We are in our worship focused month of March and going strong! We have three amazing writers this week and they are sharing their thoughts on……
“How would you describe Baptism to a youth?”
Chris Cherry is an ordained minister who received his Masters of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology. He enjoys foosball and skittles, but doesn’t particularly care for static electricity. He is currently serving as Minister to Students at St Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.
There’s nothing like an ancient rite of initiation to get teenagers excited, right!?…
Really though, for me, stripping away the ritualistic fluff is important when I’m talking to a youth about baptism. Now, don’t get me wrong—the ritual is important, but the meaning and promise is not hung up on the words that are spoken or the way you dunk/sprinkle/pour/splash/hose off/or bathe the individual.
Baptism is simple. It is a public recognition of the promise a person has made between him or herself and God. That’s it. Really. There is nothing magical about the water. There is nothing magical about the sequence of the words. And there is nothing magical about dripping water down the hallway of the church on your way to the changing room.
When I’m talking to a youth, I want to make sure they hear that. Their personal commitment to love Jesus with their whole being is a decision they’ve already made. Baptism, then, is the public act that weaves this promise into the fabric of the faith community.
Baptism allows the person to say to the church, “I want to love Jesus and I am going to need your help.”
Baptism allows the church to respond, “We are also trying to love Jesus and we want to help you along the way.”
Youth shouldn’t expect to be raised from the water dripping with God’s holy tears and surrounded by a halo of light that will protect them from any future mistake. He is still going to be human. She is still going to face temptation. Baptism is a symbolic fresh start that can be a launching point into a life committed to a promise made with God.
Alix Davidson Keller recently completed her Masters of Divinity at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. She served in youth ministry at Faith Baptist Church in Georgetown, KY for almost 5 years. Currently, she lives in Louisville, KY with her sweet husband, Joshua. Alix is passionate about missions and loves to travel, hike, and make jewelry.
In Baptist life, it seems like every church has particular traditions about what happens between the time a person makes a profession of faith and their actual baptism. The following format is one I put together a couple of years ago when I was preparing for two one-on-one meetings with a youth prior to her baptism. It should be reformatted depending upon the amount of time and the youth’s situation. In this case, the family was very involved in her spiritual formation, so I wanted to give them some scriptures to read and discuss together as part of her preparation. The first meeting focuses on just getting to know how the youth reached the decision and discussing together the meaning of baptism and how they intend to continue to grow in their faith. The second meeting pulls in examples from the life of Jesus to help continue to answer the questions from the first meeting.
- Tell me about the decision you’ve made.
- What does baptism mean to you?
- When did you first start thinking about this?
- Tell me more about that (probe if one word answers).
- What is sin?
- What is a Christian?
Your faith journey is just beginning and it is important to continue to grow each day.
- How can you continue to grow in your faith journey?
- What are some things you can do every day? Every week?
- Who are some people you can talk to about your relationship with God?
- Do you have any questions about your faith that you want to talk about?
At Home (with Family, if possible):
- Read Matthew 3:13-17 (Baptism of Jesus) – God’s affirmation
- Read Luke 4:1-13 (Temptation of Jesus) – dealing with temptation
- Read Mark 4:35-41 (Jesus calms the storm) – God is always with us
Baptism of Jesus
- John didn’t understand at first why Jesus needed to be baptized – he hadn’t done anything wrong.
- God affirmed Jesus in his mission and informed others that he was the Messiah through this baptism.
- How is this similar to or different from what your baptism means?
- God is forgiving you AND affirming you.
Temptation of Jesus
- Jesus spent time alone with God – keeping our relationship with God as a first priority gives us the strength not to give in to temptation.
- What else does Jesus do to counter temptation?
- Knowledge of the Bible helps us know what is right by pointing us to God and providing direction – Jesus quotes scriptures.
- Jesus was tempted by 3 things – food (he was hungry); power and wealth; instant fame.
- It is helpful to be aware of things we are tempted by and ask God to help us resist those temptations.
Jesus calms the storm
- God gives us peace when we ask for it. Whether our outside circumstances change or not, we can have faith that God is with us and will never leave us.
- What does it mean to rely on Jesus?
What does it mean that Jesus died for our sin?
Why is your baptism important? Why is it important for the church?
Close in prayer.
Laura Edgar is the former Minister to Youth at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Auburn University and is currently working on her Master of Divinity at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky.
In the churches where I have been involved, baptism has never been a big topic of discussion. Sure, pastors issued the call for people to make professions of faith and be baptized. During baptisms, pastors said the water had no actual power, but we are baptized as an act of obedience, a public sign of our faith. When children are baptized, the families are excited, but ultimately it seems to be a forgettable event.
I think it is important to help our youth remember their baptisms and consider the implications of them. Maybe on a day that our churches are baptizing someone, we can start with a simple conversation. Ask students who have been baptized to share what they remember about the experience. What did it mean to them? If students haven’t been baptized, ask them to share about a baptism they have witnessed.
Baptism has meaning for the person being baptized but also for the congregation. By being baptized, we are claiming an identity with the greater family of faith, with the Church as a whole. When we watch someone get baptized, we don’t usually think much of it. Sure, we’re happy for that person and we know it’s a proud moment for that person’s family, but that’s about all the thought we give to it. A baptism is a memorial service for us just as much as something like communion is- we often talk about how Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me” when we talk about the Lord’s Supper. We remember Christ’s death for us. Baptism is an opportunity for us to remember the commitment we’ve made to Christ. We have given up our old lives, our selfish desires and ambitions, and we’ve said that we will take on the life that God calls us to live. Each time we see someone get baptized, it is a reminder of this commitment.
One illustration for us to think about baptism is a marriage. Two people are making a commitment to each other. They may already be committed to each other, but going through the act of getting married confirms and makes official that commitment. When they entered the church, courthouse, destination wedding, or wherever, they were not husband and wife. When they leave that ceremony, they are.
We downplay the role of baptism, but maybe we can think about it a little more powerfully. When we enter the waters of baptism, yes, we’ve already made a commitment to follow Christ. But we are taking a step in that commitment, we are being obedient and following Jesus’ example. We are joining the life of faith- joining the company of all those who are gathered to watch. We participate together in this baptism. It is an individual act, but it is part of the life of the community. We remember our own baptisms and pledge to help this new member of our community grow in his or her faith. We leave the waters of baptism different from when we entered them.