Congratulations! All of us share the joy and excitement of the new life that has been entrusted to you or that will soon come into your life. Whether by birth or by adoption, one of the most exciting events in life is welcoming a child into the family. As Christians we look upon the gift of life as coming from God. As parents we are called to be good stewards and responsible parents, nurturing the life entrusted to us so that our child may grow into responsible adulthood. As parents we take time to play and nurture this precious life in all the joys of parenthood. For God’s people, there are added responsibilities to our parenting. As members of the community of faith, we are eager that your child becomes part of this community through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. This page is designed to help you think and pray about this important event. It will also answer questions and share information about Baptism and its significance. If you have additional questions, please speak with one of the pastors.
Why Baptism?Why baptize a child? Often children are baptized because it’s a good custom to do so. Perhaps we baptize at the urging of a parent, friend, or relative. We may sense that it is important, but have never considered in our own minds why. It’s not good to do something just out of habit or tradition. Baptism should be a meaningful experience for you and not something we “should get done,” as if it were a burden or inconvenience for us. Baptism is God’s gift of love, affirmation, and belonging. The Sacrament marks us with the sign of the cross, through water and God’s Word, and says to us that we are special in God’s sight. Scripture tells us we are born sinful. We need the forgiveness, life, and salvation only God can give. Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism our sins are washed away because of Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection. We are adopted into God’s family; God’s Spirit comes to live within us, and we receive the promise of eternal life.
Why Do Lutherans Baptize Infants? Before the Reformation began in the fifteenth century, all Christian churches baptized infants as well as older people who became Christians later in life. As various denominations emerged, some developed belief that people need to wait to reach an “age of reason” before they can be baptized.
- Jesus commanded Baptism of “all nations” [Matt. 28:19-20]. This includes people of all ages. Jesus never gave specific age guidelines for Baptism.
- Jesus valued faith of little children. Jesus told His disciples, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” [Matt. 19:14]. We know that young children and even unborn children can have faith because John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when Mary was pregnant with Jesus and visited Elizabeth [Luke 1:41].
- Children are sinful from birth and therefore need the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit we receive at Baptism. It is clear from Scripture that even small children sin [Rom. 3:23; Matt. 18]. Acts 2:38-39 tells us that we receive the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins when we are baptized.
What Happens in Baptism? In Baptism God joins us to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death...If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” [Romans 6:5]. Baptism is a promise of resurrection and eternal life, an assurance that sin, death, and the Devil will not have ultimate power over us. Joined in Baptism to Christ, we are made members of the Christian Church.
Preparing for Baptism To schedule Baptism, parents or guardians contact the church office for a specific date for the Baptism. We want to schedule Baptisms convenient to both your family’s and the church’s schedule. Usually baptisms are performed during one of the regular weekend services when Holy Communion is not scheduled. In an emergency or in unusual situations Baptism can be arranged at other times and places.
Choosing Godparents A godparent [also called baptismal sponsor] develops a special, lifelong relationship with the godchild, communicating faith and values to him/her in word and deed, reminding the child of his/her Baptism and encouraging for the child during the growing years. Sponsors [or godparents] are optional, since the parent and the congregation are essentially sponsors for the child. Sponsors may be family members or friends, and should be willing to invest time in the child’s growing years. They should be caring and as Christians share their faith with a child [and later as an adult] in conversation and action. You don’t need a “matched set” of one man and one woman. You can name just one godparent, or two godmothers or godfathers. Later on they will play a significant role in the child’s life by participating at the time of the child’s First Communion and Confirmation.
What to Expect on the Day of Baptism
- Getting Ready
- Plan to arrive at the church at least twenty minutes before the start of the service. Baptisms take place at the beginning of the service.
- No particular type of dress is necessary for those who will be baptized, although certain kinds of clothing have become traditional. White baptismal gowns are often used for infants, perhaps even passed down from one family member to the next.
- Family and friends are usually seated in the front pews on the left side of the church. We will reserve as many pews as you need to accommodate your family and friends.
- During the Baptism
- The Baptism takes place following the Entrance Hymn at the beginning of the service. The pastor will motion for the baptismal party to gather around the baptismal font.
