Baptism isn’t just taking a bath at church or playing in Holy Water fountains; it means so much more! When we are baptized, it is an outward sign of an inward change. We know that when Jesus died on the cross, He wiped away our sins and made us clean. Baptism is our way of showing others that we have been wiped clean of our sins. But baptism happens AFTER we have given our lives to follow Jesus. Your heart changes first; then you are baptized to symbolize the change in your heart.
Seems simple, right? Then why is baptism often so confusing for kids?
- Kids are concrete thinkers and have a hard time with abstract ideas, so trying to understand that the baptism symbolizes our death to sin and new life in Christ can be tough!
- Kids often hear “baptism” and “becoming a Christian” as interchangeable phrases, which can cause them to think that baptism is what saves us.
- Just like kids sometimes think of Communion as an extra snack at church, sometimes they think baptism is just a going swimming or taking a special bath. (It’s that literal, concrete thinking coming into play again here.)
So what can we do about it?
- When talking about salvation and baptism, emphasize that your heart changes first, then baptism follows. Share your own experience of salvation and baptism, making a point to talk about how baptism is the showing of your faith, not the making of it.
- Teach kids the basics about baptism (see below) but let them start the conversation about being baptized themselves.
- Try not to pressure children into making a decision in front of the group or reward them with material prizes for making a decision about salvation or baptism. Large-Group altar calls with children or reward systems for making such choices can encourage decisions that aren’t real or that are influenced by their peers.
- Instead, invite children to have a private conversation with you and their parents where you can ask the questions that show the true depth of their understanding.
Now Available: A Baptism Guide to Share with Parents! Help parents discern if and when their children are ready to be baptized.