When I served as a church planter in Arkansas, my friend Cliff Jenkins introduced me to a ministry practice that I had not seen before. He was encouraging parents to perform their own children’s baptisms. Since that time, I’ve implemented the same practice and have discovered other churches that are doing it as well. Here are four reasons why I encourage parents to perform their children’s baptisms.
First, it models family to the congregation. Churches pride themselves in being a place that values and elevates family, only to contradict that bragging point by dividing families up as soon as they walk in the door. Allowing parents to baptize their own children communicates the importance of family in a tangible way.
Second, it acknowledges that parents ultimately bear the responsibility for their children’s spiritual growth and development. I believe churches and ministry leaders are resources to parents, serving them by equipping them to be the primary spiritual voices that speak into their children’s lives. Having parents baptize their kids tangibly expresses that responsibility.
Third, it creates a lasting memory. I’ve never seen a parent baptize their child and not feel the gravity and significance of the experience. Most of them embrace in the water, wiping tears from their eyes. As the years pass children may forget the name of the pastor that performed their baptism, but they’ll never forget the fact that their parent baptized them. While I can’t substantiate it with hard data, my gut tells me that children who are baptized by a parent will struggle less with faith questions as they mature through high school, college and young adulthood. When doubts arise, parents are able to provide much needed support because they played a vital role at a crucial moment.
Fourth, it blurs the line that distinguishes ordained clergy and those who sit in the pew (I hate the word “laity”). We have no record of Jesus performing a baptism for anyone, and little is mentioned of the apostles performing baptisms. Yet we know baptisms were taking place all the time. As I read the Bible I see no prohibition that would limit baptism to the ordained. Releasing this important ordinance to the congregation not only values parents, it values the body of Christ.