Baptism is hard to explain to seven year olds.

This became painfully obvious when I tried explaining the idea to my group a few weeks ago. Out of the mouths of babes came…

“The water is really special.”
“Do you have to wear a bathing suit at church?”
“Do you have to know how to swim?”

And here I was thinking this would be a simple conversation.

As I backtracked to the first misconception that was blurted out so confidently, I realized the opening of our lesson was out the window for the morning—which made me slightly panicky. We were going off script here, and as I was explaining why we get baptized, I couldn’t help but hear how weird this all must have sounded to them.

Which led to it sounding weird to me. Like when you say a word you use every day and then all the sudden it sounds wrong. Lemon? Lemon. Lemon?

The self-doubt came quickly.

Can I adequately explain the theology behind baptism to a group of kids that just learned to write their names?
Can I simplify the words but maintain the meaning at its core?
Can I make this weird thing sound normal but also not belittle it?

See, Ethan, one of my few, was getting baptized that day. This was a big moment—a great opportunity to have a conversation about salvation with the whole group! In my mind there was a lot riding on this conversation… right?

This talk lasted for one entire minute—which is a very long time to keep everyone on a focused topic when they don’t have something to do with their hands—but to me it felt like it lasted an eternity.

A few hours later we were in a big room, a portable bathtub in the middle of it watching videos of each kid tell their story and why they want to get baptized.

As we sat there, Ethan’s little face popped up on the big screen and we listened as his sweet voice described how he wants to show everyone that he believes in Jesus.

I had tears.

Then, towards the very end, Ethan closed with this, “And I want to thank my mom, and dad, and my small group leader, Ms. Afton, for being at church every week so I could learn more about Jesus.”


In that moment, watching Ethan hold his nose and lean back into the water, I realized I could worry all day about the words I say, wondering if I expressed all the right ideas in group to help them understand God’s grace and love, afraid I might not get the phrases “right” so my few know God’s love for them. And I realized, what I had been feeling for a long time: that’s a lot of pressure, friends. Maybe a lot of unnecessary pressure.

Because maybe, for a kid, showing up is what really matters. Maybe it’s the showing up every week that sticks with a kid.

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said… but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When you show up, every week, in a kid’s life, you are proving to them that they matter. You are proving that you are someone they can trust. You are building for them a community. You are making them feel accepted, welcomed and like they belong—the same thing their Heavenly Father wants them to feel with Him. We get to be the ones who send that message just by being there.

Our words are important. But maybe showing up every week is the most important thing you can do for a kid.

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Afton Phillips

Afton is on the Orange staff as the Lead Small director, but more importantly leads a small group of 2nd graders every Sunday. She was on church staff for three years before that in the Elementary world, and graduated with a degree in Children's Ministry. If you want to be her best friend, all you have to do is buy her a black coffee and let her wear a tiara all day. She strongly believes tulle skirts are every day wear and her favorite place is any giant used book store.

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