As parents, many of you have wrestled with the question of whether your child is ready for baptism at this time or not. That is not an easy question to answer, nor is it a small one. Baptism is, and should be, a big deal in the life of every believer. So, how can you know whether the time is right for your child to take this important step of obedience? And if they are ready, what is the process for having your child baptized at Watermark?
What Is Baptism?
First of all, let’s make sure we are on the same page regarding what baptism is. Here is how we understand the ordinance of baptism according to Watermark’s belief statement:
We believe Christ instituted the ordinances of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which are to be observed by believers until He returns (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
We believe by water baptism a believer is publicly identified with his Savior and that infants of believing parents may be dedicated to the Lord but should not be baptized until they can personally articulate their faith and the purpose of baptism.
For more information about how we view baptism here at Watermark, read our statement on What We Believe About Baptism.
What Should Be Expected Before a Child is Baptized?
Salvation and baptisms are the first adult decisions in a child's spiritual life, and parents and pastors should look for 3 things1 in a child wanting to be baptized:
- Regeneration: Through the testimony of the child and their parents, there is evidence of a changed heart in the child.
- Readiness: As baptism is a personal expression of one’s love and identification with Christ, it is expected that this is a spiritual conviction of the child, not driven by the parent. It should be an event that is primarily meaningful to the child and initiated by the child.
- Reasoning: Does the child have an understanding of the gospel and the meaning of baptism? Some specific things to look for:
- The child will be able to articulate the gospel in their own words, potentially including memory verses for support.
- The child will be able to stand up in front of others and articulate their grace story in accordance with their age.
- The child will know what baptism is: a symbolic display, a public display, a counter-cultural statement (even if they have to use their own words to communicate this).
- The child will know what baptism is not: an action that leads to salvation, something “cool” to do, or a membership requirement.
Our experience has been that children 3rd grade or older are the ones most ready to take this step of obedience, though there are rare exceptions to that general rule.
If your child has expressed interest in baptism on their own initiative, here are some questions you can ask to clarify their readiness. We recommend avoiding “yes or no” questions and leading questions (i.e., “Do you believe that baptism is a symbolic, public display of your faith in Jesus who saved you?”; “Do you believe that you are a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins?”). For more on this topic, consider reading 4 Encouragements for Sharing the Gospel with Your Kids.
- Why do you want to be baptized?
- What do we need to be saved from? Why? What did God do to save you?
- Do you believe that baptism saves you? Why or why not?
- Explain to me how someone could know for sure that they are going to heaven.
- How do you feel about standing up in front of a group of people to share your story of grace?
What Does the Process Look Like at Watermark?
If after considering the above expectations, you believe that your child is ready for baptism, our team is excited to meet with them to help you confirm that decision. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” The Watermark Kids team is excited to be a part of the “many advisers” for your family as you process that decision. Below are the next steps in that process:
- Assist your child in completing the Baptism Info Form. Once this is submitted, you will be connected with a Kid's Team Staff Member for a meeting with your child and possibly you, if it will be helpful.
- Ultimately it will be your choice if your child gets baptized. However, a child needs to be able to fulfill the above expectations to be baptized at Watermark.
Join the Celebration
Whether this ends up being the time your child is baptized or not, baptism is always an awesome opportunity for your family to be confronted with the truth of the gospel: that we were once dead in our sins, but we have been raised to new life through faith in Jesus, the Son of God (Romans 6:4)! Make plans to join us for a baptism celebration and be sure to gather around the water with your kids to talk about this amazing picture of the hope we affirm!
For additional thoughts on this topic, see the following:
1 Bettis, Chap. The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ. Diamond Hill Publishing, 2016.