Children can understand
that they belong to the family of God from an early age. Parents, teachers,
and pastors should continually affirm and reinforce the child's sense
of belonging in the community of believers. Pastors do this by acknowledging
the child's presence when the entire church family worships together and
involving them in worship instead of ignoring their presence. Involving
children in service projects also binds them to the community.
A Child's Faith Development
The faith of a child develops in clear stages. At first a child's faith
is experienced faith. During the primary/junior years, children develop
a belonging faith. At this stage, faith is still experienced--it cannot
be examined and discussed. But just as kids develop an interest in joining
clubs, they begin to see the church family as a community. Parents, pastors,
and teachers need to reinforce in children positive values for belonging
to the community of believers. They need to answer the children's questions
about what their church believes and instruct them in what it means to
be a baptized member of the church.
At ages 8-12 children are naturally joiners. They want to join their church
and take part in church life. Kids need an opportunity to act on this
desire to participate. There are many ways they participate, one of which
Too many wrongly believe that children should not be baptized until they
are of an age to understand fully the beliefs of their church. But by
then kids may be more into pre-adolescent rebellion than into joining.
When Children Are Too Young for Baptism
Some children request baptism at age 8 or earlier. Parents, pastors, and
teachers should take such requests seriously. The baptismal class for
8-year-olds can meet monthly or bimonthly for two years. Children should
have a chance to study all the beliefs of the church as is developmentally
appropriate. They will not get into word studies or into abstract concepts,
but they need to know at least the Bible stories relevant to the concept.
Baptismal lessons for children need to be in two parts (a). Establishing
a relationship with Jesus (understanding how they are saved), (b). Studying
major beliefs in addition to salvation. This will need a minimum of 20
lessons. The lessons should involve active study that relates the beliefs
Parents should not assume that the church is responsible for grounding
their child in Adventist beliefs. They should ask the pastor how many
classes he/she takes children through, what topics they will take up,
and when they plan for the baptism. If the pastor plans for only 10-12
lessons, the parents can continue the lessons at home. In some cases,
the parents may need to do all the preparation for baptism.
The following materials are available for conducting children's