We were recently on a leadership team retreat, taking time to reflect on what God is doing at our church. I’m honored to serve at Liquid Church and I count it a privilege to play a small part in what it’s doing. One of the things we were celebrating from the last year is that we’ve baptized 1,000 people in our 7.5 years as a church. We count baptisms as the clearest evidence of life change in our church. It’s a significant milestone for people to get into the tub, tell their story and publicly declare what is happening in their lives.
During the leadership retreat, we were reminded by Tony Morgan that healthy churches should see 10% of their communities baptized per year. This is a great target to work towards as a church! Tony writes about this and some other Vital Signs in a report by the same title that is well worth a read.
Clearly, the reason we’ve seen so many people baptized is the movement of God in people’s lives. We can’t take credit for any of it. I do believe that churches can do a number of practical things to help people as they process the decision to be baptized. Our goal should be to remove as many barriers as possible, so people aren’t hindered by our processes or systems. Here are some practical keys to baptizing more people at your church:
- Preach on it // The most powerful communications tool at your disposal is the Sunday morning message. 4 to 6 weeks before your next baptism service preach on why people need to be baptized. Summon the motivation and inspiration for people to catch a vision for this. It’s a big deal in the life of your church and it’s a big deal in your people’s spiritual development. Don’t relegate it to a cheesy announcement. Call people to get out of their seats and into the pool!
- Show, don’t tell // Can we talk honestly for a minute here? Adult baptism by immersion is a bit weird and scary. People voluntarily allow other people to dunk them under the water. It’s strange. Our job as church communications folks is to make it as normal as possible. You need to show people what it’s going to look like. Make sure your promotional efforts show people actually getting baptized to demystify it as much as possible. This is one of those times when calling together great photographers from your church to help you will pay long-term dividends as you encourage people to get baptized.
- Simple response tools // Don’t make it hard for people to show that they are interested. Find the simplest way for them to indicate even a fleeting interest, so your team can talk with them. I’ve found that paper response cards are the best way to gather this sort of data. [Check out this article on how to make response cards that people actually use.] Think simple, small steps. Only ask them for the information that you actually need to start the process. Don’t ask them to “sign up to get baptized.” Instead, ask them to “let us know if you are interested in more information about getting baptized.” It’s a subtle difference but it allows people to ease into a decision, rather than forcing them to decide prematurely one way or the other.
- Make it easy to share // Next time you host a baptism, make sure you empower the people who are actually getting baptized to share the experience with their friends. Think through how many different ways you can make it easy for them to tell their friends and family about the experience. This sort of sharing prompts other people to get baptized in the future. Post photos of everyone getting baptized on Facebook … these photos are among some of our most shared and commented on. Video the service and make it available for people to watch. Give out paper invites to the people getting baptized … like party invites … and ask them to invite their friends and family.
- Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! // People are standing up in front of their community and declaring their allegiance to Jesus … it’s time to party! This experience should be the Mother-of-all-Church-is-Fun-Moments. The music needs to be high energy. Have a reception (with cake!) at the end of the service for the people getting baptized. In all the pre-game huddles that day, make sure you prep your teams to be high energy and excited for the candidates. The place should be filled with high-fives and hugs to reinforce the decision people are making. The Kingdom of God is a party and this is one of those times when we need to let loose!
- Engage the entire family // I was baptized at the same time as my two parents and brother. It was a full family experience. What an honor! Your entire church can work together to encourage parents as they work with their kids through this important spiritual milestone. Talk about it in your children’s ministry and give parents tools to talk about it with their kids. Help parents respond well when their kids ask questions. Few churches have modeled this as well at North Point Ministries has with their Family Birthday Celebration. It’s an intentional strategy to help families leverage this key moment in their lives!
- Prepare for spontaneous baptisms // People are going to come to your baptism service and in that moment decide they need to get baptized. Be ready for them. Have everything they are going to need to make that happen: change of clothes, flip-flops, hair products, towels, a place to get ready and so on. Then let people know during your service that you are ready for them. Prepare a team of people to be ready to talk with folks who might want to be baptized. Don’t ask them to wait … don’t make them take some class … be ready to respond to what is happening in the moment. Ask the band to play another song and wait if people are still getting changed. As people see that you are ready for them, they will respond. It is a faith building experience to watch someone follow through and be baptized during a service when they didn’t anticipate it. [Elevation Church has put together a fantastic resource to help churches prepare for spontaneous baptisms … click here to download it!]
I think there are people at your church who are ready to be baptized. Serve those people by making it easier for them to take this bold step of faith! It’s our job to remove to the barriers. Make the right thing to do … the easiest thing to do.