Children & Church Ordinances
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family (Acts 16:30-33).
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the turning point of history; He was plunged under the waters of judgment in the place of sinners and was raised to new life again three days later. When one believes in Jesus, his death is counted as theirs and they are forgiven and made alive with him in His resurrection. This is the reality that baptism symbolizes. It is an outward act that pictures the inward reality of salvation.
Baptism is done by Christians as an expression of faith and out of obedience to Christ (Matt. 28:19- 20). Since its nature is to point to an inward reality, it is only to be done by those who actually have this new life in Christ. Parents naturally desire their children to come to experience this salvation from sin and death through faith. When this happens in a child’s life, the parents and children will both consider Christian baptism as an expression of their faith and obedience to Jesus Christ.
But what is an appropriate age for children to be baptized? How can we determine that the child is truly in Christ? How do we guard against giving someone a false sense of security by confirming their profession of faith through baptism when it’s possible that their “faith” merely reflects the cultural conditioning gained from being in our family and among our church?
At Grace Church, we firmly believe that Christian baptism should follow closely after Christian conversion – but we also realize these questions can arise when dealing with our children, simply because they are children.
The policy of Grace Church of DuPage regarding baptizing children has been nearly the same as baptism for adults. Our Criteria are:
Demonstrate a clear understanding of the gospel
Ability and desire to articulate a clear conversion testimony
Successful completion of our Baptism Class
Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives
As we progress through this process with children, the first three criteria could be accomplished in a fairly straightforward manner. But regarding the fruit of the Spirit, we are dependent on the testimony of both the parents and GCD Children’s and/or Youth Ministry staff who have interacted
with the child. However, once we are confident that all these criteria are met in a satisfactory manner, our desire is to baptize the candidate.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Similar questions are raised with regard to determining when it is appropriate for our children to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Since the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of Jesus’ death and participation in it is an act of faith, it is intended only for those who have been born again to a new life of faith in Christ. In light of this, we trust the parents to make a wise decision as to whether it is appropriate to participate based upon whether the child:
Sufficiently understands the gospel
Experienced true Christian conversion of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ
Understands the significance and purpose of the Lord’s Supper
Lives a growing life of faith in Christ, which includes self-examination (I Cor. 11:23-32).
As previously mentioned, baptism is the act that expresses to the community of faith that one has truly become a believer in Christ. Once one is in Christ and has outwardly expressed this in baptism, they would then naturally celebrate the Lord’s Supper with all of the other believers. Thus, the normal processes is that a person 1) is genuinely converted, 2) is subsequently baptized as an affirmation that they are now part of the community of faith, and 3) now joins with the community in celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection through the Lord’s Supper.
Therefore, Grace Church encourages parents to withhold the Lord’s Supper from their children until they are baptized. Parents should take this as an occasion to shepherd their child by explaining the gospel, the nature of conversion and the life of faith, and the significance of the Lord’s Supper.
We do not have unrealistic expectations that a child’s level of understanding would exceed that which could be expected of them at their age. Nevertheless, we know that children, given their level of maturity, may be motivated to participate in the Lord’s Supper simply because it is what their parents and siblings do. Therefore, parents should have conversations with their children to determine their true motivation.
The goal of all such discernment is the good of the child and the honor of Christ. We are motivated by hope, looking to the day when the child might joyfully eat and drink in faith, joining the community in proclaiming the Lords death until He comes again.
If you have any questions regarding these matters, please contact any Grace Church Elder.