But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
–2 Timothy 3:14-15
The Baptismal rite from Lutheran Worship included the charge to parents and sponsors to place in the hands of those who have been baptized the Holy Scriptures. While the rite may have been altered in Lutheran Service Book, the charge to parents remains. A recent study of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregation membership trends revealed that we are losing more children after baptism than after confirmation. Parents bring their children to be baptized, but half of them are no longer connected to our congregations by the time of confirmation. We can debate the causes, but the real question is, “What are we going to do about it?”
Many congregations provide gifts at the time of baptism, such as candles, napkins, banners and the like. One congregation has a couple visit after the baptism with a “Jesus bag” for the family to bring for worship. Included with the bag are children’s board books from Concordia Publishing House. The couple would then talk with the parents about worship and reading to their children. Each baptismal birthday that follows would include a visit from the couple to bring another book for the parents to use in reading to their children. Then in kindergarten, the child would be invited to come and receive a children’s bible that would include an event to train parents how to use the Bible. Then in the worship service the parents would be invited to place in their child’s hands the Holy Scriptures. Finally, in second grade, a similar process would be followed as children would receive Bibles that they would use through confirmation (and hopefully beyond).
The size and resources of the congregation are not the issue. St. Paul rejoices that young Timothy had been taught the sacred writings by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. The challenges facing children and families are great. What is needed is not something hip and relevant, but the “Sword of the Spirit.” When parents place it in their children’s hands, they are giving them something that lasts forever (Is. 40:8).
The two most important things that parents can do for their children are bring them to the baptismal font and place God’s Word in their hands at every age. Our prayer for congregations is that a baptism would be a congregational event and not a family event. When a child is baptized, the entire community of saints has a responsibility to support and assist the parents in bringing the child up in the Lord. May God help our congregations to take seriously the importance of equipping parents who bring their children to the font and walking beside them in the days ahead so that they do not stray, but remain in God’s house and in His Word.
Prayer – Almighty and most merciful God and Father, we thank and praise You that You graciously preserve and enlarge your family through the new birth in Holy Baptism. We humbly implore You that You would keep those who are baptized in their baptismal grace, that according to Your good pleasure they may faithfully grow to lead a godly life to the praise and honor of Your holy name and finally, with all Your saints, obtain the promised inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan