This post continues a series of posts 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. In the second part, I began to outline it.
This approach 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 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 ages five to nine (I send another letter for children ages 10 to 12 that encourages them to make a personal response to the love of God by deciding to follow Jesus and joining the church through confirmation). Any pastor can use or adapt this letter as appropriate.
On August 8, 2010 something very special happened: you were baptized! On your baptismal anniversary, I am writing to remember your baptism and talk about what it means. Baptism is a sign of how much God loves us. In baptism we become part of the Church, we are united to Jesus our Lord, and we are claimed by God. Baptism is God’s gift to us, giving us new birth through water and the Holy Spirit.
I hope you’ll always remember that God loves you so much—more than I can even say—and has a wonderful plan for your life. We at the Church are here to help you discover the special life that God made you to live.
May God bless you, Addalyn!
I like your idea and hope that I will be able to use it effectively. A double ended question though, how do you handle the problem of literacy?
The two parts are might such letters to children baptized during prior appointments be seen as interfering with the following pastor’s ministry?
Secondly, it seems that only a minor wording change can make this apply to baptized members who had been baptized before your appointment began.
Joe, thanks for your comment and question. I’m sorry for the slow reply! If I understand correctly, you are asking about the use of this model in an itinerant system. I will have to think more about this question because I have only used this system in my current ministry setting, which is my first appointment in this Conference. Also, I have only sent the letters to children baptized during my tenure at this church, though I suppose someone could try to extend the idea to others baptized by a previous pastor but not yet confirmed. I’d be interested in how that kind of extension of the concept might work. What I do not plan to do, however, is to continue sending letters to children at this church if and when I would be reappointed, so as not to interfere with another pastor’s ministry. In that case, I would probably tell the pastor following me that this is the approach I have taken and share a little about the rationale and the effects, though that pastor would of course be free to choose to continue this system or not (or to adjust it in some way). Thanks for the feedback.