What response do we give children when they ask to be baptized? How do we go about preparing them to accept God’s grace and to walk joyfully in His path? What resources do we use to get our primaries and juniors ready for baptism? What do they need to know before baptism? What is the best age for baptism? All these are relevant questions that need answers today.
Research indicates that a child around the ages of 7-10 years, receive a spiritual awakening. We should not hesitate or discourage children who genuinely want to give their hearts to Jesus. If we don’t respond to their exciting decision to follow Jesus and be baptized, we may lose the golden opportunity to do so later for such a desire may fade away.
Making a decision to follow Jesus is a serious step toward spiritual growth. The Church Manual, p. 29 concurs that:
“Baptism is a spiritual relationship. It can be entered into only by those who are converted. Only in this way can the purity and spiritual caliber of the church be maintained. It is the duty of every minister to instruct those who accept the principles of the truth, that they may enter the church on a sound, spiritual basis. While there is no stated age for baptism, it is recommended that very young children who express a desire to be baptized should be encouraged and entered into an instruction program that may lead to baptism.”
Ellen G. White also recognizes that children do make serious decisions for baptism. She counsels the church in Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 169 that:
“Children of eight, ten or twelve years are old enough to be addressed on the subject of personal religion. Do not teach your children with reference to some future period when they shall be old enough to repent and believe the truth. If properly instructed, very young children may have correct views of their state as sinners, and of the way of salvation through Christ.”
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
When a child makes a decision to become a follower of Christ, the Children’s Ministries Coordinator should encourage the church leadership to arrange a service of Affirmation of Faith for that child. Such a ceremony helps to affirm the child’s decision and to let him know that the congregation rejoices with him/her for making such a commitment.
BAPTISMAL BIBLE STUDY
Select and use a child’s baptismal study guide or any other appropriate Bible study material for children approved by the Adventist church. The following study guides are recommended for use with children:
- A Reason to Believe, by Chris Blake, ed. Hagerstown, MD.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1993.
- ChristWise: Discipleship Guide for Juniors, by Troy Fitzgerald. Hagerstown, MD.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2002.
- ChristWise: Discipleship Guide for Teens, by Troy Fitzgerald. Hagerstown, MD.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2002.
- God Loves Me 27 Ways, by Charles Mills. Silver Spring, MD: General Conference Children’s Ministries Department, 2004.
- Good News For Today, by Marjorie Gray. MultiVisual Productions, 1989.
- It’s My Choice, by Steve Case. Hagerstown, MD.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996.
After the child has completed the Bible study and is ready to become a church member, present his/her request for baptism to the church board. On the day of baptism when the child will be examined publicly, ask the pastor to use the “Simplified Baptismal Vows.” by Steve Case. This is easier for the child to understand the vows as he or she makes a commitment.
SIMPLIFIED BAPTISMAL VOWS
- I believe in God the Father; in His Son, Jesus Christ; and in the Holy Spirit.
- I accept the death of Jesus to pay for my sins.
- I accept the new heart Jesus gives me in place of my sinful heart.
- I believe that Jesus is in heaven as my best friend and that He gives me the Holy Spirit so I can obey Him.
- I believe God gave me the Bible as my most important guidebook.
- By God living in me, I want to obey the Ten Commandments, which include the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath.
- I want to help as many people as possible to be ready for the soon coming of Jesus.
- I believe God gives special abilities to His people, and that the Spirit of Prophecy is given to His chosen people.
- I want to help God’s church with my influence, effort, and money.
- I want to take good care of my body because the Holy Spirit lives there now.
- With God’s power, I want to obey the basic principles of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
- I want to be baptized to show people I am a Christian.
- I want to be a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and I believe this church has a special message to give to the world.