Earlier this fall I had the amazing opportunity as a dad and pastor to baptize my 14 year old daughter Hailey, again.
If you know me at all you might think of me as the “milestones” guy. I have written two books on the milestones strategy for spiritual formation in the church and home; one for parents called “The Legacy Path” and one for ministry leaders called “Shift”. You can learn more about milestones at http://legacymilestones.com.
The strategy gives parents a road map or path for leading their children spiritually composed of seven milestones. The second milestone is salvation and baptism. Often you will read or hear me say, “between the ages of 7-13 we believe children reach a place where they are able to make an authentic confession of their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord for the forgiveness of sins.” This is true, but not for everyone.
When Hailey was seven her mother and I shared our personal gospel stories with her as we spent some time in the park one day. After years of faith talks and God moments and after hearing our stories, Hailey prayed to receive Christ and I baptized her some weeks later. We celebrated and continued to lead her forward in her spiritual journey.
Fast forward seven years. My seven year old grew into an amazing, beautiful, fourteen year old woman with her own thoughts, feelings, difficulties, and life in Christ. After a very moving and compelling preaching of the gospel during a spiritual emphasis week at her school Hailey came to me with tears in her eyes. “Dad, I want to be baptized.” My first thought was, “baby, you already have been. You’re good.” I didn’t say it. Instead I listened. “Dad, the first time I was baptized I think I did it for you and Mom.” “Now, I am doing it for me because of what Jesus did for me.”
It was different this time. There were no questions geared to a seven year old like, “What is sin?” Instead she blurted out her need for the Savior and her desire to show allegiance to the King. All I could say was, “I love you and I love that you want to give your life to Jesus.” One week later I baptized my 14 year old… again.
There are a few things we need to consider as parents and as pastors when leading children to Christ.
- We don’t have to rush, we just have to be faithful. In our zeal to “let the little ones come unto me” we sometimes rush to seal the deal. Our role is to share the gospel and demonstrate an authentic faith. This takes time.
- Often children who confess Christ at an early age revisit their salvation as teenagers. This is a good thing! Lovingly help them assess their salvation. They will have questions like, “Did I really know what I was doing when I was 5?”
- Don’t necessarily try to talk a teenager out of clarifying his or her salvation and allegiance to Christ by saying, “You’ve already been baptized.” Even if you know as their parent that they approached Jesus and believed for the forgiveness of their sins with a child-like faith, encourage prayer, searching of the scriptures, and introspection.
- Understand that Jesus pursues the hearts and souls of our children more passionately than we do. As Angela and I prayed we agreed with Hailey that she needed to take the step of obedience through baptism again. She did not know if she was saved for sure when she was seven, but at 14 she was crystal clear. We took the opportunity to put her hand in the hand of Jesus and step back. After all, it was his pursuit of her that brought her to this point.
This is a simple lesson we are learning along the path of legacy milestones that I thought might be valuable to you. Many children will be saved when they are seven but if they struggle with their salvation when they are fourteen, embrace the struggle and point them to Jesus… again.