Baptizing your baby is a meaning-filled event, but to young kids, it can be one head-scratching moment after the other. These tips can help you get the powerful purpose of the ceremony across.
Use something kids already know.
Kids' brains often aren't yet developed enough to think very abstractly–that ability starts to really gel around 12 years old or so. The result is that they tend to take what you say very literally, which can make common phrases like “washed in the blood of Christ” confusing, if not a little scary. It can help to make comparisons to things the children are familiar with. For example, you might compare baptism to a big billboard. It's like a huge sign that tells others “I believe in Jesus!”, “I'm part of God's family!” or “My parents are going to help me follow God!”
Use everyday language.
Words like “salvation” and might be in a mature Christian's baptism vocabulary, but young kids often have no clue what they mean. If you can, replace these terms that are more appropriate to your child's level. For example, instead of saying “God wants us to be baptized and repent,” you might say, “God wants us to be baptized and to feel sorry about the bad stuff we did.” If you have to use the more adult words, make sure you define them–don't assume your kid's automatically going to understand from context.
Play “Follow the Leader.”
As simple as it is, this classic game can be a powerful tool to get across the reasons why you baptize a baby. When you play, point out that the job of the follower is to do what the leader does and to go where the leader goes. Then explain that, to a Christian, Christ is always the leader. He was baptized in the Jordan River to please God and follow God's commands. People baptize babies (at least in part) to follow Jesus' example and show that they are going to do what God says.
Put on a costume.
Christians believe that, because of sin, people are not recognizable as heirs to eternal life unless they believe in Jesus and accept Him as a Savior. Have your child put on a costume. Then pretend you don't know who he is. If he insists he's [his name], ask him to take his mask off and prove it. When he does, tell him that sin is like his mask, keeping God from knowing him. Then explain that God sent Jesus to get the mask of sin off with a precious tool–His blood, His life. When a baby is baptized, the water stands in for or represents that blood. The baby is free from the mask of sin and God sees him for who he is, a blameless member of God's family. The traditional white color of christening gifts and gowns reflects this return to innocence.
The reasons behind baptism are fairly complex. Even so, young children still can understand the process if you remember where they are in development and to use what you have around you.
Courtney Clower is an avid writer and church worker. She gets a great kick out of helping young families to plan their baptism ceremonies. She likes to write about her experiences on the web through blogging.