“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.” That is how Blossom Brandt described what happened when she decided to get baptized. Today, too, parents want to help their children make wise decisions. If a child waits to get baptized without having a good reason for waiting, this could harm the child’s relationship with Jehovah. (James 4:17) Before their child gets baptized, wise parents want to be sure that he or she is ready to become a disciple of Christ.
2. (a) What problem have some circuit overseers noticed? (b) What will we discuss in this article?
2 Some circuit overseers have noticed that many young ones in their late teens and early 20’s are not yet baptized, even though they have grown up in the truth. Most of the time, these young ones go to the meetings, go in field service, and view themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still, for some reason they have not dedicated themselves to Jehovah and been baptized. In some cases, this is because the parents think that their children are not ready to get baptized. In this article, we will discuss four concerns that have prevented some parents from encouraging their children to get baptized.
IS MY CHILD OLD ENOUGH?
3. What were Blossom’s parents concerned about?
3 Blossom’s parents, mentioned in the first paragraph, were concerned about whether she was old enough to understand what it means to get baptized and how serious it is. How can parents know if their child is ready to dedicate himself to Jehovah?
4. How can Jesus’ command found at Matthew 28:19, 20 help parents today?
4 Read Matthew 28:19, 20. The Bible does not say that a person should get baptized at a specific age. But it is good for parents to think carefully about what it means to make disciples. In the Greek language, the word for “make disciples” used at Matthew 28:19 means to teach someone with the goal of helping him become a student, or a disciple. A disciple is someone who learns and understands what Jesus taught and who wants to obey him. So from the time their children are born, parents should teach them with the goal of helping them to dedicate themselves to Jehovah and become disciples of Christ. Of course, babies do not qualify to get baptized. Still, the Bible shows that even young children can understand and love Bible truth.
5, 6. (a) The Bible’s description of Timothy leads us to what conclusion about his baptism? (b) What is the best way for wise parents to help their children?
5 Timothy was a disciple who decided to serve Jehovah while he was still young. The apostle Paul said that Timothy began to learn the truth from God’s Word “from infancy.” Timothy’s father did not serve Jehovah, but his mother and grandmother helped Timothy to love God’s Word. As a result, he had very strong faith. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15) He may have been in his late teens or early 20’s when he qualified to receive special assignments in the congregation.—Acts 16:1-3.
6 Every child is different. Not all become mature at the same age. Some children understand the truth, make wise decisions, and want to get baptized when they are young. Others may not be ready to get baptized until they are a little older. Wise parents do not pressure their children to get baptized. Instead, they help each child to make progress at his or her own pace. Parents are happy when their child applies Proverbs 27:11. (Read.) But they must remember that their goal is to help their children to become disciples. With that in mind, they should ask themselves, ‘Does my child know enough to dedicate himself to God and get baptized?’
DOES MY CHILD KNOW ENOUGH?
7. Does someone need to know every detail of every Bible teaching before he can get baptized? Explain.
Every disciple of Christ must keep learning even after getting baptized
7 As parents teach their children, they help them to know the truth well. This knowledge will move children to dedicate themselves to God. But that does not mean that a child has to know every detail of every Bible teaching before he can make a dedication and get baptized. Every disciple of Christ must keep learning even after getting baptized. (Read Colossians 1:9, 10.) So how much does someone need to know before he can get baptized?
8, 9. What happened to a jailer in Philippi, and what can we learn from his experience?
8 The experience of a family from the past can help parents today. (Acts 16:25-33) In the year 50, Paul went to the city of Philippi on his second missionary journey. While he was there, he and Silas were falsely accused, arrested, and thrown in jail. During the night, there was a powerful earthquake that opened all the doors of the jail. The jailer thought that all the prisoners had escaped, and he wanted to kill himself. But Paul stopped him. Then Paul and Silas taught the jailer and his family the truth about Jesus. They believed the things they learned about Jesus and realized how important it was to obey him. So they got baptized right away. What can we learn from their experience?
9 The jailer may have been a retired Roman soldier. He did not know God’s Word. So to become a Christian, he had to learn basic truths from the Bible, understand what Jehovah requires of his servants, and want to obey Jesus’ teachings. What he learned in that short time helped him want to get baptized. Of course, he would have continued to learn more after he was baptized. So when your child tells you that he wants to get baptized because he loves Jehovah and wants to obey him, what can you do? You may let him talk to the elders so that they can decide if he qualifies to get baptized.* (See footnote.) Like all baptized Christians, he will continue to learn more about Jehovah for as long as he lives, even forever.—Romans 11:33, 34.
