The Baptism of Youth

March 1st, 2014

Many young people enter into the fellowship of local churches without any prior congregational participation. If they have not been baptized, this is a gift that can be crucial in the faith development of a young person. Young people are especially open to the movements of God in their lives and in need of the traditional practices of Christian faith, including baptism.

Prior to Baptism

The mentor (or pastor) meets with the young person to explain the meaning of baptism. This conversation can include:

  1. Discussion of several Scripture passages (See part 2 of the book Just in Time! Pastoral Prayers in Public Places under Related Products).
  2. Attention to the meaning of the baptism of Jesus.
  3. A time for response to questions such as:
  • Will baptism keep me from going to hell (or insure that I go to heaven)? These matters are not the stated purpose of baptism in Scripture.
  • Does it matter if I am immersed or sprinkled? In Scripture, baptism seems to happen with both methods.
  • What does baptism mean? Respond with comments about new life, cleansing, forgiveness, and God's use of water in the history of salvation.
  1. Noting that baptism is incorporation into the church and not merely a personal or private experience.
  2. Discussion of the relation of baptism to other practices (such as Holy Communion, service, etc.).
  3. Answers to any practical questions the young person might have (which family members to invite, what will happen in the service, etc.).

If this baptism occurs in the midst of a confirmation service, the prior conversation will be helpful. Pray with the young person that they will be receptive to God's spirit and grace.

Following the Baptism

  • Ask the baptized young person to write a page about what the experience meant to them. Ask him or her to be specific!
  • Ask the young person how his or her relationship to Christ and the church has been since the ritual. This will open the door to a conversation about spiritual highs and lows.
  • Ask the young person to make a commitment to at least one traditional Christian practice, such as the study of Scripture, or prayer, or service, or singing in a choir.
  • Pray for the young person, that he or she will be faithful to his or her promises to God and to the church.
  • Give the young person a small gift—a Bible, a devotional book, a CD of Christian music, or something that is more personal—as a sign of your care for them and for their spiritual journey.

This mentoring relationship, and the young person's participation in the church, will be essential as she or he grows in the faith. For an excellent reflection on the church's ministry with youth, see The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster (book is listed under Related Products below).

A Prayer for a Young Person, upon His or Her Baptism

God of grace,
You love us even when we feel unloved.
You accept us even when we are imperfect.
You have a plan and a purpose for us.
Gather (Name) into the arms of your embrace.
Help him/her always to know that you walk beside hm/her.
May the waters of baptism
Be a sign of your love for him/her,
And the mark of your salvation
Throughout all the days of his/her life.
In Jesus' name; Amen

Excerpted from: Just in Time! Pastoral Prayers in Public Places by F. Belton Joyner, Jr. Copyright © 2006 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission. This book is part of the Ministry Matters Premium Subscription Find out more about subscribing here.

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