Baptism is an important milestone in your child’s spiritual journey. We know that engaging your child’s spiritual interest and questions can be exciting and scary. We want to be helpful to you, so we’ve created this guide to help you discern your child’s stepping towards baptism.
Here are a few, important things to remember:
- Start with you. When your child asks spiritual questions, we all have different experiences. You may feel excitement and anxiety or have memories and wonderings about your own spiritual journey. In order to be most helpful to your child, take some time to pause with your journal or a friend or spouse to process how your own spiritual story is affecting you as you journey with your child.
- Ask questions. Before you jump into answers, seek to understand your child’s perspective on baptism. Ask as many questions as you can think of, so you can more accurately interpret their wonderings and understanding of the meaning of baptism. And don’t forget to take deep breaths! God is with you and will give you what you need. It’s easy to feel the pressure that you need to be ready to have answers, but the first place to start is with questions. We’ve included some in this guide to get you started.
- Partner up. We are in this with you and our church family wants to support, encourage, and equip you. Share your questions, celebrations, and concerns, with your missional community, other parents, and our staff team. You are not alone!
- Trust God. Your child is deeply loved by God, even more than you can imagine. God has already been moving towards your child (Psalm 139)–how incredible! Your job isn’t to say and do everything right. You can be confident that God will lead your child and that he will empower you step towards these conversations.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. You may think of others, and if you don’t, no sweat! That’s why we gave you a list. Kids share at different times and in different ways. Maybe a hike, a ride in the car, a walk, climbing at the playground, or a special date with you will be the perfect time to ask some of these questions. Maybe drawing some answers or writing them out will be a better fit for your child. No need to ask them all at once or to force conversation. Ask God to give you the awareness of the right time to dive in.
- When did you first think about getting baptized?
- Who told you about baptism?
- What happens at a baptism? When did you go to one?
- Baptism is important, because…
- You want people to know you follow Jesus, because…
- As your child talks about baptism, pay attention to their body language and emotions. Say, “you seem…(fill in an emotion).” If you’re wrong, they’ll tell you!
- When did you first start thinking about God?
- What is God like?
- (Parents) If you’ve been baptized, tell your child about what it meant to you.
- When have you felt close to God?
- If you were going to tell a friend about what it means to follow Jesus, what would you say?
- What are some questions you have about God?
- Have you ever talked to God? What did you tell him?
- Why do you want to follow Jesus? Why do you love Jesus?
- When you think about Jesus, what do you feel? And you feel ______, because….?
- Writing Activity: Write Jesus a note, telling him how you feel about him and how you want to respond to his invitation to be the forgiver of your sins and the leader of your life.
This section offers some questions to guide your discernment as you discuss baptism with your child.
What prompted my child to start thinking about baptism?
Investigate the motivations for your child’s desire for baptism. Did someone bring up the topic of baptism or was it spontaneous? What interests your child about being baptized? The primary purpose of baptism is to share one’s decision to follow Jesus with our church family. Primary motivations that might bring you pause would be to please parents, or to be celebrated (baptism is celebrating what Jesus did), or because a friend or sibling is being baptized, too.
In what ways has my child expressed trusting Jesus to be the Forgiver of their sins and the leader of their life?
Through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, God invites each of us to trust him as the Forgiver of our sins and as the Leader of their life. This changes our spirit from “dead” to “alive.” It makes it possible for us to be empowered with God’s Spirit to participate in making all the sad things come untrue, in our life, and in the world around us. And it makes it possible for us to experience eternity with God. While your child will grow in understanding of this (as we all do) in ever-increasing ways, has your child said “yes” to this invitation? Does your child have a basic understanding of the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection for their life? In what ways have you seen them respond to God already? Understanding isn’t limited to the mind, but also includes ways you have seen them practice following Jesus. Consider sharing what you’ve observed with them or writing it down.
Your child’s response to God’s invitation isn’t a formula or a checklist. It’s about offering their heart to God. We do encourage children who understand Jesus’ sacrifice and whose hearts want to say “yes,” to express that to God in some way–through writing or through telling God out loud through prayer.
How would my child describe the meaning of baptism?
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality. It is a symbol. It is a way to retell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The person that is being baptized is retelling the story and announcing to their church family that it’s their story, too. When we go down into the water, we remember the part of the story where Jesus died for our sins and the sin of the world. When we come back out of the water, we remember and announce the part of the story where Jesus is now and forever alive, and has beaten the power of sin. His Spirit gives us the power to live life in a way that brings his kingdom to earth.
The capacity to understand symbols fully develops during the early teenage years, though it’s possible that children grow in it earlier. A way you can test your child’s understanding of symbols is by asking them about a wedding ring. If someone wears a wedding ring, it is a way of telling others that they are married. But if someone takes the wedding ring off, does it mean that they aren’t married anymore? No, because the ring isn’t what makes someone married; it’s a symbol. It’s the same with with baptism. Baptism isn’t what makes someone a follower of Jesus, it’s a way of celebrating when someone made the decision to follow Jesus.
When you ask your child about the meaning of baptism, listen for misunderstanding that they think baptism is a way to be close to God or to be forgiven for their sins. The focus of baptism is on the sharing of your child’s decision to trust Jesus to be the Forgiver of their sins and the Leader of their life. During your conversations, remind them that there is nothing (prayer, going to church, doing good things, baptism) they can do to make God love them more or less.
In our conversations about baptism, is there anything me or my child is still wondering about?
You are not alone! We don’t promise to have all the answers, but we do commit to supporting and encouraging you and discovering with you what God is up to you in your family’s life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us so we can help!