By Matt Henslee
I can’t think of anything in a worship service I enjoy more than baptisms. I love to preach, and I love leading worship, but few things fill me with more joy than baptisms.
The picture we paint of someone being “buried with Christ and raised to walk in a new way of life” is enough to make my heart flutter and my eyes get misty.
Recently, I had a friend reach out with questions about the how-to of baptisms as he prepared to do his first, and as I answered, I couldn’t help but write a few practical tips for our readers, even if baptisms are second-nature to many of us.
1. Know What You’re Going to Say.
I’m sure we all know the main stuff; “It’s a joy to baptize you as my brother (or sister) in Christ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” or some variation thereof.
We then have them close their nose and begin to dunk them in the water with something like, “For we are buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in a new way of life.”
We get this, but take some time to think through what you’re going to say in addition to the standard stuff. Take time to brainstorm ways to make it memorable, highlight the importance and meaning of baptism, and think about how you’ll highlight their testimony.
A baptism, just like the Lord’s Supper, is an excellent opportunity to preach the gospel.
2. Know What They’re Going to Say.
This will vary from church to church. Some may record testimonies to play beforehand, some will have them share their testimony in the baptistery, and the list could go on and on.
At my church, I ask the person some simple questions in order to allow them to briefly give their testimony before the congregation. I prepare them for this beforehand, especially for those who are shy.
Even though the room will be (mostly, let’s be honest) filled with friendly faces, there’s still something scary for some to stand before a crowd and speak more than a few words.
Take the time to coach them appropriately and set them up for a meaningful and special moment before their family, friends, and loved ones. In a sense, you have the privilege to introduce them to a brand new family. What a blessing!
3. Enlist Some Help.
At our church, we have a committee because, well, the Great Commission also says, ‘Go ye therefore and make committees.’ This committee has men and women who help prepare people for the act of baptism.
The men that assist also help me remove my waders because I have to change quickly to return to the sanctuary to help lead worship. These men and women can be lifesavers in getting each person ready to enter to the baptistery.
We also have certain members tasked with videoing and photographing the baptism, so the family doesn’t have to, which brings us to point number four.
4. Invite the Family to Sit Where They Can See.
In our church, the pulpit can block the view of the baptisms for those who sit toward the front. Granted, not many people sit here (because we’re Baptists and not sitting up front seems to be a distinctive), but you know the various blind spots of your sanctuary.
Let the family know beforehand where they can sit to get the best view of their family member’s baptism.
If they include folks from out of town or guests in general, make a point to meet them and encourage some members of your church to sit with them or near them to help them feel welcome.
This is why we task another member to video and another to take pictures. We want this to be a memorable time for the whole family, and especially for those who may not regularly attend church. Don’t let an iPhone get in the way of them hearing you declare the gospel in the baptistery.
5. Introduce Your New Member.
This is one of my favorite things! Before they leave the baptistery, particularly for children, I’ll have their family stand, and our church usually applauds them. I’ll charge the family with the primary task of raising this new believer to love and follow Jesus.
Then I’ll ask any Sunday School or Vacation Bible School teachers or volunteers—basically, anyone who’s had any part to play in their salvation, to stand. Once the applause dies down, I’ll thank them for the way they helped lead this person to the Lord.
Finally, I’ll invite the church to stand in acceptance of this new member and charge all with the task to help the family disciple and help this new believer in their walk with Christ.
6. Welcome Your New Member.
This, too, may vary from church to church, but what we do is simple. At the end of the service, I invite those who were baptized to join me down front.
7. Equip Your New Member.
While a baptism is important, it only celebrates a new beginning. Now the real work begins.
Don’t (literally) leave them out to dry. The Great Commission also calls us to “teach them to observe all things [Christ] commanded.” That’s a job that’ll never receive a pink slip.
Each day, each week, each month, each year, and each decade is an opportunity for you to continue to disciple them to become disciple-makers themselves and grow in their faith.
The picture on this article is of a recent baptism we had at Mayhill Baptist Church. The man on the right is Moses. He had a major brain aneurysm and is unable to walk unassisted. Dan, pictured behind us, was my hero!
He carefully helped Moses in and out the baptistery, and helped ensure I got Moses out of the water. Moses’ entire family recently trusted Christ and was baptized a few weeks ago.
MATT HENSLEE (@mhenslee) is managing editor of Lifeway Pastors and coauthor of the book Replanting Rural Churches. He is the husband of Rebecca, father of four princesses, and pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico.