Among those who practice believer's baptism (credo-baptism), there are two basic positions regarding the questions of childhood participation in the church ordinances, baptism and communion, and childhood church membership. The two views are:
- Withholding baptism and communion from children until they reach a level of maturity that is independent of their parents in matters relating to God and the church.
- Immediate participation in baptism and communion for believing children, who are recognized as church members with limited responsibilities.
Trevin takes the "withholding" position:
- We should actively share the gospel with our children, and we should encourage them when they trust Christ.
- Those who are baptized must be able to make a credible profession of faith.
- There is wisdom in delaying baptism for young children.
- Delaying baptism does not mean we should consider childhood baptisms invalid.
John takes the "immediate participation" position. He argues as follows:
- The regular pattern in Scripture doesn’t give any indication of a probationary period.
- A probationary period seems to imply that there is something more than faith we need to do in order to be a Christian.
- Affirming belief in the gospel is never false assurance.
- The New Testament pattern is reactive rather than proactive concerning conversion.
At Sojourn, we practice a version of the "withholding" position. Similar to Trevin, we advocate waiting until age 12 though we definitely affirm conversions at earlier ages. You can download the latest update of our position paper, policy, and process here and at the Bethlehem Baptist (Minneapolis) site. The paper outlines what we see as the strengths and weaknesses of both positions. I definitely think that the "immediate participation" position can be practice with gospel thoughtfulness. Church leaders and parents will benefit by reading the full articles by Trevin and John, our full position paper, and these resources as well:
- Ministry-to-children.com discussion about church policies on baptizing young children
- Ministry-to-children.com discussion about the about the age of accountability
- Posts about Baptism at Children’s Ministry Online
- Doug Wolter's interviews with Eric Johnson about Children and Personal Agency