Yesterday we help baptisms at Gateway. The weather was perfect and so many people made decisions of faith and followed Jesus in Baptism. It was an amazing sight to see. However, it was a very different experience for kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love baptisms and love celebrating this day, but for the first time in three years I was more excited about what happened than ever. I’ll share why.
- I didn’t baptize a single child
- We baptized less kids at the all-church baptism since I’ve been at Gateway
- I talked about 15 kids out of getting baptized yesterday
After reading my list, you might think I was crazy. Nope, it was all very intentional. You may have read me talk about our Gateway Baptisms before. It’s an incredibleÂ experienceÂ of people coming to faith and God convicting hearts and people getting baptized who were not originally planning to be baptized. This works great for teenagers and adults, but can be tricky for kids. Over the years, many kids come to get baptized. They see theÂ commotion and want to participate. Other kids are prompted by their parents to be baptized. Regardless of how it happens, most of these kids don’t understand why they need to be baptized and my greatest pet peeve is to sit down and try to cram in a baptism counseling session in five minutes. So, we had a plan. So let me explain my list.
I didn’t baptize a single child
Probably my favorite thing about being a pastor is leading people to faith and baptizing them. It’s such a joy. However, about 3-4 years ago I had a wake-up call. I realized that theÂ absoluteÂ best person to baptize a child is the child’s parent. My role was to walk with parents, help them lead their child to faith and celebrate as they baptize their child. That’s what happened yesterday. About 8-9 kids were baptized yesterday, almost every one was baptized by a mom or dad. Woo Hoo!
We baptized less kids at the all-church baptism since I’ve been at Gateway
Like I said, only about 8-9 kids were baptized yesterday. Normally we would have 3-4 times that many. Why so few? Well, on May 21, we are hosting our very first Baptism Celebration. It’s a family-driving baptism service just for kids. We’re treating it like Child Dedication, where family and friends gather for worship and celebrating kids being baptized. We’ll interview kids telling their story, explaining why they’ve decided to follow Christ and why they’re getting baptized. It’s going to be AWESOME. So, in our baptism class last week, we encouraged families to bypass yesterday’s baptism and make plans to join us on May 21. Most did. Woo Hoo!
I talked about 15 kids out of getting baptized yesterday
I’ve said it before. I hate last minute counseling sessions. I don’t like to rush baptism. In the past 3 years, I’ve not really had anything to point parents to. I’d encourage them to attend our next baptism class which was a month or two later with another baptism following that. That’s not very motivating. However, we have two more baptism classes scheduled in two weeks. We have the Baptism Celebration scheduled for May 21. As we described the Celebration to parents and kids who came up to be baptized yesterday, every one lit up with excitement. Every one said they’d come to the baptism class in a few weeks. Every one said they wanted to be a part of the Celebration. Woo Hoo!
Yesterday was a great day! We had some incredible baptism stories (one I’ll share tomorrow). But I’m most excited about what is to come. Expect to get an information dump as we plan and pull off this Celebration service.
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Thanks for this post – I’ve been working on this process with kids for a while and we’re just now hitting the sweet spot in our process. We’ve been doing Big baptism services for a couple of years now as well and it’s definitely been a tweaking process. The first few times we tried it, the people who were pre-signed up for baptism were in and it was a great experience, but we didn’t have any spontaneous Baptisms. Then we tweaked our experience/presentation and all of the sudden we were having more and more spontaneous baptisms, people who didn’t come that day planning to get baptized, but decided this was their day. Of course with that we would have kids come to be baptized. Our process for children getting baptized includes a Kid Faith class, which is impossible in the moment. It’s very hard to say “not now” to a child wanting to get baptized, but I decided that it was best to have them wait. We’ve become very clear in our presentation that spontaneous baptism is only for adults. This Easter weekend we have about 24 kids getting baptized that have already been through our Kid Faith class. That way we do have children getting baptized in our big baptism events. We also have our next Kid Faith classes and Baptism Dates on a card for families so that when a child does come up, we’re ready with the info for that family.
We do Kid/family focused baptism experiences, but they’re usually during the summer after big events when we have a lot of kids to baptize. Last year we did one at the local water park that’s about 5 minutes from the church. It was awesome! Love the idea of a family driven Baptism experience. Can’t wait to read your future posts.
I’m thankful to hear of how the spirit is moving at Gateway and reaching the gospel into the lives of kids and families.
I’m curious to know how you all came to the decision to allow non-church leaders to baptize. We are going through a conversation much like this now with our church leadership. As we are digging more and more into the Scriptures we see how baptism is an act of obedience that identifies one with Christ as well as with His body. Being a Christian is not about “me” being saved, but about God saving me and making me part of His family through Jesus Christ. One comes into the body of Christ through an internal work in their spirit and baptism is the initial outward sign that that has happened. The idea of baptism, then, goes much deeper than something that happened to you as a one time act. It is a change in identity.
In that, we generally would not baptize someone who was not going to move toward church membership (except for some rare and random situations) and it would be logical, in that sense, to have someone who represents the church body do it (a pastor/elder–one with teaching and leadership responsibilities). Since a baptism, in this view, is an identification with the body of Christ and an “ordinance” of the Lord, then it seems that a church leader would be the one who is the best candidate for that–not a parent or friend.
I guess the view I’m taking here is one that amplifies the meaning of connecting to the body of Christ in baptism as a sign of the New Covenant. However, WHO baptizes is not a point of divide for me regarding someone who disagrees. I just thought hearing your ideas may help me shape my own. Since I’m going through this in my study with my church team, I thought I’d get your feedback on the thought process at Gateway. Thanks for the comments and great site.