Preparing Young People for Baptism & Church Membership
Faithfully preparing a young person to follow the Lord in the obedience of baptism and to become a covenant member of a local church is an important responsibility entrusted to Christian parents and to the church. We believe that parents are responsible for instructing their children and overseeing their spiritual development.
The church leadership is responsible to sustain and guard the ordinance of baptism and to faithfully “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:1–3). We believe this “faithful shepherding” includes preparing our young people well. Therefore it is fitting for leaders of the church and parents to work together in preparing young people for baptism and for the responsibility and privilege of church membership.
Goals of the Preparation Process
The goals of this process are to:
- Glorify Christ and the redeeming work of the cross
- Discern the candidate’s readiness for baptism
- Involve the spiritual leader of the home in the preparation process
- Provide the candidate with an opportunity to profess faith in a credible, decisive, public and memorable way
- Inspire the candidate to live in obedience and faithfulness to the Lord
- Prepare and equip the young person for the privilege and responsibility of membership in the local church
- Provide an opportunity for the immediate family and the wider community of believers to publicly affirm, support, encourage and pray for the candidate
At What Age Should a Young Person Be Baptized?
There are differences among those who embrace believer’s baptism concerning the timing of baptism for children who profess faith in Christ. Some argue for “immediate participation” meaning that children should be baptized as soon as they can confess faith in Christ. The elders lean toward the second view which suggests waiting to baptize children until there is evidence of regeneration and the ability to reason independently in spiritual matters. For more insight and information on these two views see Two Views on Childhood Participation in Church Ordinances.
It is our practice to wait until a child is at least age eleven before considering him for baptism. More importantly it is our practice to wait until there is evidence of regeneration and enough maturity to articulate the Gospel and give a credible profession of faith. For further consideration of this topic see Why Wait?—Four Practical Reasons for Withholding Baptism Until Children Are Older by Pastor David Michael
Youth Baptism/Church Membership Preparation Process
Letter of Invitation
Once each year a letter of invitation is sent to parents of prospective baptism candidates. Prospective candidates include young people between the ages of eleven and eighteen who have not been baptized, as well as younger children whose parents have asked to be contacted. This letter explains the preparation process and includes a response card that parents are asked to fill out and return to the church.
It is expected that candidates under age eighteen have the consent of their parents before beginning the preparation process. This includes candidates who have unbelieving parents.
Identifying a Mentor
Each candidate will be expected to have a mentor. Candidates in the same family may share one mentor but the mentor will be encouraged to meet with the candidates separately. [Note: The ideal is for one child at a time to be prepared during the preparation cycle. Parents preparing more than one child should consider the potential difficulty if, at the end of the process, it is determined that one child is ready for baptism and the other is not.]
- The candidate's father is encouraged to be the mentor if he is a believer and living in the home.
- If the father is not a believer or not living in the home, the candidate's mother, grandparent, or another mature believer should assume this responsibility.
- If neither parent is a believer, the candidate may select (or seek help in finding) a mentor who can lead the candidate through the preparation process and who is willing to assist and encourage the young person in his walk with the Lord following the baptism.
Mentor Orientation/Training Session
This meeting is designed to help prepare mentors for their significant role in the preparation process. [Note: Youth candidates should not attend this session.] This session will provide an opportunity for mentors to get acquainted with each other and to be equipped to prepare the candidate for baptism.
Mentor’s Individual Sessions with Candidates
Mentors are encouraged to have at least six separate, one-on-one sessions with the candidate. Mentors receive a guide that will assist them in leading the young person through each session. This usually occurs over a period of eight weeks. During this time mentors determine if the candidate should continue in the preparation process or if he or she should be encouraged to wait.
Please note: One of the reasons we are not conducting these sessions in a classroom is to remove the pressure that young people (or their parents) can feel to proceed with baptism even if they, or their parents or the elders, feel they are not ready. This same pressure can be there when more than one child in a family is being prepared at the same time. It can be awkward in a family if it is determined that one sibling is ready and the other sibling should wait. And it is particularly awkward when the older sibling is the one who should wait.
Combined Sessions for Mentors & Candidates
Session 1 (Friday evening): Mentors and candidates meet together with one or two church leaders. Candidates share their testimonies with the group and review the meaning of baptism. [Note: Session 1 is required for all baptism candidates.]
Session 2* (Saturday morning): It is important for the candidate to understand that they are being baptized into the body of Christ and that their church is the local expression of that “body”. In this session we emphasize the importance of active participation and formal membership in the church. The candidate will be introduced to our Baptist heritage, its distinctives, and the meaning of church membership. The church covenant and articles of faith are also reviewed. [Note: This session is important for all candidates to attend and required for all who are pursuing church membership.]
*This session meets Bethlehem’s Membership Class requirements for church membership provided the candidate becomes a member within one year of the class. Candidates who wait more than a year will be expected to attend a regularly scheduled Membership Class and be interviewed before becoming a covenant member.
Interview for Baptism
After both the candidate and sponsor have indicated the candidate’s readiness to move ahead with baptism, the candidate will be interviewed in order to confirm a credible profession of faith and clear understanding of the meaning and significance of baptism. The interview team will include an elder, an adult leader (i.e. Sunday School teacher, small group leader) and, when available, an older youth who is a member. During this interview the candidate gives his or her testimony and responds to informal questions concerning faith and church membership.
Interview for Church Membership
If, at the time of the baptism interview, the candidate desires to proceed with church membership, the membership interview will be combined with the baptism interview (above). The aim of this interview is to determine the candidate’s readiness for church membership. The interview team will be interested in the candidate’s grasp of the church covenant, affirmation of faith and the privileges and responsibilities of church membership.
Once the interview team recommends the candidate for baptism, the candidate will be scheduled for a future baptism service. An approved candidate may participate in any of our regular baptism services. Once a year we plan a special youth baptism service that is normally scheduled about six weeks after the combined sessions with mentors and candidates (see above). This service usually includes worship, candidate testimonies, a pastoral message to the candidates, and the baptism. It concludes with a time for family and friends to gather around the young candidate, lay hands on him or her, and pray. In this setting, the parents are able to help the young person out of the water and wrap them in a white robe as people gather around them for prayer.
Following the baptism of the candidate and a positive recommendation for membership, the candidate will be notified of the next quarterly Covenant Affirmation service. At this service the membership candidates publicly affirm the covenant before the congregation and are welcomed into church membership. This service marks the bestowment of all the rights and privileges of church membership, and the young person will be recognized as a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Youth Baptism/Membership Preparation
2016 SCHEDULE: NORTH CAMPUS
If you and your child plan to be a part of the Youth Baptism and Membership Preparation this year, please contact Katie in the Family Discipleship Department: 612-455-0800 x801 AND reserve these dates on your calendar:
Mentor Training Sessions in 2016
(Identical sessions—choose one—mentors only)
- Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 6:50–8pm, North
- Saturday, January 16, 2016, 8-9:30am, North
Youth Baptism/Membership Class
(2 sessions; candidates & mentors)
North: Part 1 – Friday, March 4, 6:45–9pm &
Part 2 – Saturday, March 5, 8:45am–noon
Youth Baptism Service
Wednesday, May 11, 6:15–8pm; North Campus
Bethlehem Baptist Church
North Campus, 5151 Program Ave, Mounds View, MN 55112
If you would like to receive the next letter of invitation or need more information, please contact Katie Kramer, 612-455-0800 x801.