Here are some common questions and practical solutions for how to help kids understand baptism:
Why is baptism confusing for kids?
- Kids hear “becoming a Christian” and “getting baptized” interchangeably or in the same breath.
- Kids see their friends get baptized, and ask why they do that. An answer I’ve heard frequently is because they love Jesus. Although this is true, some kids will not understand the depth of their sin or their need for a Savior but know that they want to love Jesus so they ask to be baptized. This can cause confusion later as they ask if they really knew what they were doing or if they just got baptized to get baptized.
- Baptism seems like “the cool thing to do” when all your friends are doing it.
- Kids are concrete thinkers, so understanding baptism as a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection is difficult to grasp.
- What kid doesn’t want to “go swimming in the church?”
Why do we get baptized?
- Jesus is our example: Jesus was baptized: Matthew 3:13-17
- Baptism is a symbol: Repentance comes before baptism. Baptism is a symbol of the death of our sin and our new life beginning with Christ: Acts 2:38, Acts 8:35-38
- We Believe and trust Jesus. This belief saves you, not baptism. Acts 16:31
- I love to use the example of married couples wearing wedding rings. The ring doesn’t make them married. Anyone can put a ring on their left hand ring finger, but it symbolizes their marriage and shows everyone else that they are married. You can read more about this illustration here.
How can we clarify the confusion about baptism with kids?
- Talk to children when they are young about the difference between asking Jesus to be in control of your life and baptism as a symbol of that new life with Jesus. Talk about it often.
- Be clear when you talk about your own salvation experience. Make sure to explain that your heart was changed first, and then you were baptized to symbolize what had happened in your heart.
- Don’t reward kids for baptisms (or professing faith in Christ, even) with parties or material items or even phrases like “Your parents will be soooo proud of you for making this decision.. or for being baptized…or for becoming a Christian.” There is a fine line between celebrating a child’s salvation and pressuring other children to say they made a decision for Christ so that they can get a cake with their name on it. We want to celebrate them, but we want to focus on praising the Lord for them rather than praising them. Reward systems can encourage decisions that aren’t real.