That’s a question that almost all Christian parents wrestle with. It’s a question Nicki and I are pondering in our own house as our 9-year-old is talking very seriously about this decision.
There is no magic age of “readiness.” The Bible never gives a specific age. But there are certain principles that a child needs to understand before taking this step. Otherwise, they may decide later in life that they need to be baptized again. I’ve performed lots of “re-baptisms” for people who said, “I was just so young,” or, “I really didn’t understand the commitment I was making.”
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I was baptized at a very young age (around 5-years-old). I was baptized again in my adult life for the very reasons listed above. I don’t want that for my own kids.
So how do we take steps to ensure that our kids understand this decision? How can we help ensure that they won’t later regret taking this step at too young of an age?
There are a few questions that I advise parents to discuss with their kids. These are the very questions that we are discussing with Ryan right now. These questions were compiled by my friend and fellow pastor, Tom Claibourne.
- Why do you want to be baptized?
- What is a Christian?
- Why should a person become a Christian?
- Why did Jesus die on the cross?
- What does baptism mean?
These certainly aren’t the only questions that you can ask, but these will help you gauge where your child is in their spiritual understanding.
Make sure that your child answers these questions in his/her own words. Don’t help them. Don’t put words into their mouths. This is a decision that they must make on their own. You can’t make it for them.
Obviously they will continue to grow in their understanding even after they are baptized. There should never be a day when we stop learning and growing in our walk with Christ. But there is a foundational level of understanding that needs to exist before a person takes this step.
In Mark 16, Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, NIV)
Faith/belief must precede baptism. Jesus said so Himself. Young children simply do not have the cognitive ability and emotional maturity to profess faith.
Like I said, there is no magic age that automatically guarantees that a child is ready for this decision. It varies from child to child. But a child that is 5, 6, or 7 years old generally lacks the understanding and maturity for this decision.
Allow your child to bring it up. And when they do, ask them the questions listed above. And then, sit down with them and open up the Bible together.
Some good Scriptures to read are:
- Mark 16:15-16
- Romans 3:21-31
- Romans 6:1-23
- John 3:16-18
- Ephesians 2:1-10
- Acts 2:22-41 1
- Corinthians 15:1-8
And as you go through this process, pray for God to give you wisdom. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the emotions of the moment. Yes, it’s beautiful to see a person baptized into Christ. It’s even more beautiful when it’s your own child. But it’s most beautiful when your child has reached a point in their own faith that makes this commitment real.
Here’s the bottom line. Our decision to follow Christ is the most important decision of our lives. It’s more important than who we marry, where we will live, what occupation we will pursue, etc. This decision trumps them all. Is your child ready for that kind of commitment? It’s not an easy question, but it’s one that is worth wrestling with.
Mike Edmisten is Senior Pastor at Connect Christian Church.