“Why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized.”—ACTS 22:16.
1. What do Christian parents want to be sure of before their children get baptized?
“FOR months I kept telling Dad and Mom that I wanted to be baptized, and they often talked to me about it. They wanted to make sure I knew how serious my decision was. On December 31, 1934, the day came for this momentous event in my life.” Blossom Brandt thus described events surrounding her decision to get baptized. Today, Christian parents have a similar interest in helping their children make wise decisions. Postponing baptism or delaying it needlessly could invite spiritual problems. (Jas. 4:17) Wisely, however, parents want to be sure that before their children get baptized, they are ready to shoulder the responsibility of Christian discipleship.
2. (a) Why have some circuit overseers expressed concern? (b) What will we consider in this article?
2 Some circuit overseers have expressed concern because they meet young ones in their late teens and early 20’s who have grown up in Christian households but who have yet to get baptized. In most cases, these young ones attend congregation meetings and share in the ministry. They view themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, for some reason they hold back from dedicating their lives to Jehovah and getting baptized. What could be the reason for this? In some cases, parents have encouraged them to delay baptism. In this article, we will consider four concerns that have hindered some Christian parents from helping their children progress to baptism.
IS MY CHILD OLD ENOUGH?
3. Blossom’s parents had what concern?
3 Blossom’s parents, mentioned in the first paragraph, were understandably concerned whether their daughter was old enough to grasp the significance and seriousness of baptism. How can parents know if a child is in a position to make a valid dedication?
4. How can Jesus’ command found at Matthew 28:19, 20 help parents as they teach their children?
4 Read Matthew 28:19, 20. As discussed in the preceding article, the Bible does not specify an age at which a person should get baptized. However, parents can benefit from reflecting on what it means to make a disciple. The Greek word translated “make disciples” at Matthew 28:19 has the sense of teaching with the intent of making pupils, or disciples. A disciple is one who learns and understands Jesus’ teachings and who is determined to observe them. Thus, the goal of all Christian parents should be to teach their children from infancy with the intention of helping them become baptized disciples of Christ. Granted, an infant would not qualify for baptism. However, the Bible shows that even relatively young children can grasp and appreciate Bible truths.
5, 6. (a) The Bible’s description of Timothy leads us to what conclusion about his baptism? (b) How can discerning parents effectively assist their children?
5 Timothy was a disciple who made the truth his own at a young age. The apostle Paul stated that Timothy had learned Scriptural truths from infancy. Even though Timothy grew up in a religiously divided household, his Jewish mother and grandmother cultivated in him an appreciation for the Scriptures, as the Jews understood them. As a result, his faith was unshakable. (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15) By the time he was in his late teens or early 20’s, Timothy was a Christian disciple who could be considered for special privileges in the congregation.—Acts 16:1-3.
6 Of course, each child is unique; not all children become mature at the same rate or at the same point in life. Some have a good measure of mental and emotional maturity at a young age and express a desire to get baptized. Others may not be ready for baptism until they are a bit older. Thus, discerning parents do not pressure their children to get baptized. Rather, they assist each child to make spiritual advancement in keeping with his or her own growth and progress. Parents can rejoice when a child takes to heart the thought behind Proverbs 27:11. (Read.) However, they should never lose sight of their goal—to have their children become Christian disciples. With that in mind, parents will want to consider the question, ‘Does my child have sufficient knowledge to make a dedication to God and get baptized?’
DOES MY CHILD HAVE ADEQUATE KNOWLEDGE?
7. Does someone who wants to get baptized need to have an exhaustive knowledge of the Bible? Explain.
7 It is fitting that as teachers in the family, parents want their children to gain a solid foundation of knowledge on which a dedication may be based. Even so, an exhaustive knowledge is not required before a person can make a dedication to God and get baptized. After baptism, all disciples should keep on growing in accurate knowledge. (Read Colossians 1:9, 10.) So how much knowledge is initially required?
8, 9. What lessons can we learn from the account about Paul and the jailer?
8 The experience of a family in the first century offers parents some insight. (Acts 16:25-33) While on his second missionary tour, about 50 C.E., Paul visited Philippi. While there, he and his companion Silas were arrested on false charges and thrown in jail. During the night, an earthquake shook the foundations of the jail and opened all the doors. The jailer, fearing that the prisoners had escaped, was on the verge of committing suicide when Paul called out to him. Paul and Silas were able to give a fine witness to the jailer and his family. Their appreciation for the truths they were learning about Jesus prompted them to take what step? They got baptized without delay. What can we learn from this account?
9 According to custom, the jailer may have been a retired army veteran. He was not familiar with the Scriptures. So to gain a solid foundation of Scriptural knowledge, he needed to learn basic Bible truths, understand what it means to be one of God’s servants, and be determined to obey Jesus’ teachings. In a relatively brief time, his knowledge of basic Scriptural truths and his appreciation of them prompted him to get baptized. No doubt he continued to add to his knowledge after his baptism. With this example in mind, what can you do when your child expresses a heartfelt appreciation for basic Scriptural teachings, including the meaning and significance of dedication and baptism? You Christian parents may conclude that he can contact the congregation elders to see if he meets the qualifications to get baptized.* Like other baptized disciples, he will continue to increase in knowledge of Jehovah’s purpose throughout his life, even for all eternity.—Rom. 11:33, 34.
