Back in 2015 I attended a conference in Durham Diocese to discuss baptism practices and theology with colleagues from the Lutheran Church in Northern Germany. An idea which I took from our German friends was to encourage parents and godparents to choose a bible verse for their child’s baptism. We completely overhauled the way we do our baptism preparation (which is a session we run at church and the parents and godparents attend together) and one part was to introduce choosing a verse which is then read out in the service. We have a list of verses for them to choose from (although we would welcome someone asking for one not on the list):
The Lord bless you and keep you – Numbers 6:24
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. – Proverbs 3:5
Jesus said ‘You are the light of the world’ – Matthew 5:14
Jesus said ‘I am with you always’. – Matthew 28:20
Be kind to one another – Ephesians 4:32
Jesus said ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ – 1 John 3:23
Jesus said ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. – Luke 6:31
I can make it through anything with Jesus – Philippians 4:13
God says: ‘Do not be afraid for I am with you’. – Isaiah 43:5
When we introduced this to the baptism preparation session, I was encouraged to see that the families did not arbitrarily pick one and then move on. On the contrary, the groups often spend some time debating which verse to choose for their child and regularly asked for a bible so that they can look it up. We now use the verse as the basis for the bible reading in the service and then preach about that – people are also more ready to listen when I say that the family have chosen this verse especially. We make our own baptism certificates and now the chosen verse is printed on there as a reminder to the family.
So this was a simple change we made that has made a big difference to our baptism ministry.
I’ve been reflecting on why this has been such a popular addition to our baptism sessions. I think it taps into the current zeitgeist. It is very popular to have quotations on soft furnishings or on the wall of your home, as my friend Robb points out in an article commenting on these strange candle holders: http://changingworship.com/
It is also very popular to have a tattoo of a quotation. So when I explain to the families that they have a chance to personalise the baptism service by choosing a special verse that will be like a life-motto for their child, they instantly understand what it’s about. It’s a surprisingly easy way to engage people in bible study. Why not give it a try?