Parents, guardians, and grandparents – a word of advice regarding small children and New Testament baptism: proceed with caution. They only get to do it once; make it count.
Maybe this post is even more so for parents who were raised in the church in America’s Bible belt. In the 1970s-1990s, there was a numbers driven contest among churches for converts and baptisms. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, I honestly believe it was nobly intended; after all, we do want to make disciples of as many people as possible. I also don’t mean to say the salvations were not legitimate; I think a good number were. Nonetheless, the church culture of the time bred a constant pressure to get more numbers. The trickledown effect was parents pressuring their young children to walk the aisle to get saved and baptized. Though the preacher, dad and mom were sure excited, the child’s heart was not yet broken by the gospel, yet from that point on the child’s spiritual leaders repeatedly assured the child of their salvation. Those children are now the parents raising children in our churches and this is the tension many feel inside due to their personal experience: ‘if my children don’t get saved and baptized at a young age, people will think I’m a bad parent; however, I don’t want my children to experience what I experienced.’
What I’m about to say is not an issue of right vs. wrong, but some thoughts about what is best versus good. So, if your child was baptized at a young age, say six or seven, that’s great. They went through New Testament baptism. Praise the Lord. I’m just pointing out that there are some benefits to waiting until they are a little older.
It is ok for your child to give their life to Christ at a younger age and then wait to be baptized under your leadership.
They only get to do this once, so it will be very helpful to them to get baptized when they are of an age they will remember it for the rest of their life. I know you have a video camera that will produce a video they can watch for the rest of their life, but there is a difference between remembering a video of one’s baptism and remembering one’s baptism.
Your child does not have to have a full understanding of the significance of baptism before they are baptized, but how good would it be for them to have a spiritual sense of awe and wonder about the moment. The moment will be so much richer for them if they know they are undertaking their public pledge of allegiance to their King.
Your ultimate affirmation to them that they are born again is that you green light their baptism. Once you do that, you have told them in no uncertain terms they are Christians. Does a six year old really know what it means to make a lifelong commitment to surrender to King Jesus? True, I’m 38 years old and I still don’t have a full understanding of what it means to make a lifelong commitment to surrender to King Jesus. However, I do think a pre-teen or teenager has had their faith tested in the public square enough to realize there is a cost to discipleship; therefore, they can more fully decide if they truly want to surrender themselves to Christ. I’d urge parents to wait until there is evidence of surrender, godly sorrow over sin, and growing interest in the things of the Lord over time, before you green light baptism.
Make sure the church double checks your child’s salvation for you–this is wise and good and right. The local church is given to you to affirm your salvation…or to say, hey, we know you think you are born again, but we love you too much not to tell you, we don’t see evidence of salvation in you. I mean, if the church can’t tell you, who can? (That isn’t wrongful judging by the way–the local church is your highest human authority in this world, see Matthew 18:17-20. The local church to which I belong has significant authority from Christ to exercise authority in my life. One example is that my local congregation has the authority from Christ to evaluate my salvation, and that of my family, against biblical evidences of salvation. This is God’s grace to me because then my local congregation can either affirm I am born again or express strong warnings to me that I am not, so that when I stand before Christ one day, I will not be one of the MANY in that day who will say, “Lord, Lord” and yet be turned away from the gates of Heaven.) So, my advice is that as soon as your child expresses a desire for salvation, enlist your local church to assist you in the process and certainly, before you declare your child saved, let your local church double check for you.
Finally, a word from my personal life – Every time one of my children has expressed a desire for salvation, Nicole and I have worked with them over time and then, when we thought they had surrendered to Christ, we left them with a trusted, Godly church leader, one-on-one, to spend time with them, talk to them, etc., to double check for us. After following that process, we believe our three oldest children are born again. They are 11, 9, and 7. None have been baptized. I came to faith as a young child. I was baptized when I was 11 or 12. I can clearly remember the baptistery, the preacher, what he said, and what I said. I can recall feeling the spiritual significance of the moment. It was a defining moment in my life; like my wedding day was. One of the things for which I’m most grateful in my spiritual development is that my parents waited on my baptism until I was truly ready.
If you are ready for baptism, you can sign up here. We baptize again on Easter Sunday, April 5.