Baptism – a preschooler’s question

Little Asian girl child thinking over white background

Several times in my life I have been blessed to teach a Sunday School class for preschoolers. The ages vary, but usually this involves kids who are potty trained and not yet enrolled in kindergarten. They are a delightful group and are able to learn so much.

(I enjoyed the class so much, that someone asked me if I would be interested in teaching a class at our church’s pre-school. I replied that I would love to do that…for about 7 minutes. After that I would be looking for an escape route. One of the wonderful things about Sunday School is that it is only one day a week and for only an hour or so!)

If possible, I included in my class time a walk. We would enjoy a stroll around the parking lot, trying to find if God had made two leaves exactly alike. Often our walks would include a tour of the church lobby. (I always found it interesting the number of adults who never seemed to make it into a class.) As we passed through the lobby, we went into the restroom for that all important stop on our walk.

If we could, I would take my little into the room we use for worship and we would talk about things in the room. Our church has a kneeling bench and my class and I would kneel down say a simple prayer. This was also a lesson in understanding that the kneeling rail is NOT a playground; using it as a balance beam or a pommel horse was not acceptable!

For preschoolers, this learning about the furnishings of the church was all new stuff.

For instance, at Christmas we studied each of the figures of the nativity set. Other days, we stood behind the lectern that the pastor used as a desk. Sometimes, we would stand on the platform and look out at the chairs. Other times, we sat in the chairs and looked at the platform from the chairs. Every once in a while, we would peek into the sound booth.

One Sunday, the service schedule included several baptisms. Our church uses a portable baptistery that is a temporary addition to the platform; I knew that this would fascinate my preschoolers. Before leaving for our walk (and bathroom stop), I talked with the kids about baptism. I shared the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. As we walked through the lobby, we asked those we met if they had been baptized and where were the baptized – in a church, or a swimming pool, or at the beach, or somewhere else.

Finally, it was time to walk up to baptistery to check it out. The temporary structure looks a little like a nice, above ground pool with a drape around the structure and no wooden deck. The kids and I walked up to it and I shared again about baptism. Eventually, we put our hands into the water, noting that it was warm. It was then, that one of my students raised her hand. I was pretty pleased with her action – raising your hand before speaking is a critical lesson with preschoolers. I called on her and she asked the most interesting question about baptism.

“Will they be naked?”

Her question stopped me in my tracks. I cannot describe (OK, I won’t describe) the visual image that my mind created. I looked at her and then I looked at the other students. They all had serious looks. Clearly this question had been on the mind of more than just the brave little girl. I then went on to explain that this was not a bathtub, but a special thing called a baptistery (might as well use the right word) and that people would probably be wearing shorts and t-shirts.  No one would be naked.

Don’t you just love preschoolers?

But, it is important that we share with those we love  why we do certain things. Yesterday’s Veterans Day holiday is a perfect example. Have you talked about what Veterans Day means to you? To those in your family? Or, those in your community?

What other traditions should you be discussing? Why does your family have black eyed peas on New Year’s and my family have pork and sauerkraut? Why do you go to the communion service on Christmas Eve? Why do we have pumpkin pie and turkey and corn on Thanksgiving? Why do we (in the south) stop when a funeral procession is coming down the road toward us? Why do I still have a tough time putting on nice slacks for Sunday morning? Why do we hold hands when we say grace?

Don’t forget as you gather together to teach the important things and to share why we are together.

Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 The Message)

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2 thoughts on “Baptism – a preschooler’s question

  1. Maryln Tetzlaff

    I wish that children, as much as they can understand, was taught that you go to heaven, not because you are always “GOOD” but by Jesus dying for your sins and that God chooses you if you believe and love Him. We are not always good no matter what. No one is.

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