Baptism evening last night - we have one a month where we explain to families who are interested what baptism is about, how it works, and start sorting out dates with them. After 11 years I'm still tinkering with the formula. Here's what we currently do:
- if a family contacts the church, we encourage them to come on a Sunday morning to speak to one of the clergy. Families which want to bypass the church and just have the christening tend to get weeded out at this stage! However, with Sunday working, there are some parents who have to book time off work simply to come to church at all.
- after the Sunday morning meeting, we invite them to the baptism evening (see above). At present we use 'First Steps' from CPAS, a 10 minute vid/DVD which explains 'what baptism is really all about' (a phrase it uses about 10 times!!) It's ok, but as far as I can see it's the only video-based resource on the market. It's also rarely enough to get people talking and asking questions, so I've stared using The Christ We Share, a pack of pictures of Jesus from different cultures, and asking folk to pick the picture of Jesus they relate to most and talk about it. We also use the CofE glossy leaflets on baptism and godparents.
- follow up visit at home to talk through the baptism service, explain a bit more of the Christian faith, and explore where the parents are coming from.
- baptism itself (normally separate from our main service. Partly logistics - we can't get more than 90 into our church and it's full most weeks. Partly practical - with 40+ baptisms a year it's hard to give the church proper teaching and worship if you're constantly thinking about a big group of guests who don't really want to sit through most of what's happening!)
- welcome into the church family, at a main Sunday service following the baptism, including giving godparents cards, and a carved cross made by someone in the church.
- all this against a backdrop of a couple of midweek groups for parents and children, and a creche facility at each Sunday service.
1. Even within Anglicanism, there's a wide spectrum of views about baptism. Some churches won't do it unless they see real Christian commitment on the part of the parents. There are a whole cluster of theological and mission issues clustered here which I can't even begin to unpack in anything short of a book (or maybe I just don't want to).
2. How to engage with people. I'm frustrated at the lack of media resources available, and it's hard to steer a course between cramming people with theology and trying to connect with their own sense of God and where they are in terms of faith.
3. How to help people make progress - we regularly offer Alpha, and have just started using Emmaus for our confirmation course, which has picked up 2 parents who came into the church through baptism. A large number of others come monthly to our cafe service, but don't get much further into the pool than that.
I'd love to know what other people do, what works, what you struggle with, and any good resources that you've found.......
update: when it comes to the baptism itself, this is surely the best way. Ht 2churchmice