Hearing These Words More Often Can Help Your Children Become Christians

One of the benefits of my ministry is that I get to observe congregations around the U.S. and in other countries. I get a better sense of what works well and what doesn’t in Christian parenting and ministries serving children and teens. This week, my husband and I visited a congregation that regularly seems to average around a couple of hundred baptisms a year. We began asking ourselves why this particular congregation was averaging so many more baptisms (of believers) than others.

We suddenly realized why. The minister there was not afraid to talk about the need for baptism not only to have sins forgiven and for becoming a Christian, but for the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes living the Christian life possible. He walks through it carefully explaining the whys and hows of baptism. Children and teens in this congregation hear about baptism regularly and have a thorough understanding of what it is and why it is so important.

I imagine if I asked the minister I would learn that most of the young people in this congregation have decided to become Christians before the age of eighteen, unlike the majority of their peers in other congregations. I would also imagine the parents are encouraged to talk about baptism at home with their children and Bible class teachers are trained to discuss it in Bible classes with older children and teens.

Think carefully about your own children. How often to they hear baptism even mentioned – much less explained in your worship services? How often do they see a baptism? How often do their Bible class teachers talk about it? How often do you discuss it in your home?

Our young people aren’t getting baptized any more in part because they don’t know it’s something God expects of them. They don’t know why they need to do it (most never hear about Heaven or Hell anywhere either). They don’t know what happens when they are baptized and how it makes a difference both on Earth and after death. They don’t have a space to ask their questions – and may not have any because they have little knowledge and experience upon which to even form a question.

If you want your children to become Christians, you have to talk about it a lot. You need to study it with them in scripture (our free study and the book of Acts are great places to start). You need to encourage your ministers and Bible class teachers to talk about it more often. If you do that, your kids will have the information necessary to make an informed choice about baptism – and they’re more likely to make a great choice.

Here is the link to our free baptism study guide. http://teachonereachone.org/baptism-study/

Top FAQ’s Parents Have About Their Child’s Baptism

Read through the book of Acts and it becomes clear that baptism was meant to be an informed choice a person made. It was among other things an acknowledgement of personal sin, repentance, a declaration of Jesus as Lord and a commitment to follow Jesus for the rest of one’s life. Early church history confirms that baptism was for many years only available to those old enough to make an informed decision. Infant baptism was the byproduct of high infant mortality and not part of God’s original plan. (The first infant baptism was in the year 160 – long after the Apostles had died.) The idea of baptism as merely a membership rite occurred even later.

If you want biblical baptism for your children, it means it has to be their decision. They have to be old enough to understand what they are doing as well as any adult might and be capable of making the same declarations and commitments. This is sometimes referred to as the age of accountability. With the extension of childhood and adolescence well into adulthood, the idea of an age of accountability creates a lot of questions. While I would never claim to speak for God, here are my best informed answers to questions you may have about your child’s baptism. They are based on scriptures where I can find them, but also decades of experience in working with parents and their children as well as official research on the topic.

