Baptizing My 7-Year-Old Daughter

"We ought to be careful to not withhold baptism from children who are convicted of the call to be baptized and desire to be obedient to Christ."    

My kids have repeatedly seen baptisms take place during our Sunday morning service. In addition, we’ve read through portions of Scripture that describe new believers getting baptized, and they’ve read the exhortation to “repent and be baptized.” So I guess it probably shouldn’t have surprised me when my seven year-old daughter expressed her desire to be baptized. The truth is, it did. Maybe it was because her older brother hasn’t been baptized yet, maybe it was because I still see her as such a little girl, and maybe it was just because I wasn’t paying close enough attention. But, regardless, it caught me off guard.

Over the couple of months that separated that first conversation from the day she was baptized, I thought a lot about baptism, children, and how I ought to respond to this step of obedience as a parent. I thought I’d just share a few of the principles that guided that process for us for the sake of so many other parents that will undeniably find themselves in similar situations. Here are few of my thoughts:

1. It's important to clarify what baptism is so that we know how to talk about it with our kids. Baptism is an act of obedience and a public profession of faith that symbolizes for the new believer what God has done in their heart to make them a new creation. As a result, baptism ought to be a free choice from the heart of a believer who desires to publicly declare their faith in Christ. If this is what one of our children desires to do, it only makes sense to let them do it. At the same time, we’ve tried to be careful with all of our kids to not try and “talk them into” getting baptized. Of course, our teaching has an impact on them, but our desire is that this would be an act brought about by God’s Spirit, not our subtle pressure or prodding (at least to the best of our ability).

2. There is no “right” age for baptism. So much depends on a child’s temperament, experience, and God’s beautiful perfect plan for their lives that there is no simple answer as to what age a child should get baptized. There’s a part of me that probably would have said seven was a little young, but this isn’t about me. It’s about her and her relationship with God, and seven was obviously the right age for her.

3. We ought to be careful to not withhold baptism from children who are convicted of the call to be baptized and desire to be obedient to Christ. To withhold baptism from a child who understands the gospel and understands what baptism is probably shows that we’re more interested in that child obeying us and meeting our expectations than we are them obeying God (and this undoubtedly will not be the only area where that is true).

4. We ought to celebrate a child’s baptism. We ought to celebrate every baptism! A public profession of faith is a huge step for a new believer, and it provides a memory and a moment that the believer can look back upon in moments of doubt or questioning to be reminded of the reality of God’s grace and forgiveness. This is a moment worth celebrating and commemorating, so whether it is through the gift of a Bible or a dinner out at a special restaurant, celebration is absolutely appropriate.

5. While we want to celebrate a child’s baptism, we also should be careful not to overemphasize baptism, lest it miscommunicate to the child (or to the children around them). I realized very quickly that every aspect of my reaction to my daughter’s desire to be baptized was going to be noticed and interpreted both by her and by our other children. It’s for this reason that I also think it’s extremely important not to overreact to a child’s choice to get baptized. Streaming tears or assurance that “this is the day we’ve prayed and prayed for!” may all be sincere expressions of how we feel as parents, but they can very easily miscommunicate to our children and tempt them to focus on pleasing us instead of God. Baptism is a big deal, but it’s also one of many, many, many acts of obedience Christ will call them to. Getting baptized isn’t what saves our kids, and we need to be careful we don’t unintentionally lead them to believe that it does.

6. Finally—and possibly of greatest importance—we need to remember that baptism is the beginning of a journey, not the end. There are many mountaintops and many valleys that lie ahead for the child who has been baptized, just like there were for each of us. Many of us have had significant doubts after being baptized, and even long seasons of habitual sin. Some have even walked away from the faith after being baptized. There is no guarantee in the direction of someone’s life because they have been baptized. Many more lessons and much more difficult situations lie ahead. But the gift of baptism is that, even for the child who may have come to know Christ at a very young age, it provides a moment of decision, a tangible memory to look back on, to celebrate, and to be reminded that Christ truly has washed her clean, he truly has forgiven all her sin, and he truly has made her a new creation.

And that reminder is for all of us. Baptism truly is beautiful.