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?