sIXTH GRADE: FAITH BASICS & bAPTISM
Why this is important:
One of the most important things about Christianity is knowing who Christ is and the basics about how He lived. Most of the time we assume that kids will absorb the basics if we just get them to church. This is so false. Oftentimes, even teens who grew up in Christian families must be taught the basics about Jesus and the Christian faith once they get to youth group age.
What to do:
Define, discuss, and study. Help your 6th grader learn basic faith elements: faith, grace, baptism, salvation, God’s love, sin, forgiveness, church, repentance, discipleship, worship, and service. Make sure your child is connecting with a faith community. Prioritize a weekly small group. Continue to chose not to to surprised by tricky or challenging questions they may ask.
Read these together:
1. Gospel of Mark: The most important part of being a Christian is following Christ. You cannot follow Christ unless you know who He is. You cannot think about what Jesus would do in your tough situations unless you have really studied what Jesus did in His tough situations. Discover who Jesus is together. Allow your children to ask questions. Allow yourself to ask questions even if you don’t know the answers.
2. Sermon on Mount (Matthew 5–7): This is one of the most challenging sections of Scripture. Let it challenge you and your child together. Take your time and really examine it. Was Jesus serious when He said these things? How does your life need to change if He was serious?
Verses to get you started on different topics:
Faith- Hebrews 11:1; John 20:24-29; Matthew 17:20; 1 Peter 1:7
Baptism- Acts 2; Romans 6; Acts 8:26-36
Gospel- Literally means good news. What good news is it referencing? Romans 1:16-17
God’s Love- John 3:16; 1 John 3
Sin- Romans 6:23; 1 John 3:4; 1 John 3:9
Forgiveness- Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; Luke 3:3; Ephesians 1:7
Repentance- Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19
Discipleship- John 15:10-16
Worship- John 4:21; Revelation 4- A very clear picture of worship in the New Testament
How to get started: The best thing to do is set a weekly time to discuss faith. Communicate that time to your family and put it on the calendar. This can be a really special time. Make this an enjoyable time by combining it with something your child likes to do. Read your section for the week then go get some ice cream or a smoothie and talk. Let your 6th grader choose the activity or place. It is amazing how much more relaxed and enjoyable this time can become if it doesn’t feel like school or forced in any way.
This is an exciting time for the faith development of your child. Your child’s ability to understand abstract concepts like faith and grace should be quite strong at this point, which should open up more stimulating conversations and critical thinking about what you read together. Don't be caught off guard by tricky or hard questions your child may ask. Don't forget to share stories of your faith.
Start with the topics. Cover one topic a week. When you finish with those, read the book of Mark next. Talk about the Sermon on the Mount last. It is the most intense and requires the most explanation.
Baptism: It's important to know that when you talk about baptism with your child, it may take time for your child to decide and desire to be baptized. That is okay! We don't need to overcomplicate the gospel, and we also don't want to have expectations for our children to desire to be baptized after studying baptism right away. We do not want our children to be scared and want to get baptized out of fear. Baptism cannot be reduced to a momentary personal transaction regarding sin and the fate of the soul in the afterlife. It's not about just saying Jesus is Lord! or I am a sinner! It is so much more than all of that. It is more about living as a saved person vs. getting saved. We are baptized to show God we love him and want to follow him. To have our sins washed away, and become a part of His church. This isn't just one big event. It's something your child will choose to live out each day. At it's core baptism is not just about being saved or simply expressing love for Jesus as it is about finding our identity and life's mission in Jesus. It is a mature decision, a promise, to live for others as you journey with Jesus your whole life. Once a child decides to be baptized, it is our obligation to be intentional about helping that child continue to move to deeper levels of commitment. Help them to live out their baptism everyday. We may worry that a child does not completely understand all that baptism is and isn't. We want to help our children understand what a commitment it is to be a christian by talking with them about everything baptism is and isn't but it is very hard for adults to even understand everything about what it means to live a saved life. It may take our entire lives to keep understanding more and more. But, I believe it is our job as parents, to not judge whether our children really "understand" what it means, or if they are old enough, or have sinned enough, or any of those things. If a child desires to be baptized and you have talked about why they desire and they can communicate their mature desires, then I believe, it is our job to support them. Who are we to say they aren't old enough, or mature enough, or have enough experience. It is our job to stand by them, listen to their spiritual desire, validate their feelings and decisions, and then commit to help them understand everyday for the rest of their lives what it means to be saved and live a saved life. 15
Encourage your child to think about how they would like to experience their baptism. They may choose to be baptized in the baptistry on a Sunday morning, with the church body as witnesses. They may choose to be baptized in the beachy waters with close friends or family nearby, or in the waters with them. Who would your child like to baptize them? Is there someone who is a close spiritual mentor? A parent? Witnesses may want to gather around and pray, bless, or sing with your child. Encourage your child to think of how they would like it. Perhaps your child would like to make a scrapbook afterwards to remember the feelings, reasons, and details of their baptism. You may encourage your child to write down their feelings on that day of their baptism. Parents, grandparents, family, and mentors, may also write a letter or card to the child that can be included in the scrapbook.
Sometimes reading level can be a challenge for 6th graders. The New Living Translation may be a good option for early adolescents to read. It uses simple language and gets straight to the point.
You might feel that you don’t know enough about these books or subjects. Two helpful books to consider are Mark for Everyone or Matthew for Everyone, both by N.T. Wright. Both of these are pretty easy to read and provide some accurate and useful information for you to study before reading with your 6th grader.
make the most:
Make the most of the time you already spend together by creating some routines in your daily life. Build your child up each morning with encouraging words. Make the most of the time you spend in the car. Consider making the car a screen free zone. As you drive around town, talk to your child, listen. If you are having trouble getting your child to open up about their day, share with them some of the details of your day! Don't be shocked by any tricky questions your kids may come up with. Make family meal times sacred time. The conversations you have at bedtime are an incredible opportunity to connect to your child's heart. Remember your child is never too old to have prayer and blessing time together.
Along the Way: Conversations about Children and Faith, by Ron Bruner and Dana Pemberton