10 Principles for Shepherding My Child Through Salvation and Baptism

Baptizing Hannah (November 15, 2008)
I spent some time thinking about what I wrote about baptism (both theology of baptism and why your child is probably not ready for baptism), and about some feedback I received, through comments and personal messages from friends.  Even more, I realized that I need to spend more time thinking about this issue for the sake of my own children, especially with the questions that Elijah has been having.  

The biggest action step I took was going back and listening the audio recordings of an event that we did in April 2008.  The Children’s Ministry of Grace Church hosted an event called “Shepherding Your Children Through Salvation and Baptism.”  I highly, highly recommend you downloading and listening to the podcasts.  The first audio is the teaching from Pastor Bill White, and the second is a follow-up question-and-answer session with three other pastors.  

You can find the audio recordings on one of this web page, under Children. (I'm trying to figure out how to add the audio straight to this blog; any help would be appreciated): http://www.gracechurchsc.org/connect/baptisms.

    While listening to these teachings, I made some notes on some key things that God was teaching me and reminding me of.  I hope this will be a prompt for you to go and listen to the audio for yourself:

    1. Teach the story of the Bible.  Virtually everything I teach my kids should tie back into one of these three concepts:  
      1. Creation.  We are created in God’s image, and are called to reflect Him.  
      2. Fall.  We are broken sinners in need of a Savior.   
      3. Redemption.  Christ has worked to take care of our sin issue, and the Spirit is still at work in the lives of those who follow Him.  
    2. I need to focus less on the act of conversion, and more and the process of following Jesus.  
    3. I cannot require perfection as a requirement for knowing they are ready to be baptized.  My kids are not going to be perfect, any more than I am.  
    4. How do I know if their hearts are regenerate?  One indication is whether I can see God dealing with them in their hearts, both formatively and correctively.  It can’t just always be me who disciplines them; if they are really following Jesus, God will be doing true heart change in them.  
    5. I must not compartmentalize faith.  Faith is about our entire lives.  We need to live it out and discuss it in all areas of our life.  Worship is not just what we do on Sundays, or during family devotion time.  True worship is all day, every day.  
    6. When they ask about baptism, salvation, etc, don’t be afraid to slow the process down, saying, “Let’s wait for now and keep talking about it more.  We will get there together.”  
    7. I need to challenge my kids in their faith, but I also need to let them own it.  There are times where I need to intentionally engage them, and times where I need to intentionally back off and give the Spirit room to work.  
    8. Remember that there is no magic formula.  I am going to mess up.  Continually.  I am a fallen sinner (see #1, and #3).  But God can and will redeem it all.  
    9. I need to share my story with my children.  They love and connect  with real stories from the present and past.  Tie everything back to the core issue of following Jesus
    10. Let them know from your own life that following Jesus (such as in baptism) is hard.  Discipleship is about giving up your life.  But also remember that God is good, and “He rewards those that earnestly seek Him [in faith]." (Hebrews 11:6)


    1. I would like to teach them how to OWN it more... I like how you put that.

    2. That's definitely been one of the hardest for me, to step back and trust God to work.

    3. I grew up a fundamentalist Baptist preacher’s son, very well educated in Baptist doctrine. I became an evangelical in my twenties: same doctrines just with a more positive emphasis. I am now a conservative (confessional) Lutheran.

      Why did I become a Lutheran if I was taught, and still believe, that salvation is received through faith alone, in Christ alone? How could I join a Church that believes that God saves and forgives sins in Baptism? Baptism is a work!

      I became a conservative Lutheran when I realized that the reason Baptists and evangelicals do not and cannot understand infant baptism and baptismal regeneration is that they do not understand how a sinner obtains FAITH!

      As I said above, I was a Baptist preacher’s son. When I was nine years old, I got into trouble, and my mother gave me a well-deserved spanking. After the spanking, she talked to me about sin and that I needed to be saved. She led me in a prayer to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, come into my heart, and be my Lord and Savior. I remember feeling so good after finishing that prayer. I was saved!

      I was then told that God would now speak to me or move me or lead me to do things to follow his will for my life. All the Christians around me were talking about God moving them, leading them, speaking to them…but I just didn’t have the same intensity of feelings that most of them seemed to have. So when I was about 15, hearing a good Baptist sermon, I asked myself this, “Maybe the reason God doesn’t speak to me like he does other Christians is probably because I am not really saved! I didn’t really believe the first time. Maybe I didn’t fully repent. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith.” So I prayed the equivalent of the Sinner’s Prayer again, with all sincerity and contrition for my sins. I felt that rush of good feelings again. I was happy. I now knew that I was definitely saved!

      But then in my early 20′s I attended a non-denominational evangelical church (with Baptist doctrine). The people in this church REALLY had God. They would sway with the hymns, hands toward heaven, their eyes rolling back in the heads. "Wow! God REALLY speaks to these people! So why doesn’t he speak to me like that? There must be something wrong with me, because I don’t FEEL saved anymore!"

      I left the Church altogether.

      I was not the only Baptist/evangelical to undergo several born again experiences because we didn’t FEEL saved. My mother, the pastor’s wife, several years later, the person who had “led me to Christ”, decided that she wasn’t really saved either, so she repeated her born again experience just to be sure. And several other people in my church repeated their born again experience for the same reason: they weren't sure that they had done it right. If you go on your computer and google “how many times have you prayed the Sinner's Prayer?” you will find other Baptists/evangelicals who have gone through the same experience.


      The problem with the Baptist/evangelical Doctrine of Faith is that it is based on US! Our salvation is based on us having the maturity and intelligence to make a free will decision to accept Christ into our hearts, So if later on in life we start to question our salvation due to not FEELING saved, what do we have to fall back on? Ourselves! Did I really repent? Did I really have true faith or was I trusting in my own faith? At nine years old did I really have the maturity to make a decision? MAYBE I DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT! So just to be on the safe side, I’ll sincerely repeat a version of the Sinner’s Prayer, and make 100% sure that, this time, I do everything right!

      So, in this plan of salvation, which is supposed to be a FREE gift from God, we turn it into something that depends on us…on us doing the born again experience correctly!

      To read the rest of my story, click here:


      God bless,
      Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals