Should Youths Get Baptized?
“I AM so happy that my daughter is now a servant of Jehovah, and I know that she is happy too,” said Carlos,* a Christian father in the Philippines. A father from Greece wrote: “My wife and I are delighted that our three children were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses during their adolescence. They are making spiritual progress and are happy about serving Jehovah.”
Christian parents have reason to be overjoyed when their children get baptized, but sometimes the joy is accompanied by uneasiness. “I was very happy and very anxious,” said one mother. Why the mixed emotions? “I understood that my son was now fully accountable to Jehovah.”
Serving Jehovah as one of his baptized Witnesses is a goal that all young ones should have. Yet, godly parents may wonder, ‘I know that my child has made good progress, but is he strong enough to resist immoral pressures and remain clean before Jehovah?’ Others may ask themselves, ‘In facing the pull of materialism, will my child continue serving God with joy and zeal?’ Accordingly, what Biblical guidance can help parents determine whether their children are ready for baptism?
Discipleship—The Prime Requirement
Instead of specifying an age to get baptized, God’s Word describes the spiritual condition of those qualified to take that step. Jesus instructed his followers: “Make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” (Matt. 28:19) Hence, baptism is for those who are already disciples of Christ.
What is a disciple? Insight on the Scriptures explains: “The principal application of the term is to all those who not only believe Christ’s teachings but also follow them closely.” Are relatively young people capable of being genuine disciples of Christ? A sister who has served as a missionary in Latin America for over 40 years writes about herself and her two sisters: “We were old enough to know that we wanted to serve Jehovah and live in Paradise. Our dedication helped us to be strong when we faced the temptations of youth. We do not regret having made our dedication to God at an early age.”
How do you know if your child has become a disciple of Christ? The Bible states: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” (Prov. 20:11) Consider some practices that reveal that a youth is making ‘his advancement manifest’ as a disciple.—1 Tim. 4:15.
Proof of Discipleship
Does your child obey you? (Col. 3:20) Does he do his assigned chores around the house? The Bible states about 12-year-old Jesus: “He continued subject to [his parents].” (Luke 2:51) Of course, no child today will obey his parents perfectly. But true Christians are to “follow [Jesus’] steps closely.” So youths interested in baptism should be known for their obedience to their parents.—1 Pet. 2:21.
Consider the following questions: Does your child ‘keep seeking first the Kingdom’ in the ministry? (Matt. 6:33) Is he willing to share the good news with others, or do you have to give him strong encouragement to go out in the field service and talk at the doors? Is he mindful of his responsibility as an unbaptized publisher? Does he have a desire to call back on interested ones he meets in the territory? Does he make known to schoolmates and teachers that he is a Witness of Jehovah?
Is attending congregation meetings important to him? (Ps. 122:1) Does he enjoy commenting at the Watchtower Study and the Congregation Bible Study? Is he enthusiastically participating in the Theocratic Ministry School?—Heb. 10:24, 25.
Does your child strive to stay clean morally by avoiding harmful associates in school and elsewhere? (Prov. 13:20) What are his preferences regarding music, movies, television programs, video games, and the use of the Internet? Do his words and actions give evidence that he wants to comply with Bible standards?
How well does your child know the Bible? Can he put in his own words what he learns during your Family Worship evening? Can he explain basic Bible truths? (Prov. 2:6-9) Does reading the Bible and studying the publications of the faithful and discreet slave class interest him? (Matt. 24:45) Does he ask questions about Bible teachings and verses?
Those questions may help you to gauge the spiritual progress of your child. After considering them, you may conclude that he should improve in some area before getting baptized. If, however, his life course gives proof of discipleship and he has indeed dedicated his life to God, you may feel that you can allow him to get baptized.
Young People Can Praise Jehovah
Many servants of God showed faithfulness and loyalty during adolescence or earlier. Think of Joseph, Samuel, Josiah, and Jesus. (Gen. 37:2; 39:1-3; 1 Sam. 1:24-28; 2:18-20; 2 Chron. 34:1-3; Luke 2:42-49) And Philip’s four daughters, who prophesied, must have been well-trained from an early age.—Acts 21:8, 9.
A Witness in Greece said: “I was baptized when I was 12 years old. I have never regretted my decision. Since then, 24 years have passed, 23 of which I have spent in the full-time service. My love for Jehovah always helped me to face the difficulties of youth. At the age of 12, I did not have the Scriptural knowledge that I have now. But I knew that I loved Jehovah and wanted to serve him forever. I am glad that he has helped me to continue in his service.”
Whether young or old, a person who gives evidence of true discipleship should get baptized. The apostle Paul wrote: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) When a young disciple of Christ takes the important step of baptism, both he and his parents have reached a milestone. May nothing deprive you or your children of the joy that awaits you.
Some names have been changed.
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The Proper View of Baptism
Some parents consider their children’s baptism as a beneficial step that involves risk—much like getting a driver’s license. But do baptism and sacred service ever threaten a person’s future success? The Bible answers no. Proverbs 10:22 states: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” And Paul wrote to young Timothy: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.”—1 Tim. 6:6.
True, serving Jehovah is not easy. Jeremiah faced many hardships in his work as God’s prophet. Yet, he wrote about his worship of the true God: “Your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies.” (Jer. 15:16) Jeremiah knew that God’s service was the source of his joy. Satan’s world is a source of hardships. Parents need to help their children to recognize that distinction.—Jer. 1:19.
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Should My Child Put Off Baptism?
Occasionally, even when children qualify for baptism, their parents may decide that it should be postponed. What may be their reasons?
I fear that if my child gets baptized, he might later fall into serious sin and get disfellowshipped. Is it reasonable to believe that a young person who puts off baptism will not be accountable to God for his conduct? Solomon directed the following words to young ones: “Know that on account of [your actions] the true God will bring you into judgment.” (Eccl. 11:9) And with no exception as to age, Paul gave this reminder: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.”—Rom. 14:12.
Both baptized and unbaptized worshippers are accountable to God. Do not forget, Jehovah protects his servants by ‘not letting them be tempted beyond what they can bear.’ (1 Cor. 10:13) As long as they ‘keep their senses’ and fight temptation, such ones can count on God’s support. (1 Pet. 5:6-9) A Christian mother writes: “Children who are baptized have more reasons to stay away from the bad things of the world. My son, baptized at 15, feels that baptism is a protection. ‘You don’t think about doing something contrary to Jehovah’s law,’ he said. Baptism is a strong motivation for righteousness.”
If you have trained your children by word and example to obey Jehovah, you can be confident that they will continue to do so after they are baptized. Proverbs 20:7 states: “The righteous is walking in his integrity. Happy are his sons after him.”
I would like to see my child reach certain goals first. Young people should learn to work so that, in time, they can be self-sufficient. But there is danger in encouraging them to take up a lifestyle centered on education and financial security instead of true worship. Regarding a “seed,” or the word of the Kingdom, that does not grow, Jesus said: “As for the one sown among the thorns, this is the one hearing the word, but the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22) Plans for a life that subordinates spirituality to worldly goals can snuff out a young person’s desire to serve God.
Commenting on youths who qualify for baptism but whose parents do not agree, an experienced elder said: “Preventing a young one from getting baptized can break his spiritual momentum and lead to discouragement.” And a traveling overseer wrote: “A youth could begin feeling spiritually insecure or inferior. He might look to the world to gain a feeling of accomplishment.”
Should university come first?
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A youngster can give evidence of discipleship
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Preparation for and participation at meetings
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Obedience to parents
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Participation in the ministry
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