Yesterday, my team conducted 26 baptism interviews. Twenty Six! AMAZING!

Over the next two weeks, these interviews will be edited to 25-30 second videos and shown right before all these kids/students are baptized. I think this will be the largest NextGen baptism we’ve done since I’ve been at Gateway. However, to really celebrate, you have to see how this all started.

A few years ago we made a lot of changes in the way we do baptisms. As a church, our baptisms are more spontaneous. We do special baptism directed services throughout the summer and people can plan ahead or get baptized in a moment. This isn’t ideal for kids as they usually need more than a moment. It helps to have a class or conversation so they can “own” their faith and understand the decision they’re making. As a result, we created a better baptism experience for kids/students.

Every month we offer a baptism class. It’s consistent so that a child/student can take a step whenever they are ready. Sometimes we have 6-7 families attend, sometimes it’s just one. After the class, if we and the parents feel the child/student is ready, we schedule them for a baptism video interview. These are scheduled two to three weeks before our NextGen baptism services. We generally schedule four NextGen Baptism Services each year as a part of our Third Wednesday church worship nights. These changes to the way we help kids and students mark their faith in Jesus has been amazing. However, this was just half the plan.

Now that we had the systems and processes in place, it was time to use natural seasons and key influencers to help kids get to the classes and baptisms. We look at our curriculum and see when it tends to focus on more evangelical topics. We look to see when small group leader questions push on the “faith decision” area. When those times come, we print out baptism class invite cards and really encourage the small group leaders to invite kids in their group to attend if it is the right next step. We encourage small group leaders to have conversations with parents to explore if baptism is the right next step as well.

However, we also recognize that when kids/students come back from GO! Teams or Winter Camp, they’re often spiritually primed to take next steps in their faith. We leverage the influence our small group leaders have over their group to encourage baptism as a next step. Winter camp three weeks ago was an absolute game changer. So many kids connected with God in a way they hadn’t before. As part of our training, we encouraged small group leaders to connect with their kids around the area of baptism being a next step. We came home from Winter camp with almost 50 kids/students and baptism prospects. Just two weeks after camp we help a baptism class were almost 30 kids and their parents participated and yesterday, 26 kids were interviewed.

We recognize that our systems and processes put kids/students and their families in a place where they can grow, mature their faith and take next steps. However, we’re not going to be passive about it. We’re going to create environments where next steps are easy and even desired to help families grow in their faith. I’ve learned a thing or two in my years in ministry. Baptism is wonderful and special, but it should never be random. We’re focused on it, but not because it’s an end, but because it’s a crucial step and marker along a persons journey with God. It’s really all about connecting the dots.