Last week I discussed the concept of how we handle decisions and baptism with kids. Truthfully I only planned to write one post, but it kind of morphed into a week’s worth of posts. I still had a few thoughts I hadn’t finished sorting out. Actually some thoughts that were in my head originally but they never made it to my post. So today and tomorrow I’ll get these final thoughts out and move on to something else.
About two years ago a friend of mine told me about an experience he had as the youth pastor at a fairly large church in the mid-west. They would give invitations every week at their student ministry services. The church was big on evangelism. Leadership felt it was very important to get these kids baptized as quick as possible, lest they fall through the cracks. So, the staff was encouraged/required to try to make it happen that night. After students came forward to receive Christ, they would bring the kids to the back, dial their parent’s phone number on a cell phone and have the kids get permission to get baptized that night.
Can you imagine that conversation? “Hey mom! I came up tonight to become a Christian. They want me to get baptized right now. Can I?”
What kind of position does this put the parents in? Even if a parent declined because they want to be a part of the experience, they risk disappointing a teenager. They’re a teenager. They don’t want to let their youth pastor down who’s pressuring them to do the deal that night.
My friend told me that he felt like he was committing spiritual rape. Ouch. As he told me this story, I couldn’t help but feel burdened for these kids. What a mess. I know the church was well intentioned. They just wanted to see kids come to Christ and “seal the deal.” But how much damage was done in the process.
Again, this makes me re-evaluate how I handle this important but delicate task. I need to trust God more and resist the urge to “make” something happen.
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I think in the minds of leaders they feel the only way to measure progress is to make goals and press toward it. Along the way it’s more important to reach the goal to them than to ask how they got there. Ultimately leaders don’t have to deal with the mess or be the one with a guilty conscience when the initiative violates integrity and personal responsibility. I think they mean well but there are way too many pressure points on baptism to just consider every instance a one size fits all.