These situations can be awkward, but they don’t have to be. When you’ve got the right heart, show you care, and give parents appropriate next actions you can leave these encounters happy and satisfied instead of angrier than Bruce Banner while waiting in line at the DMV. Here’s what I do:
1. Have families attend a Kids Baptism Class.
The basic idea is that kids should have an engaging presentation of the gospel and a clear explanation of what baptism is, why it’s important, and when they should get baptized. I make it a requirement that parents have to attend with their kids. My rule of thumb is kids need to be in at least first grade before they can attend. Occasionally I’ll make an exception, but most kids who are younger than that are too young to get anything out of it.
2. Interview kids and parents one-on-one.
After the class (which happens during one of our weekend services), I interview kids with one of their parents that week. I have them share their testimony with me to make sure they have accepted Christ. I also use this opportunity to answer any questions about God, Jesus, etc. they may have.
At this point if the child has accepted Christ, understands baptism, and wants to get baptized I follow these steps. If they don’t understand salvation and/or baptism I proceed here:
3. Talk to mom or dad privately.
I’ll ask the child if I can talk to their parent outside for a minute alone. I’ll explain to the parent why I feel they’re child shouldn’t get baptized yet. Since they were in the room with me and heard their child’s answers to my questions, 90% of the time this is not a surprise and they understand. I reassure them their child’s spiritual development is unique. Walking happens at a certain age. So does talking, reading, etc. but not salvation. It happens when it happens. For some people it happens at six. For others it’s sixty. And that’s OK. Their kids will get there when the time is right.
I then recommend these steps:
- Read our New Life in Christ booklet together (email me for a copy if you’d like to see it).
- Answer these questions with your child at home (just do 1 – 3 questions a day).
- Read Leading Your Child to Christ by David Staal with your spouse.
For the 10% who don’t see it there’s usually no getting through to them. I make my points, stand by my decision, and move on with steps 4 and 5.
4. Explain to the child we’re going to hit the “pause” button.
Once I’ve talked with mom/dad I bring them back in to talk to their child. I ask their child if they know what the pause button on their TV remote does (I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t). I then explain we’re going to hit the “pause” button on them getting baptized. Mom and dad are going to talk to you more about it then we’ll come back and talk some more. Most kids are OK with this, some don’t like it, and one boy even cried. I tell all kids they did nothing wrong. They’re not dumb or stupid. Mom and dad are just going to help them get ready and once they’re there then we’ll meet again.
5. Encourage parents to call me when they’re child is ready.
Lastly, I give parents my business card and tell them to call/email if there’s anything else I can do to be helpful to their family. Walking families through this process is tough, but rewarding. If done properly it can really guide kids into a greater understanding of Jesus and equip parents to do something about it at home during the week.
What tips would you add to this list?