The second Children’s Ministry Think Tank from Ministry-to-Children.com addresses the issue of kids and baptism. Here is this week's question as posed by Tony Kummer. You can read my answer below or click over to Tony's site to read the answers from my colleagues. Apart from some minor differences, our approach is fairly similar.
Think Tank #2 Questions About Baptism & Kids
What is your church’s policy about baptizing kids? Is there any age absolutely too young? If you had to pick a “typical” or “ideal” age what would you say? What happens when a kid comes back for re-baptism as a teen?
Response from Jared Kennedy
It is a joy to speak with parents that desire to tell the gospel to their kids and encourage their faith. There are lots of tensions that weigh on our hearts when we approach the issue of childhood baptism and church membership. With parents, we long to see our children saved and not discouraged. We also long to have a policy that will not compromise our church’s witness to the culture by accepting and baptizing a child too quickly. Sojourn has put together a full policy booklet that helps parents navigate these tensions. You can download it here.
Here is our policy in brief:
- Sojourn strongly recommends that parents wait until their child is at least twelve years old before presenting them for a baptism interview. This is a recommendation and not a mandate. Children will be interviewed, and their readiness for baptism will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We recognize that the New Testament example is for baptism upon a valid profession of faith. Therefore, baptism ought to follow conversion immediately upon the appearance of discernable signs of conversion. Time, however, is sometimes the only course of action for determining, as much as is humanly possible, the validity of a child’s profession of faith in Christ. For this reason, we strongly advise parents to wait. Evidence of faith often becomes clearer as the child grows and shows the fruit of a changed heart.
- Conversion is God’s work in the believer. It is not simply a decision on the believer’s part. We strongly encourage parents to look for evidences or signs of conversion (such as conviction of sin, understanding of truth, and a renewed life in their child before presenting him or her for baptism.
- Since parents are responsible for instructing their children and overseeing their spiritual development, it is imperative that the church teach, instruct, and guide parents in this task. Parents of seeking children are paired with a representative from Sojourn’s leadership,who meets with these parents to discuss the tensions involved in discerning a child’s heart. Parents are also be paired with mentors-typically parents with children who have been through the process before-who will counsel and advise the parents as they seek to lead their children in spiritual things.
- Over a period of time, the seeking child is led by his or her parents through a study that clarifies the gospel such as Who Will Be King by Matthias Media, A Catechism for Boys and Girls by Reformation Trust Today, or something similar.
- At the conclusion of this study, the child meets for an interview (or series of interviews) with his or her parents, the parents’ mentors, and a representative from Sojourn’s leadership. The purpose of these studies is for the mentors and leadership representative meeting with the child and parents to discern if the child understands and has embraced the gospel. During these meetings, the pastoral and mentorship team also help the child to craft a testimony which, as with all baptism candidates, is read at the baptism service.
- Mentors and parents then jointly present the child to the elders for church membership and participation in the ordinances at the conclusion of their teaching/mentorship meetings.
- If the elders are convinced that a child has given evidence of a genuine conversion, the child is baptized and accepted into the fellowship and discipline of the church. The child, under the authority of his or her parents, is without voting responsibilities until the age of eighteen.
- At the age of eighteen, the child attends Sojourn’s membership classes and interviews, like adult candidates for membership, with an elder. The voting responsibilities given to adult members are exercised only after the completion of this interview.
Given our policy, most young people are not baptized until their teens though many come to faith at an earlier age. We do not believe in re-baptism, but, if the teen, his parents, and Sojourn’s elders believe that a previous baptism occurred before the child was genuinely converted, we would allow the teen to participate in a second baptism service and receive a true baptism as a believer.