We all know the “age of accountability” for baptism (and thereby becoming a Christian) probably varies slightly from child to child. For years I have watched as the first children in a class study with their parents, decide they want to be baptized and dedicate their lives to Christ. The parents of the other children in their grade start looking forward to the day when their child decides to become a Christian, too.
Many of those children will probably become Christians at some point over the next few years. As the remaining children enter high school, the looks of anticipation can gradually turn to panic. Parents wonder if their child will reject God entirely. Many are afraid to talk about baptism or ask questions for fear of frightening a child who must be on the borderline of rejecting God. After all, what parent wants to ask the question or make the comment that is the final straw in their child’s faith life?
Surprisingly, there are 5 very common misconceptions young people have about becoming a Christian. Accepting one of these as truth can delay a decision and commitment to God for months and even years. Yet many of them could be easily corrected and encourage your child to make the most important decision of his/her life.
So what are the most common reasons young people might delay baptism?
- Because they believe you have to commit “bad” sins in order to need baptism and the forgiveness it brings. Young people are often exposed to person after person who was raised in a Christian home, rejected God, became an addict or some other “bad” sin and then returned to God and became a Christian. For many young people, the message that was meant to frighten them away from sin has instead convinced them you must have a period of rejecting God and sinning before you are ready to be a Christian. Make sure your kids understand a simple lie can separate them from God as much as a murder – not to frighten them, but to underscore the seriousness of any sin.
- Because they are afraid to ask questions. Most young people have at least a few questions before they want to be baptized. Often, it is because they have heard slightly different or confusing things from teachers, ministers and/or you and are trying to get it to reconcile in their minds. Or they may have practical questions about exactly what happens during baptism. They may be afraid to ask those questions because they secretly feel asking them will lead the adults in their lives to tell them all of the reasons they are too young or aren’t “mature” enough to become a Christian. Rather than risk the criticism, they sit quietly hoping someone will accidentally answer those questions for them. Don’t be afraid to regularly ask your kids from a very young age for any questions they may have about God, the Bible or becoming a Christian. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but they need to understand asking the questions is safe.
- They think you must be an adult to be a “real” Christian. In our society, many important decisions are not allowed until at least the age of 18. Some Christians will even tell your kids they should be an adult before making that decision. There is nothing in scripture to indicate someone must wait until a certain age, only that when they understand and are capable of making that commitment, they should. Tell your kids stories of your own conversion if you were younger than 18 – especially if it “stuck” and you have remained faithful. They need to know young people can make such an important decision and stay true to their promises to God.
- They think they can sin as much as they want and still go to Heaven until they are baptized – often this is expressed as indecision. Granted the logic is faulty, but many young people believe there is some second mysterious road to Heaven where they can sin all they want, say they love God and will still go to Heaven. They think they can stay on this road – doing whatever they want – until well into adulthood or even until they are “old”. Make sure your kids understand that once they have reached the age of accountability there is no such road. You are either a Christian or you aren’t and the destinations are very different. They also need to understand that after a period of time, indecision becomes rejection by default.
- They believe they have to be “perfect” or understand everything in the Bible before they can become a Christian. This is actually indirectly or directly taught by some Christians. Often, they do it in hopes of delaying baptism for a child who may indeed be too young at the time. Unfortunately, the child often internalizes it and begins to believe they must be prefect or have perfect understanding before becoming a Christian. Since both are impossible, they are never baptized. If a child wants to study baptism, begin the study at any age. Our free baptism study has built-in activities that you can use to slow down the study for children who need to gain maturity before making that decision. Remember though, only God and your child can truly know your child’s heart.
If your child hasn’t been baptized, don’t be afraid to ask a few non-threatening questions. You may find your child has one of these misconceptions. Once they are cleared, your child may indeed be ready to commit his/her life to God in baptism.