By Bev and Phil Haas
Our oldest child is nine years old and wants to be baptized. We aren’t sure he’s ready to take that step, but he is being persistent in asking. How can we know he’s ready?
Even so, you can take steps that will help you gain confidence in your child’s decision to be baptized. Notice we said “your child’s decision.” Everything you do needs to reinforce that approach.
Some parents think this means to back away. That’s not what we’re saying. We wouldn’t think of backing away and letting our children decide whether they should have a lifesaving surgery. And neither should we withhold our influence when it comes to something as important as eternal life with Jesus. So while influencing your children, make sure they realize that in the end, the decision is theirs to make.
Family Faith Talks
One of the most influential actions you can take is to make faith a matter of everyday conversation. After reviewing the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5, Moses said, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (6:7).” Keep talking to your child about his next step of faith. If you’re like many parents, you may be thinking you have to know everything before you begin the conversation. If that were true, none of us could lead the conversation. Approach the topic of baptism and faith as you would any other meaningful conversation—by asking your child open-ended questions.
Widen the Circle
A second influential step is to widen the circle of people who are encouraging your child to follow Jesus. The context for Deuteronomy 6:7 is specific to parents, but in general challenges the entire Hebrew community to impress God’s commands on the next generation.
Several times before giving specific instructions to parents, Moses said, “Hear, O Israel.” He was speaking to the entire Hebrew community! Many churches offer helpful classes and training events for children and their parents. Our church offers a class called, “I Want to Know.” Southland Christian Church (Lexington, Kentucky) has created an exciting event called “KidSplash.”
Check to see if your church offers classes or events to help parents whose kids are asking about baptism and accepting Jesus.
Don’t forget about the leaders who influence your kids every weekend at church as they lead your child’s group. Talk to them, let them know what’s going on, and enlist their help.
What to Look For
We’ve suggested several steps to help you continue to influence your child. Now let’s talk about what to look for in determining if your child is ready to be baptized. What a child knows is the most common area of focus for parents. Does my child know enough to get baptized? Read the story of the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-40 and you’ll see there isn’t a lot a person must know before getting baptized. Knowing God is a lifelong process that begins very simply.
A second area to consider is what your child feels. The decision to follow Christ shouldn’t be based on emotion only, but neither should it be without emotion. Those who heard Peter preach about how Jesus was crucified for their sins were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). In other words, their response included a heartfelt conviction.
Your child most likely won’t have that strong of an emotional response, but he should come under a feeling of conviction as he understands that Paul’s words in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned,” apply to him as well.
A third area is about what your child does—his actions. Are his actions aligning with his expressed desire to be baptized? You mention that your son is “persistent in asking.” That’s an action that aligns with his desire to be baptized.
What your child knows, feels, and does are good indicators of readiness. Eighty-five percent of people who make a decision to follow Jesus do so before the age of 18. As we get older, it gets harder. Do your best to lead and then allow your child to accept Christ during these more
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.