It is exciting every time baptism is a topic of conversation because I know that someone has either made a life changing decision to follow Christ or is seriously contemplating matters of faith. The pleasure of working with children and families is to walk with them through an exciting time in life. Conversations often begin with, “Pastor B, my son/daughter wants to be baptized and asks all sorts of questions about God…I’m not sure I have all the answers…What do we do next? Will you talk with them?”
I take every opportunity I get to talk about baptism, but what is even more exciting to me is to help parents feel equipped to lead their children during a very exciting time in life. Mom and Dad, it is you that Deuteronomy 6:1-9 directs to teach your children about Gods ways and wondrous acts. Paul reiterates your the role of the parent in the spiritual upbringing of a child when he instructs, “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
Ask open ended questions that help you determine if they understand and have responded to the gospel. Here are some questions that I think are most helpful.
Why do you want to get baptized? (It is important for children to understand baptism is the next step following salvation, not the first step toward salvation.)
What we want to hear is that our child came to grips with their sinful behavior and recognized their need for forgiveness through Jesus. It would be great to hear, “Dad, I want to be baptized because I believe Jesus died to save me from my sin and God raised Jesus from dead so that we might have eternal life. And mom, I just prayed in my room to ask God for forgiveness and to accept Jesus as Lord of my life forever…Just like Romans 10:9-10 says” That would be amazing, don’t you think?! The reality is that it took me 20 minutes to write the last four sentences. So, we might expect their answer may not be so clear and may be a simple, “I don’t know.” The great thing about this question is regardless of the response, it gives you a starting point for a great conversation.
What do you know about Jesus? Can you tell me why He died on the cross and God brought Him back to life three days later? (When we understand that Jesus, God’s son, entered the world to live a perfect life and then died as a final sacrifice for our sin, we know the source of salvation.) God’s love for us through his sacrifice and the reality of His power through the resurrection are an amazing story of hope in eternal life. (Romans 5:8 & 6:23)
Do you know what to call doing something that God says we can’t do or not doing the things that God says we should do? (We can not seek forgiveness for sin if we do not understand sin.) One of the things the Holy Spirit does for us it to help us understand when we have done something wrong. As parents we work hard to help them do right and avoid wrong. It is important to help them understand that wrong = sin and sin is ultimately against the creator. “We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) Just as doing wrong toward a friend or family member breaks our earthly relationships, sin damages our relationship with God. Here is a word of caution. Children can often give a definition of sin, but have not connected all of the dots that it is their own personal sin that has broken relationship with God. Here are a few simple follow up questions that are helpful. Do you ever sin? Do you think I ever sin? If you are afraid of the answer to that second question you have my permission to ask, Do you think Pastor B ever sins?
I will leave you with this. Don’t rush your child to baptism, but try not to get in the way of what God is doing either. I have talked to scores of adults that feel a need to take a second trip through the baptistery because early in life they were only trying to please their parents. At the same time I know some adults who struggle because when God was doing something in their lives at a young age, they were told they were too young to understand… It’s not always clear if a child is ready for baptism, but they are always ready for the gospel. They are always ready to hear the good news of God’s work to make us right with himself through Jesus Christ. It is always a good time to help them understand that everyone of us sin and need to be saved from the effects of our sin through the forgiveness found in Jesus.
And yes! I will absolutely talk to them…