Is it ever too late to be baptized?
Common questions about baptism
When a child is baptized
- What are the advantages of child baptism?
The birth of a child is a gift from God. Parents respond by having their child baptized. With baptism, the person to be baptized is accepted into the Christian community.
God speaks of his love and blessings to young children in baptism. Regardless of how they behave. Parents and godparents have the special task of witnessing their faith on behalf of their children. They tell them about their own Christian faith, but also about their doubts. With the confirmation, the young people later confirm their yes to faith in Jesus Christ.
- At what age should a child be baptized?
Most children are baptized in the first year of life. But a later baptism is also possible. Then your child can be more aware of what is happening.
- What documents do we need for our child's baptism?
First of all, please contact your pastor to make an appointment for the preliminary talk and the baptism yourself. Make sure you bring the child's birth certificate and identity cards with you to the baptismal talk. If you as parents have a family register, please bring it with you as well.
- Who can become a godparent?
Anyone who is a member of the Protestant Church, has been confirmed and is at least 14 years old can become a sponsor. Members of other Christian churches can usually do this too, provided that these churches have signed the Magdeburg Declaration on the mutual recognition of baptism. In addition to the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, this also includes many Orthodox, ancient Near Eastern and other Protestant churches. To be on the safe side, always discuss your sponsorship wishes with the pastor who is to baptize the child.
Anyone who has not been baptized, does not belong to a Christian church or has resigned cannot become a godfather.
- What documents do sponsors need?
As a rule, the sponsors need a sponsorship certificate. It documents that the person in whose name the certificate is issued is allowed to assume the sponsorship office. It is available from the parish office of the parish to which the godparent belongs. When your sponsored child is baptized, the sponsors usually receive a sponsorship certificate from the church.
- I am temporarily living abroad. Where can I get a sponsorship certificate?
If you are temporarily resident abroad, your church membership is suspended. You are then released from your duties such as paying church tax and are not entitled to vote. However, your rights remain. They are allowed to take on the sponsorship office, take on official church acts such as the wedding ceremony and use pastoral care offers.
The parish of which you were most recently a member in Germany will issue you the sponsorship certificate. You are also welcome to join a local Protestant community and become an active member of the community there. Here you will find an overview of the EKD congregations abroad.
- How many sponsors are needed? Is it possible without it?
Usually at least one godmother is required for a child to be baptized. Most parents choose two sponsors for their child. If you cannot name a suitable person, the pastor will help you with the search. Sometimes active parishioners also make themselves available as sponsors.
In some regional churches, a baptism is exceptionally possible without a sponsor. Then the parents promise to take care of the Christian upbringing of the child. With regard to the Christian upbringing and lifelong support, however, you should not simply do without the help of godparents.
- We want to get our child baptized. Can we get married in church at the same time?
Yes. Many pastors call such a service “eaves” for short: marriage and baptism in one. There are even special forms of worship for this. Talk to your pastor.
- Can my child go to confirmation class without being baptized?
Yes, your child is welcome to attend confirmation class. They are then baptized during class or at confirmation services. Confirmation confirms and affirms baptism. From a theological point of view, this confirmation is no longer necessary, since your child has already said yes to baptism himself. In practice, however, your child will often be confirmed together with all the other young people after the baptism.
- Does my child have to be confirmed or is baptism enough?
Baptism is sufficient for church membership. However, if you want to take on a sponsorship office, you usually have to be confirmed. In the confirmation group, young people can also learn to understand the Christian faith together with many friends.
- Can I baptize my child when both parents are absent from Church?
The responsible local church community decides whether a child can be baptized despite the lack of membership of both parents. Ask there. The corresponding regulations are different in the individual regional churches.
- Can I get my child baptized against the other parent's will?
If you, as the mother or father, have sole custody, you alone decide whether your child is baptized. If both parents have joint custody, all matters of major importance must be decided jointly. This is how it is regulated by law. This includes baptism. Whether and when your child is baptized can therefore only be decided jointly by both custodians.
If there is no agreement, parents can turn to an education and family counseling center alone or together. Often a clarification discussion with your pastor can also help. If the parents cannot come to an agreement at all, they can go to the family court in the event of a dispute.
- How should the person to be baptized be dressed during the baptism?
As comfortable and as festive as possible. Many families have special christening gowns that are passed down from generation to generation. It's a nice tradition.
- When does the sponsorship office end?
In the Protestant Church, the office formally ends with confirmation. In the Catholic Church, sponsorship does not end. If you leave the church, the sponsorship office is suspended.
- Can I rename sponsors?
The sponsorship office is bound to the execution of the baptism. Renaming is therefore not actually intended. However, the reality of life shows that such desires can arise. Sometimes the quality of the bond with the godparent changes. Or contact breaks off completely. Sometimes beliefs develop in different directions. Or a godfather dies.
Individual regional churches therefore make it possible to rename sponsors if there are important reasons. The pastoral aspect is always central in such situations. Talk to your pastor to find a good solution in the interests of the baptized. Other people can join your baptized child at a later date if they so choose. Not every case can and must be put on record. This accompaniment can be made visible, for example, through an act of blessing as part of a baptismal remembrance service.
- Can I give up a sponsorship?
