Baptism is an important step to take in our discipleship path. Baptism is a symbolic action and often symbolism is tough to explain to kids. Here is how I teach it to children.
Who can be baptized? Everyone who has decided to follow Jesus!! When you invite Jesus into your life you are joining God’s family. You should wait to be baptized until you have accepted Jesus into your heart.
There is not an age limit on who can be baptized. It is important that a child be able to express and tell the story of when they decided to give their life to Jesus. Before we baptize a child (or an adult) at Risen King a pastor or leader asks the child to tell them about when they asked Jesus into their life. There have been many occasions when I have asked a child this question and they answer, “I’ve always been a Christian” or something to that effect. I don’t ask for specific dates and details but if a child cannot tell me about a time when they made the decision and prayed to ask Jesus into their life I ask if they would like to make that decision and pray today.
Why get baptized?
– To tell others that you have joined God’s family or to show on the outside the decision that you made on the inside. The decision to follow Jesus is a personal decision and often is private. The act of baptism is done in front of your friends and family to share this private decision publicly. ____________.
– To do what Jesus did. Matthew 3:13-15
– To do what the Bible tells us to do. Acts 2:38
– To symbolize the act of dying to our old selves and being born again into God’s family and the act of being washed clean of all of our sins when God forgives us of our sins. Romans 6:4
o Symbolism is a tough concept for younger children. I use more common examples like a wedding ring. My wedding ring doesn’t make me married but it is a symbol that shows others that I am married. Or the McDonald’s arches. The yellow arches don’t taste good or fill you up but they represent food.
I will ask each child why they want to get baptized. I want to hear in their own words that they understand and have internalized the explanation and landed on their own motivation.
How is a person baptized? People get baptized in water. BAPTIZE means “put in the water”. Acts 8:38 People are also baptized in public or in front of their friends and family.
– Sometimes young children are afraid or nervous about the act of baptism. I always explain exactly how it happens. For example: I will be right there with you and on the other side will be another pastor. We will pray for you and then we will say, “By the confession of your faith(which just means because you have said that you believe) we baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” We will make sure you are ready. You can even plug your nose and then we will dip you back under the water and then right back up again. I will often “demonstrate” outside of the water with one child to show how little time they will be under the water and how I will hold onto them the whole time. This eases their mind about the specifics so that they can concentrate on meaning of baptism.
Celebrate!! Baptism is a big deal. It is an exciting day and a time that needs to be remembered and celebrated. You can find some ideas here: http://familydiscipleshippath.com/2012/09/07/celebrate-with-your-family/
I’d love to hear your baptism stories or questions. Share your comments.
*** Churches and denominations vary in how they understand and live out the act of baptism. I am a pastor at Risen King Community Church which is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Here’s a document from the C&MA on baptism http://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/baptism