  1. What is the age of accountability? This term is not found in the Bible. It is based on the Jewish tradition that we see displayed in the story of Jesus at the Temple as a 12 year old. Historically 12 (now 13 for boys and 12 for girls) years old was the age at which Jewish boys (now boys and girls) were to take responsibility for their own spiritual life. While there is no hard and fast age for the age of accountability, most believe it to be about that same age for the average child.
  2. Does the current immaturity of young people mean the age of accountability is older? This is totally my personal opinion, but I believe Christians should be counter-cultural and raise mature children. Nothing good comes from a young adult delaying adult behaviors and living a life filled with primarily leisure and self indulgence. God calls us to be our best selves – to mirror His image and that is not an image of delayed maturity. In fact, Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 reprimands Christians who are doing things that delay their spiritual maturing. That being said, an immature child or teen will be more likely to delay a decision on baptism. It does not mean that God’s definition of the age when a particular individual is ready to make that choice has changed based on his or her intentional delayed maturity.
  3. How young is too young to be baptized? Once again, this varies from child to child. It is the rare child who has enough knowledge, understanding and maturity to make the decision at age eight or nine, but there are children who have made the commitment at that age and honored it throughout their lifetime. The key is not the chronological age, but understanding the motivation behind wanting to be baptized. Often young children are taken with the idea of the extra attention or the baptism act itself rather than feeling a spiritual desire and need to be baptized.
  4. My child is in his or her late teens and hasn’t been baptized. Should I be concerned? Unfortunately, even with the delayed maturity that is so common today, a child in his or her late teens who has not decided to become a Christian is a major concern. Less than 20% of Christians were baptized after the age of 18 (in the U.S.). While this is also a critique of our poor evangelism, it provides an indication of the importance of making the decision before adulthood. Assuming your child has been raised in a faithful Christian home with regular exposure to the Bible, delaying baptism can be a sign of rebellion against God in either its beginning or sadly, entrenched stages.
  5. Should I pressure my child into being baptized? “Pressure” is a word with many possible interpretations. I have found it to be helpful to ask older children and teens what their thoughts are regarding baptism and what they think they will need to make an informed decision about it. Scaring or forcing a child into baptism is ultimately useless, because it is not about just being immersed in water, but your child having a repentant heart and wanting to obey and follow God. If the heart is not involved, the baptism probably does your child as much good as jumping into a swimming pool might.
  6. How can I delay my child when I’ve decided he or she is too young, without causing my child to lose all interest? I have seen this happen too many times. Often the parent has decided the child is too young based on some random age rather than actually discussing baptism and studying with the child. When this happens, the child becomes frustrated and many will give up rather than wait and meet some imaginary standard they may or may not ever achieve. Our baptism study is designed to allow you to continue to study with the children who are truly too young and do fun activities with them to explore the topic to delay them a bit without actually denying them and frustrating their interest in becoming a Christian.
  7. Am I qualified to study baptism with my children? The Bible gives lots of examples of all sorts of people teaching others how to become a Christian. Any Christian is allowed and encouraged to share their faith with anyone – including their own children. Some parents still have concerns that they are teaching everything they should. We have created a free baptism study with leader’s guide that many parents have used in order to study baptism with their children more confidently.
  8. Should I ask another Christian to study baptism with my child? While you can study with your child, in some cases, it may not be the best option. If you and your child have a difficult relationship in general, if your child’s life has circumstances that may have made baptism a more difficult decision (traumatic experiences, etc.) or if your child has questions that are too difficult for you to feel confident answering, you may want your child to study with another strong Christian. Some parents will also choose to do this because they want a “second opinion” of sorts that their child is indeed ready for baptism.
  9. My child is definitely ready to become a Christian, but I want to delay the baptism for a few weeks/months so someone special can be present or so my child can be baptized on a particular day like a birthday. Is this okay? The examples in Acts clearly show that there was not much of a delay between the decision to follow Christ and the actual baptism by immersion. We have to assume there is an important reason for that. While it’s probably okay to wait a day or two for a service (most churches will gladly provide access to their baptistery any time day or night that it is needed) if you and your child would prefer to do it then, waiting weeks or months can be problematic. We don’t know for sure how God would handle it if something catastrophic happened in between the decision and the baptism, but to your child, delaying baptism can make it seem less important and more like an initiation rite than the serious, life changing repentance and commitment that it was meant to be.
  10. My child with special needs wants to be baptized and become a Christian. Is he or she capable of making that decision? Children and teens with special needs should be given the same opportunities to learn about and participate in baptism as any other older child or teen. One researcher estimated that about 80% of people with special needs will be able to make an informed decision about baptism at some point in their lives. His research was based on an educational formula of being able to understand the necessary information and make a rational informed decision. Using this formula means that children with below average IQs will most likely reach the age of accountability several years later than their peers, but unless their IQ is incredibly low (below 50), it should not be assumed they are incapable of becoming a Christian. (It is important to note that non-verbal children often have IQ estimates that are incorrectly low. I have known of non-verbal young people who were more than capable of making an informed decision on baptism. Often they are frustrated they cannot communicate their intentions in a way so that others understand and will allow them to be baptized.) Many do not become Christians because they are not given the information and accessibility needed to become a Christian.

Have more questions or need a resource to help you study baptism with your child? Our free baptism study with leader guide has everything most parents need to study baptism with their children. May God bless you and your child as you discuss and study baptism together. It is the most important decision your child will ever make.