In some regional churches, at your own request, you can give birth from the sponsorship office for justifiable reasons. If you leave the church, the office is suspended. This can also be noted in the baptismal register. The best thing to do is to clarify your concerns with the pastor.
- Can I release someone from the sponsorship office?
No, in contrast to giving birth from the sponsorship office at your own request, it is not possible to delete it against the will of the sponsor. In the event of a conflict, seek a conversation in order to solve problems together. You can ask your pastor for a clarification discussion.
- Can I send my child to a church kindergarten if they are not baptized?
Protestant kindergartens and day-care centers often take in unbaptized children. Just like children of parents from other religious communities. As parents, however, you must agree that your child learns about Christian beliefs. Inquire at the local evangelical institutions.
The baptism of adults
- It is never too late to be baptized. But it may take a while. Why?
One becomes a Christian through baptism. Jesus Christ instituted them himself. In the act of baptism, ordinary water becomes a divine blessing through God's promise.
But you don't become a Christian overnight. To become and to be is a calling to be discovered. Preferably together with other Christians in the church. This will need time. The path to baptism depends on your life situation. It can last several months, often a year.
It takes time to get into conversation with one another: about one's own history and personal life experience, about questions about the meaning of life, about God and the world, about community and church.
It takes time to get to know the church better, that is: Christians on site, the Evangelical community in your area, the community of all Christians in your regional church, in the Evangelical Church in Germany, in ecumenism.
It takes time to understand and accept what is part of faith. It takes time to make a decision: for the Christian faith and for the communion lived in the Church - and for baptism.
- Do young people or adults need special preparation if they want to be baptized?
Yes. Depending on the parish, there are preparatory baptismal seminars or discussions with the pastor. On the one hand, it is about the very personal examination of faith and the core pieces of the Christian faith tradition: The Lord's Prayer as the basic prayer of Christians, the creed and the Ten Commandments, insight into the Bible and the evangelical hymn book. On the other hand, of course, the design of the baptismal service and its course are discussed. For young people who have not been baptized, confirmation lessons usually lead to baptism.
- Do young people or adults also need godparents?
No. Adolescents and adults do not need sponsors when they are baptized because they are of age. Even so, it is helpful to have lifelong friends to accompany you in the world of faith.
- Do I have to be baptized again if I change denomination or rejoin?
No. The baptism is one-time and is not repeated when converting to another denomination or when re-entering. Most of the churches of the Working Group of Christian Churches (ACK) mutually recognize baptism. These churches have signed the Magdeburg Declaration on the Mutual Recognition of Baptism. In addition to the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, this also includes many Orthodox, ancient Near Eastern and other Protestant churches.
- Child baptism or adult baptism?
There is no right or wrong here. Baptism is possible at any age: both the baptism of infants and young children as well as the independent step of young people and adults who want to join the Church.
Regardless of how old a person is to be baptized: In baptism, his affiliation to Jesus Christ and God's devotion to him are always clear. There is therefore no theological contradiction between the baptism of people of religious age and the baptism of infants or children. Both are possible and are practiced in the Protestant Church.
Baptism - practical and fundamental questions
- What does baptism cost?
In principle, the baptism is free of charge. You will only incur costs if you want special flower arrangements or special musical interludes.
- Can I be baptized in another church?
If your child is to be baptized in a different congregation than the home congregation, you need a declaration of consent. You can get this dimissorial from your parish. There are always reasons for this: The personal attachment to the pastor there. There may be many family members living there who would like to attend the baptism. Or there is a family tradition.
At the same time, please contact the parish in which your child is to be baptized. You may have to pay for sextonry and church music or the maintenance of the church building in another parish.
- Who takes care of the decoration of the church?
Often the churches are decorated with flowers. If you would like additional jewelry, speak to the pastor in charge. In most cases this is possible.
- Can we take photos or film during the service?
This is handled differently in every church. The focus should always be on the worship service and not on photography. Where permitted, a person should take over the filming or photography to avoid unnecessary restlessness. If photography is not allowed during the service, it is usually possible to take pictures after the service. Often you are also more relaxed.
- Can we determine for ourselves what the collection is collected for in the baptismal service?
In many congregations it is possible to have a say in the purpose of collecting money in worship. For example, for work with children in the community or for organizations that help children. Ask your pastor.
- What is Emergency Baptism?
If an unbaptized person is very sick and in danger of dying, emergency baptism can be undertaken. Every Christian can do that.
- Is there an ecumenical baptism?
No. Since baptism also means acceptance into a specific community, it always takes place within a denomination.
- Is it Possible to Have a Blessing instead of a Baptism?
Yes, but the Blessing is not a substitute for baptism. Sometimes parents want their children to choose freely about baptism. The young child is then blessed in an act of worship. Even so, the blessing does not replace the sacrament of baptism or establish church membership.
- Why is Baptism a Sacrament?
There are two sacraments in the Protestant Church: Baptism and Last Supper. Jesus installed both of them himself. In a human act the divine dimension becomes visible. In the act of baptism, ordinary water becomes a divine blessing through the promise of God.
Do you have any further questions? Your question is not listed?
Write to [email protected] or call the info service, phone (free) 0800-50 40 602 (Monday to Friday, except on national holidays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Or contact your pastor. They are happy to give you answers.
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