Preparing Your Child for Baptism
by Doug Wolter
As a Christian parent one of the greatest concerns you have is that your children would one day trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. You want them to feel the joy and the assurance of their salvation. And you want them to move forward in their faith and obedience as followers of Jesus Christ. During these first steps of faith, your children are likely to ask you about baptism. They may feel that they are ready to make this step. As an effort to assist you in this important step of preparation for your child, I have tried to answer some of the most common questions I have received from parents about baptism. Please take some time to look over this article and feel free to talk with me at any time about other questions and concerns you may have.
What is baptism?
Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change. It is a symbol of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. It is also a picture of what God has done to save us on the inside by cleansing us from our sin. Thus, baptism must be under water to show the truth of our being united to Jesus in his death and resurrection.
Who can be baptized?
Since baptism is a picture of beginning the Christian life, it is only for believers in Jesus Christ. A believer in Jesus Christ is able to give a credible profession of faith in Jesus and shows evidence of that faith in his or her heart and life.
Can baptism save my child?
Baptism does not save anyone. Some have fallen into the lie that baptism is essential for salvation. They think that faith + baptism = eternal life. But this is not what the Bible says. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one can boast.” It is clear from this passage of Scripture that faith in Christ is the only thing that saves and faith itself is a gift from God.
Why should my child be baptized?
Baptism is an act of obedience to God. We get baptized to obey God’s Word. When Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is not an option, it is a command. But, before we get baptized we must be a disciple or follower of Jesus. In Acts 2:38, Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.” This shows that every person who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus as their Lord and Savior needs to be baptized. Baptism is also the main way we publicly profess our desire to follow the Lord. In baptism we are saying that God has saved me and I am his from head to toe.
At what age should children be baptized?
The Bible does not give us a precise age at which we should baptize children. For that reason we do not have an age requirement. However, the Bible is clear that children must be able to give a credible profession of their faith—one that is genuine and rooted in a biblical understanding of salvation—in order to be baptized. This does not mean that children should be able to rattle off all the “right” answers before they are ready for baptism. It does mean that children should show that they have genuine faith based on a right understanding of God, sin, and salvation through Jesus alone. Likewise, a child must possess a simple understanding of what baptism is and why baptism is important.
We encourage parents to wait until their child is mentally and spiritually ready for baptism. There is no rush. We want baptism to be a very meaningful experience for children and one that a child remembers. The older a child is the more likely he or she will look back on his or her experience with the confidence that it reflected a sincere desire to follow the Lord.
Will I discourage my child if I decide to wait?
We understand that oftentimes parents fear that by telling their child to wait it may bring discouragement and frustration. However, by encouraging a child to wait and anticipate baptism, parents can emphasize the significance and importance of baptism. The promises we are making in baptism to follow the Lord publicly should not be made lightly. Therefore, parents should take seriously the time they give to preparing their child for baptism offering consistent encouragement along the way.
How can I practically prepare my child for baptism?
The most important thing you can do is to keep talking with them about the gospel each day. Help them to understand that God is their Creator and King who deserves to be treated with honor and love. Help them to understand that we have not treated God as we should. We have all sinned and deserve to be punished. Help them to understand that God loved us so much that He sent his Son Jesus to die on a cross to take our punishment so that we could be forgiven of our sins. And help them to understand that Jesus rose again and now offers us two ways to live. We can try to be our own king by doing what we want to do, or we can turn from our sin and trust in Jesus as our King and do what He wants us to do.
When sharing the gospel with your children, I encourage you to keep asking them questions to get them to verbalize their faith in Jesus in their own words. It’s important that children understand that they are individually accountable to God. No other person can respond to God for them. We want children to be able to articulate their faith in their own words even if they use very simple terms.
What do I do if I feel like my child is ready to be baptized?
I would recommend that your child attend a class called First Step that is offered a few times each year. The class is for 1st – 6th graders and its intended purpose is two-fold:
First Step consists of three sessions attended by both the child and their parents. Two of the sessions are in class learning and interaction. The final component of the class is a conversation with one of the pastors in which the child will have the opportunity to tell someone else what God has done and is doing in their life. This last component of the class is for those children who feel they are ready to move forward in baptism and will be scheduled apart from the First Step class sessions. After this conversation, the pastor will meet with the parent(s) to discuss whether the child is ready for baptism or needs to receive more preparation.
A Word of Encouragement
We want you to know that wherever you are at in this process with your child, we are here to help you. God has given parents the primary role in nurturing the faith of their children, but we are here to partner with you and encourage you in any way we can. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Growing the Next Generation for God’s Glory,