Is it OK for a child to be baptized in water? If so, what is the right age to do so? And what does the Bible say about this?
The topic of child baptism is surprisingly controversial. As I travel internationally, I am amazed how many Christian denominations and pastors don’t believe in baptizing children younger than the age of twelve. Yet baptism is a critical part of every believer’s journey in his faith regardless of age.
Most Christian denominations are in agreement that there isn’t such a thing as “INFANT BAPTISM” in the Bible either in concept or in practice, especially in the cases of people who believe that it is equivalent to the salvation of the baby. According to scripture, salvation only comes by choosing faith in Jesus Christ, and a baby can’t make that decision for himself.
But we do believe in DEDICATING babies to the Lord which was a Jewish practice that was done even for Baby Jesus.
The Bible says “…so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” (Luke 2:22-23)
Dedication is one thing – believing that baptism secures salvation for an infant is completely different. In scripture baptism ALWAYS FOLLOWS PERSONALLY BELIEVING IN JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOR. We call this the believer’s baptism.
Believing Comes First
Mark 16:16 says, “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Believing comes BEFORE baptism, so since a baby doesn’t know what is going on and is not yet able to believe on Jesus for himself, baptism becomes irrelevant in this sense of salvation.
If parents understand this, and to them infant baptism it is more of a baby dedication, then I see no harm in baptizing a baby as a special ceremony.
One of the primary purposes for our ministry is we want to see children make life-long commitments to the Lord and remain Jesus followers their whole lives. With this in mind, there is an interesting study that shows if a child is NEVER baptized in water there is a 400% likelihood that they will leave the church as they get older.
Research about Children who are Baptized
For those who were baptized as babies ,184% of them leave the church later in life compared to those who are baptized as older children.
Yet another study showed that children who do get baptized after accepting Jesus as their savior, are almost 17% more likely to remain in the church their entire lives!
SO WE SEE THAT WATER BAPTISM IN CHILDREN IS LINKED TO A LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT TO JESUS and the Church! That makes it important to rethink the value of children being baptized.
(If you want to see the whole study there’s a book linked below called WHY THEY STAY AND WHY THEY STRAY.)
Three Things a Child Must Understand
For water baptism be valuable to a child (or anyone for that matter) understanding what it means is vital. It’s not just a religious ceremony. It’s an act of commitment. Before a child can make a meaningful decision about this, they need to understand three things:
#1. This is an act of following Jesus or imitating His life, as we see that Jesus himself was baptized in water.
#2. Baptism by immersion is symbolically acting out His death, burial and resurrection, and in my next video I will demonstrate a real simple way how to teach children about this. Look for my video titled “Object Lessons for Water Baptism.”
#3. It is a public confession that they believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, letting others know in a public way that they have decided to follow Him.
When Is a Child Ready to Be Baptized?
The child needs to have a desire to do this without being talked into it or forced in any way. They shouldn’t be doing it just because older brothers and sisters or friends are, although that may trigger their curiosity and may want to know more.
So how do you know when a child is ready to be baptized? When your child starts asking questions about it, expressing interest, that is a sign they are ready to take this important step themselves. So, then it is time to educate them on the purpose of it.
One thing to note, is that real young children often cannot remember that they did it as they get older. I myself was water baptized three times while growing up. My mother says I was baptized at the age of five. But I had no recollection of it, so when I got older, I wanted to do it again just to be sure. As I got even older, I understood it much better, and I made a conscious decision to do it a third time because I was more committed than ever to follow Jesus all the days of my life, and I wanted to express that publicly.
There’s no harm in a child getting baptized more than once. Kids often make new decisions based on new and better information as they get older.
Smile – A True Story
grandson of a friend of mine was seven years old when he wanted to be baptized.
They taught him the important meaning about it and made sure he understood what
he was doing. When he got in the water, his pastor was asking him questions
about his faith in Jesus, and he asked, “Jacob, why are you going to go all the
way under the water?
Jacob threw his arms in the air and said, “Because I want Jesus to know he can have ALL OF ME!”
WHAT A GREAT ANSWER from a child who had his own revelation of the importance of water baptism.
What If Our Pastor Doesn’t Baptize Children?
I am frequently
asked by parents, “What should I do? My child wants to be baptized in water,
but our pastor, or our church doesn’t believe in it for kids?
My answer is, there is no place in scripture that says your pastor is the only one who can baptize people. In fact, scriptures talk about average Christian believers, like Philip the evangelist, baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch.
You as the parents have every right to baptize your child in a swimming pool, a pond, lake or river. I’m not encouraging rebellion against your pastor here. If he has strong convictions about this then respect his decision because he is responsible for how he leads his church.
But as a family, you have the right to make your own decision about this too.
Make It a Special Event
Whether you do it in the church or as a private ceremony, make it a special and memorable event for your child. Invite friends and relatives. Have a special meal. Take lots of pictures, and make a photo album or a video slide show on social media for your child. If you feel it’s appropriate allow guests to give your child presents if they want to.
There is a super great book for kids simply called BAPTISM that explains things clearly, and it’s actually a workbook that your child can go through and study by themselves, or you can do it as family. Here’s the link if you want to get a copy. https://amzn.to/34yuQFQ
I would love to answer any questions you have on this topic and would really like to hear your experiences of your own water baptism, or that of your children. Please leave your comments below and if you found it useful share it with your friends on social media.