IS MY CHILD BEING EDUCATED FOR SUCCESS?
10, 11. (a) What have some parents concluded? (b) What should be a parent’s first concern?
10 Some parents have concluded that it would be best for their son or daughter to delay baptism in order first to obtain some advanced education and become secure in a career. Such reasoning may be well-intentioned, but will it help their child to achieve genuine success? More important, is it in harmony with the Scriptures? What course does Jehovah’s Word encourage?—Read Ecclesiastes 12:1.
11 It is important to remember that this world and all its components are opposed to Jehovah’s interests and thinking. (Jas. 4:7, 8; 1 John 2:15-17; 5:19) A close relationship with Jehovah is a child’s best defense against Satan, his world, and its ungodly thinking. For a parent to place high priority on secular pursuits could confuse a child and jeopardize his best interests. Would loving Christian parents really want this world to shape their child’s view of success? The fact is, we find true joy and success only when we give Jehovah first place in our lives.—Read Psalm 1:2, 3.
WHAT IF MY CHILD WERE TO SIN?
12. Why have some parents wanted their child to postpone baptism?
12 In explaining her reasons for discouraging her daughter from getting baptized, one Christian mother stated, “I am ashamed to say that the major reason was the disfellowshipping arrangement.” Like that sister, some parents have reasoned that it is better for their child to postpone baptism until he has outgrown the childish tendency to behave foolishly. (Gen. 8:21; Prov. 22:15) They may conclude, ‘As long as my child is not baptized, he cannot be disfellowshipped.’ Why is this deceptive reasoning?—Jas. 1:22.
13. Does delaying baptism make one less accountable to Jehovah? Explain.
13 Understandably, Christian parents would not want their child to get baptized before being mature enough to make a valid dedication. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that by not being baptized, a child is not accountable to Jehovah. Why is that? Accountability to Jehovah is not founded on the act of getting baptized. Rather, a child is accountable to God when the child knows what is right and what is wrong in Jehovah’s eyes. (Read James 4:17.) Thus, rather than discourage a child from getting baptized, wise parents work hard to set the right example. They want to cultivate in their child from infancy a heartfelt appreciation for Jehovah’s elevated moral standards. (Luke 6:40) Such appreciation is the best protection, for your child will be motivated to hold to Jehovah’s righteous way.—Isa. 35:8.
OTHERS CAN HELP
14. How can the elders reinforce the efforts of parents who are helping their children progress to baptism?
14 As spiritual shepherds, congregation elders can reinforce parents’ efforts by speaking positively about spiritual goals. One sister who served as a pioneer for more than 70 years recalled the impact of her conversation with Brother Charles T. Russell when she was only six years old. She related, “He took 15 minutes with me to discuss my spiritual goals.” Yes, positive words and encouragement can have a long-lasting effect. (Prov. 25:11) Elders can also include parents and their children in Kingdom Hall projects, giving tasks to youths in keeping with their age and abilities.
15. What are some ways that others in the congregation can encourage young ones?
15 Members of the congregation can help by demonstrating appropriate personal interest in young ones. This would include being alert to indications of spiritual progress. Did a youth give a heartfelt, well-thought-out comment or share in a part on the midweek meeting program? Has a youth successfully faced a test of integrity or taken advantage of an opportunity to give a witness at school? Be quick to offer sincere commendation. What about making it a point—before or after a meeting—to talk with a young person, manifesting your genuine interest? In these ways and others, young ones can be made to realize that they are part of “the great congregation.”—Ps. 35:18.
HELP YOUR CHILD PROGRESS TO BAPTISM
16, 17. (a) How does baptism relate to one’s future life prospects? (b) What joy do all Christian parents strive for? (See opening picture.)
16 Bringing up a child in “the discipline and admonition of Jehovah” is one of the greatest privileges a Christian parent can have. (Eph. 6:4; Ps. 127:3) Unlike children in the ancient nation of Israel, the children of Christian parents are not born as part of a people dedicated to Jehovah. Moreover, love for God and for truth is not inherited. From the day of their child’s birth, parents should have the intent to make a disciple, assisting their child to become a dedicated, baptized servant of Jehovah. What could be more important? After all, it is each individual’s dedication, baptism, and faithful service to God that will bring him in line for being marked for salvation during the coming great tribulation.—Matt. 24:13.
17 When Blossom Brandt decided that she wanted to get baptized, her God-fearing parents wanted to be sure that she was ready to take the most important step of her life. Once they were certain that she was ready, they supported her decision. On the night before her baptism, her father did a beautiful thing. Blossom related: “He had all of us get on our knees, and he offered a prayer. He told Jehovah that he was so happy about his little girl’s decision to dedicate her life to Him.” More than 60 years later, Blossom stated: “You can be sure, in all the ages to come, I’ll never forget that night!” May you parents experience the joy and satisfaction that result from seeing your children become dedicated, baptized servants of Jehovah.
Parents can review with their child the helpful information in Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 2, pp. 304-310. See also the “Question Box” in Our Kingdom Ministry, April 2011, p. 2.