Baptism 101 – For parents of infants and children
We are happy to do baptisms at any one of our Sunday services.
To schedule a baptism contact Karen Schmitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office at (319) 377-4856.
What does The United Methodist Church believe about baptism?
Baptism is one of the two sacraments recognized by The United Methodist Church (the other being Communion). In a sacrament, God uses common elements — in this case, water — as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a symbol of rebirth and repentance by one who has accepted Christ and has repented of their sins.
The Origin of Baptism
The most famous occurrence of baptism in the Bible is no doubt the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. John baptized people to allow them to show that they had repented. So if Jesus was perfect, why did he need to be baptized? Jesus was baptized to sanctify baptism and show how important it should be to us. The New Testament contains numerous examples of individuals and even entire families (Cornelius, Crispus, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, Stephanas) being baptized.
Baptism Through the Centuries
We don't have detailed records of baptism in those first few centuries, but we do know that it was being practiced. In His Great Commission, Christ says to go and baptize all people. (Matt. 28:18-20). As the church became organized, Christians made a practice of baptizing their infants. The Council of Carthage (254 AD) stated that "We ought not hinder any person from Baptism and the grace of God..... especially infants. . . those newly born." Origen wrote "Infants are to be baptized for the remission of sins. And Cyprien wrote that baptism should be performed as soon as a child is born. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement continued infant baptism and this practice continues today.
In The United Methodist Church, a person can be baptized either by sprinkling (most common and nearly 100% of all baptisms at Marion First United Methodist employ the practice of sprinkling), pouring, or immersion (least common). It also accepts baptisms of other Christian denominations; so if you join from another church you do not to baptized again (unless the Church you come from is the Mormon Church).
Isn't it better to wait until children can decide for themselves whether or not to be baptized?
No. We no more wait for our children to decide about being in the family of God than we wait for them to decide if they would like to be a part of our human family. As parents, we make many decisions — in matters of health, safety, education, for example — for our children. Of course, they may later reject what we have done for them. But, this possibility does not relieve us of the responsibility to do all that we can for them spiritually, as we do in other aspects of their lives.
What's the difference between infant baptism and believer's baptism?
In infant baptism, God claims the child with divine grace. Clearly the child can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God's grace, as we all are — whatever our age. In believer's baptism, the person being baptized is publicly professing her or his own decision to accept Christ. Believer's baptism is an ordinance, not a sacrament. United Methodists baptize people of all ages who have not previously received the sacrament. Even when the people being baptized are believing adults and are ready to profess their faith, our emphasis is upon the gracious action of God rather than upon the individual's decision.
Does baptism mean that I am saved?
No, salvation is a lifelong process during which we must continue to respond to God's grace. Baptism offers the promise that the Holy Spirit will always be working in our lives, but salvation requires our acceptance of that grace, trust in Christ, and ongoing growth in holiness as long as we live. The United Methodist Church offers Sunday School, Confirmation, Vacation Bible School weekday programs and camping ministries to assist parents in teaching children of God’s love and their need to respond.
Do I have to choose godparents when I have my child baptized?
Parents may choose a person or persons to serve as a godparent, however godparents are not required in The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Book of Discipline does use the term "godparent" along with the word "sponsor" and does so because in different regions and different churches one or the other of the terms is familiar and comfortable. Both derive from the ancient practice of the church of a mature, reliable Christian serving as a mentor and encourager of persons coming into the Christian life in baptism, whether adult or child. In all infant baptisms, the parents or other family member serve as the primary sponsor, and in many churches another Christian or two are named as "godparents"--sponsors and encouragers for the child. In the case of adults, the sponsor walks with the person on a journey of conversion, until the day they are baptized--perhaps weeks or months after having learned and experienced the way Christians live and think. When it is a child or infant, the sponsor/godparent and the parents walk with the child on a journey of conversion until they claim the way of Christ as his or her own at confirmation or some other profession of faith.
What happens at the baptism service?
The pastor will call the parents and sponsors or Godparents (if applicable) to the front of the church. The parents with child and sponsors/Godparents will stand beside the pastor facing the congregation. The pastor will give the examination of faith to the parents, sponsors/Godparents who will answer on the child’s behalf. After the examination, the pastor will take the child and baptize him/her and then present the child to the congregation and then return him/her to the parents. Parents will be given the Certificate of Baptism and other symbols by the pastor or acolyte and then can return to their seat.