I recently heard Andy Stanley somewhat humorous describe a parent's “job” in their child's faith journey. He described getting them to pray a prayer of salvation, hand them a bible, get them baptized, and then teach them to drive. His humor was on point as he pointed out the benchmarks of what we as parents raising our children in the church want to see from our kids. As I laughed at his delivery I could see my own mental checklist or the steps I’ve made to do what I can to push or prod my kids to follow Jesus…Hey, at least I’m being honest as I type this.
This last Sunday I had a conversation with an amazing mother of a large family and two of her youngest daughters had just attended a recent baptism class I had taught. This mom had been reflecting on one of her daughter's behaviors and questioning “Is She REALLY ready to be baptized?”
While I comforted this mother on what the first week of summer vacation can do to a child’s behavior I started thinking how can we help parents know when the time is right for their child to be baptized.
I think the best place to start is by asking “what did Jesus say?” In Mark 16:16 Jesus says:
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.“
Our starting point for this is the word BELIEVES. The first question to answer in the kid baptism quest is “Does Junior Believe???…. Do they REALLY BELIEVE???” As a parent this is a great time to ask questions, not to tell them what to think or what to believe but to ask and listen. If you need a place to start you can start with these:
- Who do you think Jesus is? (Ask and listen…and then ask follow-up questions)
- Why do you think this way?
- Why would God do this?
- Why don’t you think everyone believes?
Fight the urge to answer for them or to tell them what you think are the right answers. Don’t teach here….just listen to them. Kids are used to being told what to think, and it’s not as common for us as adults to listen to them to validate their thoughts or to help them process.
Don’t get me wrong it’s awesome to answer their questions, but we have to fight just telling them what to think because it’s easiest and quickest.
When our kids begin to have a real belief about Jesus … One possibly best described by Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16:15-17
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
When we start to see belief in our kids it’s time to start asking the questions about baptism.
- What is baptism?
- Why do you want to get baptized?
My advice to parents is just like above. Ask the questions, and really listen to the answers. In our kid's baptism class we have a lot of fun and bring out our real reasons for baptism is because Jesus told us to (Mark 16:15-16) and that we get the opportunity to show other people what Jesus has done for us just like the church has been doing for 2000 years (Acts 2:38-41)
Pray with your kids, pray for your kids, and then talk to them and listen to what they have to say. I’ve been amazed at the depth of faith and understanding I regularly see and hear in our kids. When the time is right for them to get baptized we have a baptism class on Sunday evenings every other month, and I can’t wait to see you there.
Jeremy is Family Pastor at Abundant Life where he leads the teams providing ministry to people from birth through high school graduation and their parents. He's been married to his wife, Chandra, for 19 years. Together with their four children, they use their home as a learning laboratory for all things Family Ministry, and some thing that are definitely not.