One of the most challenging and humbling things about leading and discipling the next generation is discerning and affirming saving faith in our kids. One of the most precious and important things for a parent is praying, sharing, and leading our kids to understand the gospel, repent of their sin, and place their faith in Christ. In addition to that, subsequently is helping parents determine when the most appropriate time for baptism is as a symbol and public declaration of their child’s faith.

How do you know if your child understands the gospel? At what point can you be assured that they are ready to be baptized? While there aren’t clear answers to either of these questions, one of the most vital and crucial ways that we as a church can partner with parents is by preparing them for these conversations, coaching them through these conversations, and affirming them in these conversations. While salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8), it is the duty of loving parents and us a church to ensure that we are taking seriously the faith of the next generation.

Preparation for Baptism

A lot of the work involved in preparing your kids for a salvation response and entering the baptismal waters begins years ahead of time. Are you regularly praying that your kids would repent, trust, and follow Jesus? It’s really easy to just assume and default that they will because they are growing up in a “Christian” household. And while you want to create and set the expectation that the people in your house do and will follow Jesus, you never want to make presumptuous assumptions simply because they are growing up in your house. Are you regularly memorizing Scripture and reading the Bible with them? I’m surprised how often I meet with kids who are claiming to be ready for baptism and they can’t quote to me some of the foundational verses that teach us what it means to believe in Jesus. If your kids are ready to be baptized then they should know: John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9, Matthew 28:19-20, Colossians 2:12-13, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:1-4 just to name a few. Does this mean memorizing these verses is a requirement for baptism? Well no, but if you’re looking for a starting place to help discern and navigate gospel understanding and baptism readiness then this is a good place to start in preparation for laying the groundwork.

Lastly, are you regularly sharing the gospel with them? Your kids should hear you say the good news repetitively and regularly. I make it a general rule for myself to make sure I share the gospel with my kids every single day. This is a good way to remind myself of it and to indoctrinate them into how important it is and how important I want it to be in our home. Sometimes this may simply be in a prayer during family worship, but I want to ensure my kids hear of the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection often. All of these strategies help ensure that spiritual conversations about the gospel and baptism are not one time conversations, but are routine and regular.

Assessing Readiness and Avoiding Common Pitfalls

So how can I know that my child is at a place that they are ready for baptism? A few areas to gauge and assess their readiness: Clarity with Knowledge, Urgency for Action, Genuineness of Faith, and Evidence of Repentance.

Clarity with Knowledge: I remind parents regularly when we meet that professing faith in Christ is more than knowing the right things, but it’s not less. You will see below a list of questions that your child should be able to answer quickly, succinctly, and Biblically in order for evidence of salvation. This should be one of the easiest areas to gauge readiness. If they don’t know the proper meaning of the symbol of baptism or what sin is then it’s a very clear indication that they are not yet ready for baptism. The caution to exercise here is that just because someone can say the right things and memorize the right answers does not guarantee saving faith by itself. We want our kids to be able to articulate what Christ has done for them, but given our cultural climate and the sensitivity of their age it’s helpful to have some of these other areas affirmed as well.

Urgency for Action: Does your child not just know the right things, but do they have a strong desire to be baptized? We want to diligently urge kids to come to Christ, but we as parents want to avoid urging them to tell us. The key is to create an atmosphere in your home where they are the ones coming to us, not simply responding to our constant invitation and pressure. We want our kids to display an urgency for action to come to us and desire to be baptized as a work of the Holy Spirit’s power working in their lives, not as a response to our pressure and prompting in their lives.

Genuineness of Faith: One of the most helpful considerations for delaying baptism is to help make it a meaningful and memorable experience for our kids so that it can be a marker in their pursuit and following of Jesus. Both displaying a genuineness of faith and displaying evidence of repentance need time to observe and evaluate, which is why the urge is towards slow cultivation and drawn out observation to determine, not just a one time conversation where a decision is made. The caution here is combining clarity with knowledge with genuineness of faith. We don’t just desire our kids to know about Jesus, but to believe in Jesus. And it is our responsibility as church and home partner together to distinguish between the two. Your child may be able to say all the right things, but is there a genuineness towards it that affirms belief? They may claim to have asked Jesus into their heart, but if they can’t declare what that means, why they’ve done that, and how it has changed them then their faith does not yet appear to be genuine.

Evidence of Repentance: The clearest way to observe a genuineness of faith is by witnessing evidence of repentance. This is more important in the life of a child because how they live and the choices they make will be a declaration of what they believe. As stated above, we don’t just want them to be able to say what Christ has done for them, but to be able to witness what Christ has done in them. This is seen by looking for evidences of repentance and not understanding the gospel, but embracing the gospel. The caution here and the need for slow observation is that just because your child is comfortable praying before dinner or being nice to their siblings does not necessarily mean they have been changed by the gospel and are walking with Jesus, it may just mean they are seeking to obey mom and dad and earn their approval by obeying household rules. And it is the hard and uncertain work of parents to patiently decipher between the two.

Questions Your Kids Should Be Able to Answer and Articulate

  • What is the gospel?
  • What is sin?
  • What happens in your heart when you sin?
  • Who has sinned?
  • What is the punishment of sin?
  • How does God feel when you sin?
  • How do you feel when you sin?
  • How do you know that you are a sinner?
  • Who is Jesus? Describe some of the essential attributes and aspects of his character and nature.
  • Why did Jesus come to earth?
  • What did Jesus do to save you from your sins?
  • Why do you believe this?
  • How do you go to heaven?
  • What does it mean to be a child of God?
  • How do you become a child of God?
  • Do you want to follow Jesus for the rest of your life?
  • What is the next step after we believe in Jesus?
  • How are we baptized?
  • Why do you want to be baptized?
  • What happens if you aren’t baptized?
  • What do you do after being baptized? 

Concluding Thoughts 

Parents, we believe there is one shared goal of discipleship between church and home. We want to partner with you in all areas of family discipleship, especially in some of the largest milestone markers of your kids’ lives. Baptism is an ordinance that Jesus gave the church to practice, yet at the same time you as moms and dads are the experts of your kids when it comes to knowing just how affectionate their love for Jesus is, to knowing whether or not they are just saying the correct things or have a determination to obey Christ wholeheartedly, and whether or not they decisively reject sin. So in walking through these things together both in preparing our kids to one day make a decision to follow Christ and in navigating some of the uncertainties in the midst of it we can better accomplish what we really want – and that is the next generation not simply getting baptized, but following Jesus for a lifetime. As I remind parents often, baptism is the starting line to following Christ and not the finish line to making sure our kids are saved.

If you believe your child is ready to be baptized or would love to talk more about determining the appropriate next step in their spiritual journey then please email [email protected] to connect or you can always go here and see the next time that we are planning to hold baptisms as a church. Remember, regardless of whether the appropriate next step is baptism in your child’s journey, it should always be celebrated that they are taking steps towards understanding and following Jesus!