My Child Ready To Be Baptized?
the most common question that Christian parents bring to their minister
involves the readiness of their child to be baptized. Sometimes
the question is mere formality. This is, the parents have already
decided that the child should be baptized and they are simply asking
the minister to put his stamp of approval on the decision. At other
times parents are genuinely confused about whether their child is
ready to be baptized or not. This is particularly true when the
child who has expressed the desire to be baptized is eight, nine
or even eleven years old.
are three indications that a child is ready to make the adult decision
to become a Christian. These are presented in the order in which
they generally appear.
IN BEHAVIOR ...
our child participate meaningfully in all aspects of worship? We
as Christians understand that praising God is the fundamental requirement
of our relationship with Him; therefore we take seriously the worship
services of the church. Children who still play with toys, color
during the sermon, giggle or talk during the Lord's Supper are not
demonstrating the mature behavior required of Christians. The first
indication the child is ready to be baptized is his ability to consistently
participate in all aspects of the worship service.
child who spends 30 minutes looking up passages on conversion can
recite the steps of salvation. Memorization comes easy at young
ages and parents should not assume that a child is ready to be baptized
just because he/she can quote the relevant verses in the New Testament.
When a child asks to be baptized, welcome the interest and follow
up with some open-ended questions that do not have obvious answers.
For example: What does repentance mean? What sins are you confessing?
How are sins washed away? How will your life change once you are
should not be an interrogation but a conversation where we probe
the depth of their understanding. We should praise their interest
in God's will and openly express how pleased we are that they have
asked about becoming a Christian. Taking time to study does not
mean that we are not taking them seriously. In fact, we can explain
that the really important decisions in life are always made after
careful though and preparation.
Insight is demonstrated when a child can combine factual knowledge
and the significance of that information. Most children have the
urge to do the right thing. However, salvation is an abstract concept,
and the ability to think in abstractions does not even appear in
children until around puberty.
indication of a child's ability to think abstractly is when he can
explain the meaning of proverbs. For example, to interpret the saying
"Rolling stones collect no moss," a child must
have the ability to think abstractly. That is, he knows the rolling
stones and moss represent something other than rocks and a green
IN THE FUTURE ...
of the most difficult processes for children to develop is the mental
ability to project themselves into the future. This is one reason
teenagers take risks - they cannot see clearly how "forbidden
behaviors" can damage their lives ten years down the road.
Because becoming a Christian is a lifetime commitment, they need
help in considering ways that being Christ-like will impact their
future. Read the Gospels with them so they know Jesus and ask them
if they understand what "being like Jesus" means.
When He is kind to lepers - explain that they must be kind to the
outcasts at school. When he is forgiving of those who hurt Him -
explain that they must be forgiving toward those who hurt them.
are not fool-proof steps to guarantee a child's readiness for baptism,
but they certainly move us in the right direction. Once you have
taken these steps and your child is about to become a Christian
have him/her write a letter to themselves explaining all the reasons
for this decision. Put the letter away for safe keeping so when
the child is older, both you and he/she can visit that important
time in life again. Remember that spiritual training does not begin
and end with conversion. We lead our children to the heavenly Father
and we show them the Christian Way after they have made their personal
commitment to Him.
Jones & Jan Richardson
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