You're Thinking About Having Your Child Baptized?
Is it right for my child?
Within most Christian churches, baptism is
the rite of initiation into the community of faith. For this reason, if you are
considering having your child baptized, but have no close connection with or membership
in a church, the decision also raises the question of your own church membership.
Moreover, most churches view baptism as the beginning of a journey.
It is only the first step in the process of educating and nurturing your child
as a disciple of Jesus Christ. So the decision to have your child baptized is
one that will involve your entire family. Are you willing to insure that your
child attends Sunday school? Are you prepared to set an example of committment
to the church, including regular attendance, study and reflection about the meaning
of discipleship? Will you be sufficiently knowedgeable about the faith so that
you'll be able to answer questions that your child brings home from church school?
Before being intimidated by the seriousness of these questions, however, RELAX.
Baptism in and of itself accomplishes nothing. The church is not possessed of
any magic power to grant your child entrance into the kingdom of heaven, nor does
lack of baptism mean that your child is exluded from heaven. If you are thinking
about baptism out of fear for what might happen to your child if he or she is
not baptized, then I would say, forget about it.
If, on the other
hand, you are interested in taking the spiritual life of your child seriously,
recognizing that you could use some real help in introducing your child to values
that will endure and a faith that will sustain your entire family through good
times and bad, then this decision may be the beginning of a life changing experience
In short, if you approach baptism as an opportunity to
lead your family on a journey of discovery, then I would encourage you to go for
The first step will be to locate a church in which you and
your family will feel at home.
This involves some very practical,
down to earth considerations, such as whether there are likely to be other children
in the congregation that your children already know, how much travel time is involved
in getting from home to church, whether you have a good feeling about the minister
or the members of the congregation. Many churches see themselves as extended families
... communities where your children can be introduced to an entire web of relationships:
other children their own age, adoptive aunts or uncles, older adults whom the
children can look up to.
Naturally, you'll want this to be a positive
experience for your child; and you'll want a church where you can be spiritually
nurtured as well. How successful are you going to be in mentoring your child in
the Christian faith if you are not excited, committed, and intellectually engaged
in it yourself?
The second step will be to approach the priest or minister about church membership
and baptism for your child.
If you come to this conversation
having thought about the preliminary questions raised above, you are very likely
to find in your priest or minister, an enthusiastic conversation partner. All
too few parents give the decision to have a child baptized sufficient thought,
nor do they see baptism as an important step in their own spiritual growth. If
you show such seriousness of purpose at the outset, you will be pleasantly surprised
by the warm reception you'll recieve from the clergy.
Given the investment
of forethought that I am suggesting, your child's baptism will not only be meaningful
for the immediately members of your family, it will be a ceremony and celebration
that you'll want to share with your closest friends and relatives.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.