1. Has your child studied intently? Encouraging your child to study on her own (along with learning in special classes or church settings) is a great step. You should be studying too, but allow her the responsibility to study some on her own.
2. Does your child feel guilt from sin and love of God? Motives matter. A child may want to be baptized because he saw a friend receive attention, he desires to please his parents, or maybe he really just wants to take Communion. Obviously, these are not the best motives. My experience teaches me that if a child, or any person for that matter, does not understand that he is covered in guilt, then he has not reached a necessary place of understanding. Any person who does not understand this guilt does not appropriately grasp God’s grace and love.
3. Is your child persistent? Time allows us to test a child’s sincerity. It’s not the only test, but it’s an important one for children. If your child mentions baptism once, but never mentions it again, that should tell you something.
4. Is your child mature enough with her cognitive abilities? My 3-year-old is a great joy in my life, but she is not capable of a sincere, lifelong commitment to Christ. If she were baptized this week, 15 years from now, she would probably have zero memory of her choice and would deeply doubt her commitment. And she might, like many adults I counsel, be a bit resentful of parents who encouraged/allowed her to do something she was not ready to do.
Abstract reasoning is needed here. While each child is different, this ability usually begins to develop around third grade. Parents need to discern when this ability has developed enough to proceed. (Note, if your child has grown up in church, he or she will be able to give all the right answers long before developing the mature thinking to make this commitment. A wise parent understands this.)
5. Have you received input from godly leaders? It saddens me when parents do not ask for any sort of guidance and help with this huge decision. Ultimately, parents are the spiritual leaders in their home, but I find it unwise not to seek prayer and wisdom from those who may have helpful and experienced input.
As with the rest of parenting, these decisions may not be cut and dry. But if you are wrestling with it, that’s good. That means you are praying, seeking wisdom, and treating your child’s spiritual health with great care.
I’m thankful we serve a God of grace. We will not always navigate these decisions perfectly (for ourselves or our children), so we’ll lean on grace and keep seeking truth.
Brian Jennings serves as lead minister with Highland Park Christian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.