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So You're Thinking About Having Your Child Baptized?

Baptism: 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 everyone.

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 it.

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?

For this reason, the first step will be to take all the time necessary to find the right congregation. There are additional articles on this websites to help you make that decision.

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.

For one example of a baptism service.

What various churches teach about baptism.

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.