- Speak to the child(ren) who is/are getting baptized. This probably seems like a very basic concept. But, the reason I am putting it in here is because when I was about 22, a friend’s child asked me to speak at her baptism. Now, amazingly enough, I had not attended a baptism since I was a child myself. We lived in Florida at the time and I knew that non-members would most likely be present, so I prepared a written talk with quotes and supporting scriptures like I would give in Sacrament Meeting and concentrated on the basics. It wasn’t until after the other talk at the baptism that I realized I should’ve been preparing and focusing on the girl getting baptized, not the general audience attending. It turned out okay, but it would've been so much better (and more memorable for the child) if I had prepared something more interactive.
- Actively engage the child(ren). Remember, this is not a normal church meeting. You are speaking directly to the child(ren) being baptized and everyone else is just there to observe and support them. Ask them questions and get them involved in what you are talking about. Use props or object lessons. I have seen and heard many wonderful interactive talks at baptisms where the speakers used objects such as: footprints, a comforter, a compass, a candle, a heart.... even things like frogs and spinach! Be creative and make it something memorable!
- Keep in mind that children who are getting baptized at the age of eight are free of sin. It is very common for primary children to be taught that our sins are washed away when we are baptized. (A perfect example of this is the primary song, When I Am Baptized, which states, "I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away") This is a VERY prevalent misconception! While it is true that those who are baptized beyond the age of eight experience a remission of their sins, this is not the case for children who have just reached the age of accountability. Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the Seventy states, "They (children) cannot sin until they reach the age of accountability, which the Lord has declared to be eight years. In fact, the power to even tempt them to commit sin has been taken from Satan." (Ensign, May 1994. "The Special Status of Children")
- Be very careful about likening baptism unto death and resurrection. I once attended a baptism where the speaker talked about how being baptized and immersed in the water is like death, being buried in the ground, and then being resurrected. I watched the children’s eyes go wide with alarm at the thought of baptism being like dying. Being submerged under the water is scary enough for some children without the added fear of it being like dying. It is a much deeper concept than most eight-year olds are able to grasp, and will most likely frighten them.
- Keep it short and simple. Children have a short attention span. Five minutes should be ample time to share your thoughts.
Note: Do you have any thoughts or suggestions that might help others? Please email me!