Think back on the last time a child walked up to you and said, “I want to give my life to Jesus and get baptized.” What did you say? What were your next steps? And did you equip the family to lead?
If the parent is to be the primary spiritual leader for their children, then why do we as pastors and volunteers lead their kids through the salvation and baptism process? I believe the answer to this question is a combination of our pride and lack of organization. We want to have all the answers and it takes hard work to come alongside parents so they can lead. When a child asks us about being saved or a parent says that their son wants to get baptized our go to response is to celebrate and then take over the conversation. So, how do we change our thinking and put this milestone back into the hands of our parents?
First, we must remember our role. During the year we may have 40 hours with the average child in our care, but parents will have 3000 hours. Also, we may have influence with a child for a year, or if we are lucky a handful of years, but most parents will have a lifetime of influence with their son or daughter. When a student looks back on this life changing milestone what is more important for him to picture; an eloquent volunteer or pastor named Doug who eventually moved to a new town, or a parent who didn’t have all the answers but is still at their side. I believe our role is to equip parents to have this conversation with their kids.
So then what does this equipping look like? How about we begin thinking like a parent. If you were in their shoes what resources would you want? I would want to know the process and what Scriptures to use. I would want some discussion starters or maybe even a book that we could work through together. I would want some questions to ask and maybe even some answers to the questions my kid might ask. You may be saying to yourself, “Coming up with all of these resources is beginning to look like a lot of work.” And I agree! But in all of the millions of things we do in ministry from cutting out paper stars to learning motions for worship, I would say that this is one of the most important ways to spend our time. If you would like a head start, I would suggest checking out thebaptismbook.com
Next we need to provide opportunities for parents to have this conversation. Maybe the next time you are leading your kids through a time of worship and reflection you challenge them to go home and share with their parents what is on their heart. Or maybe the next time a child walks up to you and says that they are thinking about getting baptized you celebrate and instantly ask if this is something they have talked with their parents about? Or maybe the next time a parent wants you to sit down with their child to talk with them about salvation, you ask the parent if you can do it together. Or maybe you even consider completely changing the format for events like a baptism class.
In many baptism classes, the pastor stands up in front of kids sharing Scripture and telling them the plan of salvation. Parents are often disengaged or not even in the room. Imagine what could happen for the family if the next time you held a baptism class, you positioned parents to lead. In our baptism classes parents are essential. We start the class by explaining the format and huddling families around the room. We provide bibles and worksheets for kids and a discussion guide for parents. The discussion guide is filled with Scripture, questions, and even some suggested answers to questions. There are pause points throughout the discussion guide so the facilitator can provide clarity to questions, affirm the parents, as well as keeping this whole process engaging for kids. At the end of the class parents know the next steps and are given resources to continue the conversation at home. At first, parents told us that this format was intimidating. Essentially they were looking for someone else to take on this responsibility because they did not feel like they had the answers. But after looking over the materials, they saw that they really could lead their kids through this process. We have been blown away by the success of these baptism classes. We love hearing parents lead the conversation. We love seeing parents lead their kids to Christ. And not only have we seen kids getting baptized, but we have also been baptizing parents alongside of their kids.
Next, make it happen. If your church or denomination allows it, think more about the parents role in the final steps of salvation. Think about the lasting impact this next step can have in the family. Will you equip the parents to lead in prayer or maybe even do the actual baptism? It is a special moment in our church when a father stands beside his wife and leads his family in facilitating his sons baptism. During that baptism there is a ripple that rolls through the congregation and you can visibly see families remembering their own special moment. This baptism challenges all of the parents in the room to place Christ at the center of everything and to truly be the primary spiritual leader of their family. And if your church or denomination does not allow parents to do the baptism then think through ways to incorporate the family into this process in other ways. Maybe the parents walk beside the kids to the front. Maybe the parents share a scripture or pray over the child. Work hard and find opportunities for parents to be a part of this step.
And then finally, after the baptism, what can you do to continue equipping the parents. Maybe you provide a follow up devotional or Scripture for the family to read when they get home. Or maybe you take the parents out to dinner to celebrate and then challenge them to continue to lead. Again, ask yourself what you would like if you were in their shoes and then do it!
We only have a few hours with kids and we need to faithfully serve to the best of our ability while positioning parents to lead at home. With this limited time we can plant a few seeds or even water those seeds but ultimately we must pray for God to be causing these seeds to grow. Paul described this in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 when he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” We must equip parents to plant seeds. We must do our part to water those seeds. And above all else, we must pray for God to cause the growth.
Do you have any ideas on how to equip families to lead through this process? PLEASE share in the comments below!