This is part two in a series on developing a systematic approach to following up with children and their families after infant baptism. In the first part, I talked about the need for such an approach. Here I will begin to outline it.
The approach I am using was devised by my grandfather, Rev. Bruce Knisley, a retired United Methodist pastor who refined it over his 43 years in full-time pastoral ministry and who later told me that he wished he had used an approach like this from day one. I have made some slight adaptations but have kept the essence of his strategy intact. While there is obviously no perfect method, this system serves important instructional purposes.
It presents regular reminders to both parents and the child of the meaning of baptism and celebrates the fact that the child has been baptized and is loved by God. It also contributes to the spiritual formation of the child as he or she grows year by year and moves closer to confirmation.
Every year until the child participates in confirmation, in the days leading up to the child’s baptismal anniversary I send a letter marking the occasion. I also include an age-appropriate gift, like a children’s book, a DVD, or music about the faith. I address the letter to the parents for those children under five, and to the children themselves for ages five to 12. I have found that this is a good way to keep before the family and the child the meaning of baptism and to remind the parents of the promise they made to God during the baptism to do all they can to raise their child in the faith.
Below is an example of the letter that I send for children under five. Any pastor can use or adapt this letter as appropriate.
Dear Kyle and Samantha,
One year ago, Addison was baptized. What a special day it was. On her baptismal anniversary, I am writing to recall her baptism and what it means. In baptism we become part of the Church, we are united to Christ, and we are claimed by God. Baptism is God’s gift to us, giving us new birth through water and the Holy Spirit.
Baptism also involves an important spiritual obligation that both the home and the Church take upon themselves at that time. This obligation is ongoing. The home is to be a place where the love of God is shown in your life together as a family. The Church has made a commitment to help you raise Addison to place her faith in Jesus Christ. We take that commitment very seriously; making disciples of Christ is our primary purpose. The time will come for Addison to respond personally to the love of God known through her home and Church by deciding to follow Jesus, and she will be able to learn to do so, and then to make a public profession of faith in Christ, by participating in the Church’s Confirmation Class (usually at or around the age of 12).
I hope that you’ll remember with gratitude the day when Addison was baptized. I also hope that you will continue to teach her about God’s love. We at the Church want her to know the love of God, to place her faith in Jesus Christ, and to find and claim her place in the Church. We want Addison to experience the very best that God has planned for her!
God promises to take care of us always and to give us a future with hope. I want to encourage you in your parental role to remember and live out the commitment that you made on the day Addison was baptized. We at the Church are here for you and look forward to doing all we can to help you raise her in the faith.
May God bless you, Addison, and your whole family.
Sincerely, in Christ,