How to Answer Your Kids’ Questions About Becoming a Christian

There’s nothing more exciting and more terrifying to many Christian parents than when their kids start asking questions about baptism and how to become a Christian. It’s exciting, because having your kids want to dedicate their lives to Christ is a huge Christian parenting goal. It can be scary though because the stakes are so high.

What exactly is the age of accountability? Is my child really ready to make that serious of a commitment? Does he or she really understand what is involved in being a Christian? Does he or she understand enough? What are your child’s motives for wanting to be baptized? Should I try to delay the baptism even though my child is mature, but slightly younger than the average age?

Those and a thousand other questions may be racing through your head when your child first mentions an interest. The most common questions most parents have, however, are, “What should I study with my child in the Bible to make sure he or she understands how and is truly ready to become a Christian?” and “Am I personally able to do that study with my child?”

I was in your shoes not too many years ago. Even though I had studied baptism with others several times in the past, it just feels different when it is your own child. I looked around for a study that was biblically accurate and would engage a young person. I found absolutely nothing that appealed to me. So, since we happened to also be homeschooling at the time, I asked my daughter if she would help me write a baptism study for other families to use too as we studied together. I took her questions and our discussions and created “A Student’s Guide to Baptism (With Leader’s Guide)”.

The study is designed to take you and your child through the important basics of becoming a Christian in an organized fashion. It also answers many of the common questions young people have that can make them reluctant to be baptized, but which aren’t theological in nature. The leader’s guide contains resources like additional scriptures for each section should your child have additional questions or concerns he or she needs to address.

The study is set up so it can be gone through relatively quickly with your child that is almost certainly ready to become a Christian. It also has questions and activities that can slow down the process a bit for more immature, but interested young people. Many of the questions are also designed to help you uncover what is really on your child’s heart and mind about becoming a Christian. The activities can also be used after baptism to begin discipling your child to the Christian life.

Every year, this is our most popular resource. The feedback from parents and even classroom teachers who have used it with small groups has been incredibly positive. It truly seems to give parents the confidence they need to study the Bible with their own children. Best of all, it’s totally free! You can find it here.

May God bless you as you study His word with your children!

Free Resource for Studying Baptism With Your Child

One of the most common questions parents ask Bible class teachers is “How should I study baptism with my child?”. A few years ago, Teach One Reach One’s founder, Thereasa Winnett, noticed her daughter beginning to show an interest in baptism. Over the course of a week, she wrote this study as she talked with her daughter about what she knew and what concerns she and her friends had about baptism. Thereasa based the lessons not only on scripture, but also on the common questions students have on the subject.

The study includes a leader guide to help you make the most of your time studying baptism with the children and teens in your life. The study also provides meaningful support activities for parents to use to help their children grow spiritually either before or after their baptism. The activities can also be used as a subtle way for parents with children who really aren’t ready for baptism to continue the dialogue with their child over a longer period of time. The leader’s guide gives you guidelines for how to shorten the study for children who are ready and lengthen it for children who are not quite mature enough.

Please feel free to share this study with parents and teachers who may want to study baptism with others. You can find it here. We have been told it helps provide a nice framework for studying baptism with adults as well. Over the next few years, we will be adding links for this same study translated by native speakers into various languages. Feel free to share those links as well. Our only request is that you not present this material as your own or sell it to anyone.

May God bless you as you study baptism with your child!

Free Resource For Studying Baptism With Your Kids

If your kids are reaching or have reached the age of accountability, you may want to study baptism with them. Or perhaps one of them has already asked to be baptized and you want to make sure they understand what they are doing. Parents are sometimes reluctant to study with their kids, because they aren’t quite sure what to say.

When our daughter was expressing an interest in baptism, we couldn’t find anything that really explained things clearly. So we begin designing our own study. Eventually we added a leader’s guide and questions and activities a young person can complete either before or after baptism to investigate some topics in more depth.

The best news is that this study is now a free ebook on our website. You can download it or print off the pages you want printed. This has become one of our most popular resources and has been used by both parents and Bible class teachers. We’ve even been told some people who downloaded it used it as a guide for studying with adults interested in baptism.

Feel free to share this link with other Christians you know who may want to use it to study with others. http://teachonereachone.org/baptism-study/