Matthew 3:13–17 (you can find the story, John Baptizes Jesus on page 236 in the Minno Laugh and Grow Bible for Kids).

What is Communion?

Your church may call the breaking of bread and drinking of wine or juice the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or communion. The sacrament of communion is a beautiful outward expression of our faith. It accomplishes two things: we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us of His own body and blood, and it proclaims to everyone around us that we are part of God’s family, welcome at His table. 

Depending on your church tradition, kids may or may not participate in the Lord’s Supper until they have joined the church as a communing member, or made a public proclamation of faith. But even if they aren’t old enough or ready to partake, kids can learn so much by observing others taking communion. Communion engages all the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. Encourage your kids to approach the table with you, or touch the bread or smell the juice/wine. Activating their senses will inspire them to imagine what it would be like to take part in the Lord’s Supper. It’s an incredible way to start faith conversations with your kids! 

Read the story of Last Supper in your favorite storybook Bible or in Matthew 26:17–30 (you can find the story, The Lasy Supper on page 272 in the Minno Laugh and Grow Bible for Kids).

The sacraments are precious parts of the life of the Church, and they have been since the beginning of the Church! Encourage your kids to learn and ask questions about these practices of faith. Point them out when you see them or participate in them at church. And pray that your children will grow deeper in faith and knowledge of God and that they will want to participate in the full life of the church—sacraments and all! 

Maybe you’ve never really thought about teaching Church History to your kids before, but we can learn so much about how to be the Church today by learning about how the Church used to be. Both when the church first started and as it grew and changed throughout history, in all different times and places. When we study church history, there are so many powerful stories of believers who have done amazing things for the kingdom of God that our kids will be inspired to do great things for the kingdom of God in their own lives. 

For great videos about church history for kids, check out The Pirate’s Guide to Church History or The Torchlighters on Minno!

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