Baptism is a beautiful outward picture of the inward transformation that takes place when a person comes to faith in Jesus. So when we go down into the water (the word “baptize” means “to bury”) we are commemorating how our old life of sin passed away when we were forgiven. When we come up out of the water, we are commemorating our new life in Christ – completely forgiven of all sin.
Remembering this foundational reason for baptism helps us to answer our question. Consider also the following before you prayerfully move forward with baptism:
Until your child receives for forgiveness by trusting in Christ, there’s no reason to talk about baptism. Parents sometimes feel pressure to see their kids baptized by a certain age, but this isn’t something that should be rushed. To push baptism prior to a clear understanding of salvation can cause confusion that lasts a lifetime. Be sure that your son or daughter has personally trusted the grace of Jesus before even talking about this next step.
Scripture is clear that we have been saved only by grace – something we didn’t work toward, and that includes the baptism process. Even up to the day of the event, remind your child that this is a day they’ll never forget as long as they live. It’s a special day because it celebrates what Jesus has already done in their hearts. They are already as forgiven as they will ever be.
It is not uncommon for children to be concerned over what adults would deem petty things: fear of going under the water, the temperature of the water, or being in front of a large group of people. These natural fears don’t necessarily indicate that your child doesn’t understand the gospel. However, if children focus more on these types of details rather than the reason for the event, it might be time to hit the pause button until they have a better grasp of the true meaning of baptism.
You’ll note that a specific age was not mentioned in the answer to this question. That’s because a child’s readiness to be baptized has far less to do with his or her numerical age than it does with his or her ability to comprehend the significance of what is happening.
More than anything, you play an important role in helping your child understand baptism. Regularly share with them the grace that comes only through Jesus, the way to be saved by asking for forgiveness and trusting Christ to take away their sin, and the first step of telling others about their decision by being baptized. It’s in these everyday encounters with your children that you’ll gain a clear picture of when they’re ready.