[Summer 2020] Baptizing children amidst COVID-19
FORT SMITH, Ark. - Every fifth Sunday of the month, Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith prepares for ‘Family Worship’ day. This is when preschool and children’s ministries attend worship with their parents to experience what corporate worship is all about. They observe the Lord’s Supper and watch their peers, who have recently accepted Christ, be baptized so they can see what following Christ’s example is like.
On March 29, they were supposed to baptize nine kids. Due to COVID-19, they abruptly had to cancel the baptisms for the time being and move to online forms of worship. This included moving their children’s programs to online/at-home formats.
Ally Freeman, Children’s Minister at Grand Avenue, said they immediately started filming kids’ worship. The ministry staff also prepared bags with the curriculum, activities, snacks, a God’s Plan For Me salvation guide and more, that could be picked up by parents each week to keep their kids engaged and learning. Freeman said that their church mission statement is, ‘We make disciples who worship, grow, and go.’ “We apply this to everyone, including our children. So, we’ve always been big on equipping our parents to train and lead their kids.”
Just before Easter, Freeman began to reach out to the nine families with children waiting to be baptized to see if anyone was interested in being baptized on Easter Sunday. Two were ready. They got them ready in different areas, then brought the families in one at a time and baptized each child. The baptisms were filmed so the church family could celebrate with them when they viewed the service that Sunday.
A few weeks later, Freeman reached out again to see if any more of the children were ready to be baptized. This time three were ready. Five of the original nine that were supposed to be baptized that fifth Sunday in March have now been able to follow Christ’s example. Since their online ministry has begun, four more children have accepted Christ and would like to be baptized bringing the total number back up to eight. One hundred families have participated for at least 16-weeks in their online kid’s worship and receiving materials.
Freeman said the packets and resources for parents have been encouraging but it’s truly their families’ faithfulness in leading and helping their kids grow that has had a real impact on their salvation.
Grand Avenue returned to in-person worship on May 17 with new service times added to ensure that everyone who wanted to attend could do so safely. All students and children’s programs are still online for now, and their VBS will also be virtual for two days. Freeman is hopeful they will be able to have a one-night family worship service as part of the VBS experience, where they’ll baptize the remaining children.