Every Church approaches the sacrament of Baptism in a different way. A few years ago, I overhauled the program here at St. John’s. I wanted to support families that their choice to have a child baptized was more than dumping water on their child’s head, but was an entrance into a covenant with our Living God. We use a number of different means to accomplish this goal.
1. When we find out someone is expecting, a new parents or thinking of baptism, we start sending them “Growing in Christ” materials from Concordia publishing. The materials are marked as to when the family should receive them, so they are easy for a volunteer to keep track of and send out. The materials tell the parents what is going on with their child from a faith development aspect and what they can do to encourage that growth.
2. Pastor meets with the family to talk with them about why they want to have their child baptized, what responsibilities come with it, and why it is more than just dumping water on the head of some poor sleeping baby.
3. In addition to some the materials above, we send some of our own that talk about things specific to our church. Our nursery facilities, our preschool, and other things.
4. On the day of the baptism, a photo of the child and his family are taken and put our our baptism board. That way, the congregation gets to know the family (at least visually) that they are supposed to be supporting and praying for. The child/baby is also presented with a felt baptismal banner made by one of our confirmation students. This is a means to teach our confirmation students about what is going on during a baptism, our responsibilities for the baptized, and shows the family more support.
To be honest, none of these things take a large amount of time, effort, or are beyond basic, but it is is better than nothing. I’ve seen other churches do things better. But, It is really important to do something. Parents need to understand that we have the resources and devotion to support them and their child. These are things any church can do, large or small.
I hope and pray that every family who has children baptized fully understands the covenant they are making and that they feel true support for that undertaking.