WHAT IS THE BEST EDUCATION FOR MY CHILD?
10, 11. (a) What do some parents think? (b) What will really protect a child?
10 Some parents think that it would be best for their child to get baptized only after he gets some advanced education and has a good career. These parents may have good intentions, but they should ask themselves: ‘Will that help my child to be truly successful? Does it agree with what we learn from the Bible? How does Jehovah want us to use our life?’—Read Ecclesiastes 12:1.
11 It is important to remember that this world and the things in it are against what Jehovah wants and thinks. (James 4:7, 8; 1 John 2:15-17; 5:19) A close relationship with Jehovah is the best protection a child can have against Satan, this world, and the world’s bad thinking. If parents put education and a good job first in life, their child will probably believe that the things in the world are more important than a close relationship with Jehovah. This is dangerous. As loving parents, do you really want this world to teach your child what it thinks will make him happy? The only way to be successful and have true joy is to put Jehovah first in our life.—Read Psalm 1:2, 3.
WHAT IF MY CHILD WERE TO SIN?
12. Why do some parents feel it is better for their child to wait to get baptized?
12 One mother explained why she had not wanted her daughter to get baptized. She said, “I am ashamed to say that the major reason was the disfellowshipping arrangement.” Like that sister, some parents feel that it is better for their child to wait to get baptized until he is old enough to avoid making foolish mistakes. (Genesis 8:21; Proverbs 22:15) Those parents may feel that if their child is not baptized, he cannot get disfellowshipped. But what is wrong with this reasoning?—James 1:22.
13. If someone is not baptized, does this mean that he is not accountable to Jehovah? Explain.
13 Of course, parents do not want their child to get baptized before he is ready to dedicate his life to Jehovah. But it would be a mistake to think that a child is not accountable to Jehovah until he is baptized. A child becomes accountable to God when he knows what Jehovah says is right and wrong. (Read James 4:17.) Wise parents do not discourage their child from getting baptized. Even when the child is young, they teach him to love what Jehovah says is right and hate what He says is wrong, just as they do. (Luke 6:40) Your child’s love for Jehovah will protect him against committing a serious sin, because he will want to do what Jehovah says is right.—Isaiah 35:8.
OTHERS CAN HELP
14. How can the elders support what parents are doing?
14 The elders can support what parents are doing by being positive when they talk about goals in Jehovah’s service. One sister remembered that Brother Russell spoke to her when she was six years old. She said, “He took 15 minutes with me to discuss my spiritual goals.” What was the result? Later, that sister became a pioneer, and she pioneered for more than 70 years! Clearly, positive words and encouragement can affect a person’s whole life. (Proverbs 25:11) Elders can also invite parents and children to help with projects at the Kingdom Hall. They can ask the children to do things that fit their age and abilities.
15. How can others in the congregation help young ones?
15 How can others in the congregation help? By showing appropriate personal interest in young ones. For example, you can look for signs that young ones are drawing closer to Jehovah. Did a child give a good comment at the meeting, or did he have a part on the midweek meeting program? Did he witness to someone at school, or did he do the right thing when he was tempted to do something wrong? If so, be quick to tell him he did well! We can make it a goal to talk to young ones before and after the meetings. When we do, children will feel that they are part of “the great congregation.”—Psalm 35:18.
HELP YOUR CHILD PROGRESS TO BAPTISM
16, 17. (a) Why is it important for children to get baptized? (b) What joy can Christian parents have? (See opening picture.)
16 One of the greatest privileges for parents is teaching their children to love Jehovah. (Psalm 127:3; Ephesians 6:4) In the nation of Israel, children were dedicated to Jehovah when they were born. But our children are not. Just because parents love Jehovah and the truth, it does not mean that their children will. From the day their child is born, parents must have the goal of helping him to become a disciple, to dedicate himself to God and get baptized. What could be more important? A person’s dedication, baptism, and faithful service to Jehovah will make it possible for him to be saved during the great tribulation.—Matthew 24:13.
17 When Blossom Brandt wanted to get baptized, her parents wanted to be sure that she was ready. When they were sure that she was, they supported her decision. Blossom explained what her father did the night before she got baptized: “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 said: “You can be sure, in all the ages to come, I’ll never forget that night!” Parents, may you too have joy and satisfaction when you see your children become dedicated and baptized servants of Jehovah.
Parents can discuss with their child the helpful information in Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 2, pages 304-310. See also the “Question Box” in Our Kingdom Ministry, April 2011, page 2.