7 Ways to Prepare for More Baptisms in Your Church

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. 

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Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
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comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
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