One of the more frequent questions I get from parents is about how to talk to their kids about baptism. Many don’t feel prepared to do so, others aren’t sure if their kids are ready, and others want to know if there’s some age at which baptism becomes a natural next step. Ask 10 pastors this question and you might get 10 different answers. Ask a mom who happens to also be the STORYCHURCH Kids ministry leader – and you get some serious wisdom. As you can probably guess, that’s what I did. So here is a brilliant guest post from Liz Vance:
DUNKING THE KIDS
A few months ago I was challenged to approach the subject of baptism with my kids. My children have accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts, they know He is their Lord and Saviour.
Whenever it comes to the crunch, whenever they need a miracle, whenever they need someone bigger than Alastair and I to step in and move mountains, they know exactly where to go. They call on God! In fact, they often turn to us asking us to pray to God. As parents, there’s no greater pleasure than interceding on behalf of our kids.
So, when is the right time for our kids to be baptized? Neither Alastair and I agreed with child baptism or that special sprinkling that sometimes happens not long after your bundle of joy is born. I was “sprinkled” when I was 7 during a trip to my family’s home in India. My grandparents felt it was necessary to baptize my sisters and me into the family church.
It was a big occasion for the family but my sister was stood there threatening to punch the bishop for splashing her. It just didn’t have any significance for us except the fact that this dude just splashed water in our faces. I couldn’t even understand what they were saying since they were speaking in our parents’ mother tongue. Oh well, the grandparents were happy! When I was seventeen I decided for myself that I wanted to get baptized. It was actually a few years after asking Jesus into my heart.
Nathan and Noah are now 12 and 11 respectively. After being challenged, I realized it was time to find out exactly what they knew about baptism. I did a little google research to find out how other Kids Ministries dealt with baptism. One thing stood out to me. Leaders were challenged by kids who confused baptism with salvation!
I like to use my kids as guinea pigs on a regular basis so this was a great opportunity. I’d ask my boys to explain what baptism meant. They’ve seen plenty of baptisms and I thought I had explained it all well enough but sure enough, when I asked “why do we get baptized?” they talked about salvation. They thought that when you get baptised you receive your salvation! Okay, now I had to do some unravelling.
So this was the main misconception. Basically, children (and adults) need to understand that salvation comes when you ask God into your heart. You ask God for forgiveness and accept Jesus into your heart. If we have done this, we don’t need to doubt our salvation.
Baptism, on the other hand, is an act of obedience. Peter’s instructions were to repent and be baptized (Acts 2 vs 38).
Baptism is the symbol of the old life being washed away and the start of a new life with God. It’s a symbol of the decision we’ve already made. Baptism doesn’t save you or get you into Heaven. Only the sacrifice and grace of God can do that (Ephesians 2 vs:8-9).
We also have to remember that baptism does not make us christians. People may choose to be baptized or have their children baptized but this does not give them that relationship with Jesus. Again, only the sacrifice and grace of God has that power. We have to invite Jesus into our hearts.
Baptism is an opportunity for us to show others what Jesus has done for us. It’s showing people on the outside what has happened to us on the inside.
Hopefully my kids and I have talked through any misconceptions. I often wonder what their next step will be in their relationship with God. I continue to watch them serving in church (I’m definitely a proud mummy). I hope to see them off on many a mission trip, maybe go on a few with them, and when they are ready I hope to watch them get baptized.
I don’t intend to push them to do it, although I’ll take the opportunities to talk to them about it. When they are ready and when they choose to, I’m sure they will be baptized.
I’m thankful that we have so many great leaders and mentors in my church. People that I can trust to take my children under their wing and help lead my kids. It definitely takes a village to raise a child and Story Church is my village.
You can connect with Liz through twitter @lizvance.