When Should I Baptize My Young Child?
If you are a Christian parent, you are going to feel a unique burden as you bring up your children. That burden is you are going to want your child to be baptized, you’re going to want to see them follow the Lord in the ordinance of baptism. Figuring out when to baptize your kid can be tricky. It’s tricky for a parent to figure out, is it the right time to baptize my young child? I want to provide some guidance on how you could think this through. As I give you the answer, the first thing I need to be honest about is different Christians would answer this in remarkably different ways. If I were a Presbyterian, the answer I would give to this question is very different than the one I’m about to give. I am a Baptist, I am the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. So I’m a Baptist. I’m the pastor of a Baptist church. And so, I have a Baptistic view of baptism, which means I believe that baptism is for believers. I believe it is for folks who have actually turned from their sin and trusted in Jesus and intend to follow Jesus as an act of faithfulness upon believing in him.
What Does the Bible Teach?
When the Apostle Paul talks about baptism, in Romans 6, he says, “Do you not know that all of us who’ve been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” That’s Romans 6:3-4. He talks about baptism, there is something that is specifically identifying you, intentionally linking you with Jesus, and walking in the newness of life that he gives. Baptism is a sign of your identification with Jesus through your own faith, not the faith of your parents, not the faith of anybody else, but your own faith. So baptism is for believers. Baptism also is not just for believers. The symbol of baptism is that of immersion. He says, “We were buried there for with him in baptism.” So this isn’t sprinkling. It’s not pouring. We actually dunk a person who trusts in Jesus under the water and bring him back up as quickly as possible. But that’s what baptism is. We baptize people who profess faith. Now, any pastor worth their salt is going to baptize people who have faith, and that is going to require due diligence on their part. It doesn’t have to be a mammoth suspicious investigation. But any pastor who’s going to baptize somebody is always going to ask some questions. Okay, tell me your story. Tell me about your testimony. Tell me how you came to know Jesus Christ. Tell me about what it was like to repent of your sins and trust in Jesus. How did you become a believer? Those are all different ways to get at the same thing. Any pastor worth their salt is going to want to hear a credible testimony, some clear conversion testimony, before we baptize them. That’s true for everybody. That’s true if it’s somebody who’s 80. It’s true if it’s somebody who’s eight.
Kids Are Tricky to Baptize
The difficulty here is that children are tricky to baptize. They require a little bit more due diligence because of the trickiness. One of the things that’s tricky about children and doing due diligence on their profession of faith is that so many times, these kids want to please their parents. That’s a good thing. That’s wonderful. If you are a Christian parent, your kid is going to pick up real quick that you want them to be a Christian, that you want them to be faithful that you want them to do the things Christians do. They’re going to want to be baptized to please you. That can be hard, it can be hard because their desire to please you as their parent could overshadow their actual belief in the gospel. They might want to be baptized not because they’re trusting in Jesus but because they want to satisfy you. Another thing that makes it tricky is they might want to be pleasing their friends, my goodness, I’m the pastor of a large church, and we have it happen around here where a kid will get baptized that we believe is really repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus and means to follow Christ and baptism. And other kids around here see what happened with their friend, and they see the rejoicing, and they see how happy everybody was with it. And they want to do that. They want those things for themselves. And that can be a distraction and can fill up more of their gaze than actual trust in Jesus. Another thing that makes children and vetting their profession of faith a little tricky is, so many times, they just haven’t had a chance to think these things through. They know what they know from their parents. They know what they know from their Sunday school or from their Christian school, or from what they heard at church, but they just haven’t had a chance to think it through. And so what we want to do when we baptize kids is do the same kind of due diligence that we would do with anybody before we baptize them. But just do it with the lights on about how tricky it can be.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
I’ll tell you just a few quick things to keep in mind as you are deciding whether it’s time to baptize your young kid. First, is this very important. You need to want their salvation more than you want their baptism. Listen, I’m telling you know what I’m talking about here. I could tell you stories of dozens of parents who just want their kids baptized; I want to get them baptized at this time of the year when the church baptizes kids. I want to get them baptized this Sunday, when my in-laws are going to be in town or when their friends are going to get baptized, or for this special event. Or, I really want my kid to be saved, and so I want them to be baptized. Well, baptism is less important. Hear me say baptism is less important than salvation. I’m a Baptist; I want every Christian to get baptized as quickly and as publicly as they possibly can. But baptism is less important than salvation. If you put salvation ahead of baptism, you’re going to be doing a great service to your kid. What you need to be driving your concerns and your conversation is not when we’re going to get baptized. But are you trusting Jesus? Have you turned from your sin and are trusting in Him? Are you willing to follow Him, whatever it takes? That conversation is so important, and it’s the most important, and it will take the pressure off. Just we’ll sort out the baptism thing when the time is right. The most important thing the Bible says today if you hear His voice, get baptized. He doesn’t say that. He says today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts. Today is the day of salvation. Let’s put salvation first and worry about baptism later.
The second thing is, do they really understand the gospel? Are they able to explain the gospel? Okay, you say your Christian. Tell me what that means. And then don’t coach him. Listen to what they have to say. If they say something like, well, I think it’s really important to be a good person. Well, you just have to keep talking to him. That’s not the that’s not the gospel. The gospel is not be a good person, the gospel is Jesus is a good person, and he makes you good when you believe. So do they understand the gospel? Don’t force it. Don’t try to coach them up. Just teach them, talk to them. Listen to what they have to say. And take the pressure off of having to get it right, like on a pop quiz. Okay, well, let’s just keep talking about this. Another thing that you need to do. We did this with our kids. We would talk about the importance of taking a season after they expressed faith in the Lord, and we would take a season to make sure their words line up with their life. So you’re saying you trust Jesus. Let’s start seeing if we can see some early signs of Christian growth so that you’re living consistently with what you are saying. Nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. Your kids aren’t going to be perfect. But are you seeing real fruit of the Spirit, even in a childlike sort of way?
Here is the last thing I’ll tell you that is incredibly important is to get the advice and input of others. All three of our kids profess faith in Jesus Christ. All three of our kids have been baptized, but we were slow to do it. It was more important to us that they really be saved and get baptized. So we put no pressure about baptism on them. We put pressure on hey, you need to trust the Lord. You need to believe in Him. That is where the pressure and the emphasis was, and we had conversations about it without any pressure, just like, hey, tell us tell us what you think about the Lord, tell us what you think about your life. Tell us what you think about what the pastor said this week. We had that words and life conversation. Let’s make sure that your life is lining up with your words. And then when we made it past all that, we included other, wise, trusted people, we said, hey, we’ve got our son or our daughter, saying they love the Lord and they want to be baptized. Could you meet with them and talk to them? Could you meet with us and talk to us? And every single one of our kids that got baptized happened after we were able to check all of those boxes and after everybody they met with said, you know what? Your kid is saying the good news. They’re expressing real faith in Jesus, and they could be deceiving me. But a 30-year-old could deceive me with those answers. And so it was only after we checked off all of those boxes that we were able to baptize our kids, and I hope they’re a good rule of thumb as you think about baptizing yours.