Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Including Children in the Baptism of Other Children

While we’re all thinking about baptism this Sunday, here is a list of ways to include children in the baptism of infants in ways that help them grow in their understanding of baptism and feel that they are part of the whole congregation.
Drape the doors into the sanctuary with blue ribbons so that worshipers must walk through the watery curtain as they enter the sanctuary.  These can be as simple as door-top to floor satiny ribbons with loops stitched in the top end to slide over a tension curtain or shower rod.  Some are shorter in the middle so people can walk through them without touching them.  (Children and playful adults, however, prefer the former.)  When these door banners are explained as they are introduced, all worshipers learn that they both announce a baptism and remind each worshiper that he or she is a baptized child of God.
Invite the children to come sit near the front on the floor where they can see what happens during a baptism.  Children love to do this every time there is a baptism.
If your tradition includes question/s to the congregation asking them to take responsibility for the child, add a question addressed especially to the children and youth of the congregation, e.g. “Will you be a big kid friend (or big brother/sister in Christ) to NAME?  Will you look out for him/her?  Will you show him/her how to live like Jesus?”
In one smaller church I attended years ago, the children sang a welcome song to the child after the baptism.  They always sang the same song.  All the kids knew it and seemed to value their role in singing it.  I can’t recall the name of that song, but found Welcome to the Family - Kid's Praise on line.  I’d probably use the chorus only.  If you want to pull out all the stops, teach the children to sign it like these Asian children at This YouTube Video .  Singing the welcome song could be the responsibility of a children’s choir, class, or simply all the children in the congregation.  Anyone know of another song that fits here?
The older siblings of a child being baptized are paying intense attention.  Take advantage of that attention to both teach those children about baptism when they are most ready to learn and to remind them that they as well as the child to be baptized are loved members of the family of God.  Older preschoolers and elementary siblings should be up front with their families.  Invite the whole family to “practice” for the baptism in the sanctuary.  As you practice, address most of your directions and explanations to the siblings.  Tell them what you will do and why you will do it.   The parents will listen and learn from you the words with which to answer questions and rehearse the plan in the coming days at home.  In some traditions it is possible to give older siblings special jobs such as pouring the water from a pitcher into the font or holding a baptismal candle or certificate.
Speaking of baptismal candles and certificates, they are great ways to keep baptism alive in the imaginations of children.  Give the child a candle to light during a special meal each year on the anniversary of his or her baptism.  Urge parents to retell the story of the baptism and recount ways they see God working in the child’s life over the last year.  (It is rather like a second birthday each year!)  If the certificate is framed and posted in the child’s room at child eye height it provides lots of opportunities to talk about being a member of God’s big family.
There are 5 suggestions for starters.  What can you add?


  1. I know that lots of educators do this, but I have found it a meaningful connection to send baptism anniversary cards for 1, 5 and 10 year anniversaries (We are a pretty big church, so I don't do it yearly). I usually write in the card, "Ask your family what they can remember about the day" with the hope that the family takes some time to share rememberances with the child. I very often get feedback from families that the child was delighted to receive "real mail"

  2. Carolyn,
    Thank you, thank you for the fabulous resource of this website. I come here often to discover ways to share the message with the children in my congregation in ways that uphold the inherent wisdom and value and wonder in each child.

    Today I am taking away the idea that I can ask the children to commit to caring and nurturing the baby being baptised in our congregation. I can't wait to see the serious look on the kids faces on Sunday when they are given such an important responsibility. Why had I never thought of that?

    Thank you!
    Beth Hayward
    Vancouver Canada

  3. Every other year or so the elementary age children make handmade papers. We embed them with symbols of baptism - the dove or shell, drops of water, and we use the colors of water for the paper. Sometimes we embed flower seeds in the paper as well. A piece of this paper is then given to each child at their baptism. The process of making paper - which uses so much water - and knowing that it will be given as a baptismal gift - is very special for the children, and the families love receiving it.

    1. What a wonderful idea! Could you send the rest of us directions for making this paper? Do you frame it to hang on the child's wall. Also, is it the kind of paper on which the child's name and date of baptism could be written? So many questions!

  4. As the congregation sings a baptismal song following the baptism, I invite the kids to come forward and bless the child by making the sign of the cross on the infant's forehead and saying, "__________, Jesus loves you!"

    1. Another neat idea! Do you clear this with parents when baptisms come up during the cold and flu season? Some parents would love having their child blessed by all the other children and could care less about the germs. Others might go ballistic.

  5. I love the idea of inviting everyone to bring some water from home on the day of a baptism and having them add their water to the font during a song just before the baptism itself. A great symbol that the child is baptised into a community in which we all have a part.

  6. Our children each picked a favorite Bible story to illustrate and write about. We put all the stories in a small scrapbook with laminated pages, and presented it to the newly baptized baby, as a way of sharing our faith with the child.


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