Thursday Book Club: Preparing Young People For Baptism

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Preparing Young Children for Baptism: Mentor's Guide and Pastor's Supplement by David Michael (Children Desiring God, 2011). Baptism is a significant act of obedience, and an important milestone in the life of a young believer. These  booklets outline a process, objectives, and sessions for leading a young person through the meaningful process of baptism preparation. Used together, the Pastors's Supplement and Mentor's Guide (designed particularly for fathers) outline a thorough church-sponsored youth baptism process.  The Mentor's Guide provides outlines for six "faith talks" for use by mentors during the preparation time, and it includes two appendices, which provide theological justification for the suggested process. The Pastor's Supplement contains instructions for church's wishing to implement a youth baptism process (see below) along with a CD with forms (Microsoft Word 2007) that you can customize for your church.

Here is a brief overview of the process these materials advocate:

1. Interest in and Invitation to Consider Baptism. Parents of prospective baptism candidates usually enter the process at their own request or in response to a letter of invitation from the church. Candidates include young people between the ages of 11 and 18 who have not been baptized, and younger children whose parents have asked to be contacted.  The Pastor's Supplement and CD contain a sample letter of invitation along with a sample response card to include with the letter. Candidates under the age of 18 must gain the consent of their parents before beginning the preparation process.

2. Mentor Orientation Sessions. Parents who indicate a desire to begin the process are invited to a Mentor Orientation Session.  Candidates do not attend this meeting.  The session involves meeting the mentors, developing camaraderie among the mentors, motivating the mentors to responsibly guide and support their candidate through the preparation process, and corporately seeking God's help through prayer.

3. Mentor Sessions with Candidate. Mentors are encouraged to have six separate one-on-one sessions with the youth.  The Mentor Guide gives outlines for structuring these sessions.  The sessions overview the following:

  • Preparing the Candidate for the Process
  • Understanding the Gospel
  • Assurance of Salvation
  • Affirmation of Faith
  • The Meaning of Baptism
  • Preparing a Testimony

4. Mentor and Candidate Group Sessions. Mentors and candidates come together with one or two church leaders.  The candidates share their testimonies with the group and review the meaning of baptism.  They are also introduced to the church's history and the distinctive beliefs about church membership for the local church.  They review the church's covenant and affirmation of faith.  At the end of this meeting, candidates and mentors complete and turn in the response forms.  The Pastor's Supplement contains model notes for these sessions.

5. Baptism Interview. After both the candidate and mentor have indicated the candidates readiness to move ahead with baptism, and in some cases church membership, the candidate will be interviewed.  The interview team will include an elder, an adult leader who has regular contact with the candidate (e.g. Sunday school teacher, small group leader) and an older youth who has been baptized.  During this interview the candidate gives his testimony and responds to informal questions concerning faith and church membership.

6. Baptism Service. If the Baptism/Membership team recommends the candidate for baptism, the candidate will be scheduled for baptism.  Our service usually includes worship, candidate testimonies, a pastoral message to the candiates, the baptism, and time for family and friends to gather around the young person, lay hands on him, and pray for him.  In our setting, the parents are able to help the young person out of the water and wrap him in a white robe as people gather around him for prayer.

David Michael is Pastor for Parenting and Family Discipleship at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN.  In this booklet, I believe that he has provided the most helpful resource for youth baptism preparation available.  The approach taken by Children Desiring God is similar to Sojourn's position (Download the latest update of our position, process, and student baptism class notes here), and the Mentor Guide contains an article that I've written along with fellow Sojourn member, Scott Holman (Download it here).  David's work in this book goes far beyond the resources we've developed at Sojourn, and I'm excited about using his resources and the CDG Mentor Guide as part of our Student Baptism Process in the future.

Note: Neither Jared Kennedy nor Sojourn Community Church receive any compensation for sales of this resource.