Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? That poor, fair-haired maiden must have had a tough life.
She arrives – uninvited – to a stranger’s house and proceeds to enter without permission. Finding a savory spread of food from which to satisfy her cravings and posh accommodations in which to rest, she fulfills her role as self-appointed vacation maven to the world by finding something wrong with 2 out of every 3 things she tries.
Hers was not the kind of personality that encourages contentment in the circumstances within which you find yourself (or in her case, in which she inserted herself).
And I suppose that people who actually had to live with Goldilocks on a day-to-day basis quickly grew tired of hearing the Goldilocks Standard Response: “Not too little and not too much.”
When it comes to personality traits, using the the Goldilocks Standard Response is probably not the best way to keep friends.
However, when it comes to answering the question, “How much time should I devote to baptism preparation?” the Goldilocks Standard Response is just right: Not too little and not too much.
Striking the Proper Balance
Or – let me state that in a slightly more useful form: Preparing a child for baptism should create the greatest possible appreciation for and understanding of God’s gift of salvation. Once the preparation reaches this point it should stop.
If baptism preparation continues beyond this point, you run the risk of layering fluff over the straightforward simplicity of salvation. This in turn may hide the magnificence and depth of God’s unending love.
On the other hand if baptism preparation does not reach this point, baptism may be little more to a child than a religious ritual devoid of any significant meaning.
In either case – spending too little time or too much time – the true significance of believer’s baptism may be lost.
So let’s bring this discussion down to specifics. How much time, in terms of separate class sessions, should be devoted to children’s baptism preparation?
Getting Down to Specifics
I don’t believe there is a precise answer to this question. However, here are some guidelines that I think make sense:
A single class session will usually be inadequate. If a child is exposed to teaching on a topic only one time, she or he usually does not absorb much of the information. Information is much better absorbed when it’s presented more than once to a child
So I think two class sessions should be considered the absolute minimum. However, I still think this is not an ideal situation. The spiritual meaning of the baptism ceremony is pretty deep and includes several distinct ideas. Two sessions means that many children, especially less mature ones, will find it hard to absorb some of the more subtle aspects of baptism.
Three or four sessions strike me as a good number. This number of sessions provides time for the material in each lesson to sink in. This number also provides more time and thereby a better opportunity for you to assess the readiness of each child for baptism.
What If I Have Strict Limits?
Of course for most church ministries, time is at a premium. Usually teachers, students, and student’s families have many activities they juggle each week. So for your situation, setting aside 3 or 4 class sessions may just not be practical.
If that’s the case with you, don’t sweat it. As humans we all have to work within the limits of our circumstances. If you can only spend 1 or 2 class sessions for baptism preparation, then pour your best effort into making those sessions as effective as you can. Cut out less essential material in favor of the most essential parts of baptism and only present those parts.
I’ve written my baptism preparation program, Joey’s Baptism, to use 4 sessions. If you are interested in using Joey’s Baptism, but your circumstances prevent you from using 3 or 4 class sessions for baptism preparation, the next article will help you. It contains suggested ways to modify Joey’s Baptism to use only one or two sessions.
So do your best to spend an amount of time for baptism preparation that’s not too little and not too much. On the other hand, don’t stress it if your circumstances allow you less time for baptism preparation than you think you need.
As I once heard someone say (or maybe I read it), prepare a lesson as if everything depended on you. Then deliver it as if everything depended on God.
The bottom line is to trust Him for the results. Simply stated – prepare, pray, and trust.
Coming Up: In our next mini newsletter article we will cover
The Reality of Limited Time – A Shortened Version of Joey’s Baptism.