When we’re working with kids and students, our ultimate goal for them is to experience God as they grow in their faith. And as they grow in their faith we can expect them to ask all kinds of questions about different spiritual topics, including one of the most important steps they can take: baptism.
Here are some of the best practices when it comes to talking to kids and students about baptism. First of all baptism is a big deal! It’s kind of of like a wedding ring. A way of telling the world that you follow Jesus.
We believe following Jesus is the greatest adventure anybody can ever go on. Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he ascended into heaven were to go to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in his name.
As parents or volunteers who work with kids and students, this is our greatest honor and calling. So we should be excited when someone wants to know more about baptism because it means their faith is becoming their own.
Here’s the big idea: you're there to process with them in this adventure, not to persuade. Ultimately, baptism needs to be their decision, not a result of your agenda, or parents, or even at churches or ministry.
There’s also no special formula or magic words to figure out whether a person is ready or not. We just have to trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding that person into understanding and faith. That said here are some best practices:
First, ask open-ended questions. It’s the best way to help a person process what they’re thinking and feeling. If you're not sure that they even know what baptism means, ask them. Say, “What would it mean for a person to get baptized?” or “Why do you say you love Jesus?”
When you leave it open minded, it gives the person a chance to say what baptism means to them. Which gives you a chance to practice the next one. Listen and reflect. Sometimes all a kid or student really needs is for you to listen to what they’re thinking and feeling. When we listen, we give space for God to speak to and through the other person.
Then reflect on what they’ve said. You can say something like,” Tell me more about wanting your life to look different,” or “It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought.” This encourages them to keep exploring their decision and it builds trust in your relationship.
Bring other people in. A kid or student might ask you about baptism because they trust you and that’s awesome. You should also be sure to keep the family in the loop because they may want to celebrate with their kids. This is a big deal!
While there’s never any harm in waiting, there could be harm in rushing a decision without getting their closest loved ones involved. When in doubt seek others out. Sometimes we know when the answer is no or not yet, a young person can get swept up in the moment or want to do it because they see someone else doing it.
To be clear is to be kind. Baptism is not always the right next step for someone to take. Baptism should happen only after a person has repented or changed the direction in life and believed or chosen to receive Jesus’ rescue.
If they can’t identify a time when they’ve repented or started to believe, they’re just not ready for baptism yet. Now they may have been baptized before, with that infant baptism or getting baptized when it really wasn’t their decision as more of the exception.
Generally baptism is a one time thing. They don’t have to keep getting baptized, if they’ve already chosen to take that step in the past. There might be some other ways to mark the moment that are equally valid and meaningful.
To sum it up: we’re here to process not persuade. So we ask open ended questions. We listen and reflect. We bring others in. And we know when the answer is no or not yet.
When we do that we’re trusting God to do what only he can do. Which makes it even sweeter and more amazing when a person does make the decision to get baptized and we know it's their decision.