- Since there are a few spoken responses for parents, sponsors, and the entire worshiping assembly, it’s usually helpful to take the special baptismal service folder with you as you approach the baptismal font.
- The pastor will ask a few questions regarding your desire for baptism and your intent to support the newly baptized afterward.
- He will also ask all worshipers to profess that faith into which the child is to be baptized using the Apostles’ Creed as a guide.
- The worship assistant will give the parent or sponsor a small candle that has been lit from the Easter [paschal] candle. The candle is a gift to the newly baptized and may be used annually to remember the baptismal anniversary.
- The worship assistant will welcome the newly baptized into the congregation and the assembly responds.
- The baptismal party returns to its place and the service continues.
- Following the Baptism
- Picture taking during the service is allowed. Our photographer will also take several pictures and provide copies for the family along with a CD of the service.
- The baptismal banner is a reminder for the child of this important stepping stone of faith and can be hung in the child’s bedroom.
- The Baptismal Certificate can be an important legal record and should be preserved for future reference.
- The baptismal candle reminds us that each Christian is a light of the world, called to shine through acts of love and service, glorifying the Father in heaven.
- Several days after the baptism, your child will receive a letter from the pastor to be kept and read at a later time.
- As a reminder of the great gifts of Baptism, your family may wish to celebrate your child’s Baptism as well as his/her birthday. A birthday commemorates physical birth; a Baptism commemorates spiritual birth. Such a celebration would give your child and others in the family an opportunity to recall and remember this significant event.
Promises Baptism is a sacrament. It is not simply a naming service or dedication. Baptism is God’s loving action as a free gift to the one who is baptized. However, parents and sponsors are a vital part of baptism. Together with the Christian community, they provide the necessary support that helps the child grow in faith. Those promises made during the baptismal service are:
- Faithfully Bring the Child to the Services of God's House The key words are “faithfully bring”—not “drop off” or “come occasionally.” In addition to serving as a good example for children, regular worship attendance and active participation in the life of the church provides the entire family with the love, support, and community that are so needed in our busy lives. Recognizing that infants and little children can become restless during the service, we provide “Wiggle Tamers,” a bag of activities to occupy the child during the service. The church nursery is staffed for infants and toddlers. Immanuel’s pastors are not disturbed if small children are restless during the service, and our members are not either.
- Teach Them The Lord's Prayer, The Creed, and the Ten Commandments Young children can learn the Lord’s Prayer as soon as they are able to speak, preschool children can learn the Creed and the Ten Commandments. Knowing these staples of the faith helps them learn about God and enables them to actively participate in Sunday worship.
- Place the Holy Scriptures in Their Hands There are many Bible story books and picture books appropriate for very young children, and they delight in looking at the pictures with an adult or hearing the Bible stories read to them. Every Fall, children who have reached third grade are invited to bring their parents to the altar to receive their personal copy of the Bible. Immanuel uses the Faith Alive Bible which is the standard for all our Christian education classes. Read at least one Bible story to your child every day.
- Provide for the Child's Instruction in the Christian Faith Make Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, and youth ministry priorities in your family. Each summer we mail information about the Christian education programs available along with registration forms. Immanuel Lutheran School offers children a strong academic education within a Christian setting, preparing students to meet the challenges of the world.
Luther’s Small Catechism and Baptism
Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism as a resource for parents and other caregivers as they raised their child in faith. The section on Holy Baptism is organized around four questions. It is helpful to read through what the catechism says about Baptism.
- First, What is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.
- Which is That Word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” [Matt. 28:19]
- Second, What Benefits Does Baptism Provide? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
- Which Are These Words and Promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” [Mark 16:16]
- Third, How Can Water Do Such Great Things? Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without God’s Word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” [Titus 3:5–8]
- Fourth, What Does Such Baptizing with Water Indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
- Where is This Written? St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism...into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Rom. 6:4]
Luther’s Small Catechism © Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis. 1986.
Contact Pastor Eric Kennaugh to begin the process of scheduling your child's baptism: