Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Planning a Meaningful Baptism (Help!)

Posted by BrianJ on January 6, 2009

Okay, so this isn’t really a “Feast” type of post, but I need your (yes you!) help so I’m posting here anyway. And who knows whether some great scripture discussion will come out of this…?

My daughter will be baptized in about two months. We just learned that we are in charge of the program for the baptism—prayers, talks, etc. Even the time and date is up to us. (Yes, I found that very surprising.) I have two questions and would appreciate any advice, suggestions, brainstorming, whatever you have to offer.

1) What the audience should do while waiting for my daughter and I to change clothes? I don’t mean to be critical of others, but this is the time I find very uncomfortable during the baptism meetings I have attended. How is this void usually filled? Somone pops in a video (which gets abruptly interrupted when the newly baptized returns from the dressing room), or we all sing hymn after hymn. Whatever it is, it comes across feeling like “filler.” I went to a friend’s baptism where the children came to front and sang Primary hymns and that was pretty nice, but eventually the kids started to lose enthusiasm—and besides, I don’t think there will be more than just a few kids at my daughter’s baptism anyway. I want the entire meeting to be meaningful both to my daughter and to any friends in attendance. So, what suggestions do you have for how to “fill” this time without simply “filling this time”?

2) How do you invite non-religious friends? We have some friends we plan to invite who are religious (to varying degrees) and we don’t see any difficulty inviting them; i.e., even though they are not LDS, when we say, “our daughter’s baptism,” they’ll know more or less what we’re talking about. But what about our friends who are not religious in the least? (I realize that my question might come across as naive, insecure, or whatever—I don’t care; I’ll ask a silly question if it helps me out.) What suggestions do you have for inviting atheist friends to a religious celebration?

12 Responses to “Planning a Meaningful Baptism (Help!)”

  1. Amira said

    My second son was just baptized after Christmas. We were completely in charge of his baptism, which was new for us since we just had to show up for my first son’s baptism. Anyway, what we did during that waiting time was pass paper and pens around for people to write a message to our son- something like a memory or advice or bearing a testimony or drawing a picture or whatever. We cut the paper so it could easily go in picture holders and put them in his baptism book. It worked perfectly for us and my son was so happy and surprised to get the notes.

  2. NathanG said

    Brian
    How ironic, we’re planning a baptism for just about the same time:)

    I like Amira’s idea about the filler time. I guess I’ve viewed it as a spectrum. Having nothing is the worst. I have played interlude music and cringed at the overall irreverence as people visit, sometime quite loudly, but still a little better than nothing. Singing songs or musical numbers is a little more unified and interactive (depends on the overall group, as some people are more into singing random songs). Videos can fit somewhere in here. I’ve seen some that are worse, but some that have been quite good. The missionaries (sisters of course) came up with a nice lesson/1st discussion that was very good. I’ve seen testimonies borne during this time, the only downside, is the baptismal candidate is changing.

    Don’t know much to say about the second question, except just try it. I imagine most people know what a baptism is, and if not, it can be a good chance to explain.

    My unsolicited opinion deals with talks. I hate going to baptismal services where the speaker speaks much longer than the ordinance lasts. A couple talks at baptisms I have been to in the last year have lasted from 10-15 minutes. Way too much. Distracts from the ordinance. While I’m on distractions, simple refreshments are one thing, but full meals I think is going overboard.

    Look forward to hearing how the baptism goes.

  3. jks said

    Two of my kids have been baptized. I agree to keep the talks pretty short and to the point. I consider it should be geared toward the child being baptized, any children who have been baptized, and any children who will be baptized soon.
    I wouldn’t do testimonies. I would want to control who is speaking and about what!
    The book sounds good.
    We did a movie for one. It was no big deal to stop it.
    I forget what they did for my daughter (I was helping her change).
    I would suggest inviting non-members with a quick itinerary for them so they know what to expect. If you invite via email or card you could write it out, if you do it over the phone you might only get to speak to one member of the family and the rest will be mystified.
    A quick explanation that it is a special day where the child officially joins the church and makes a promise to try to follow God. The meeting will be like this: Singing a song, a prayer, a short talk (speech) by mom about baptism, the actual baptism which is in a small pool called a font, then wait for them to change clothes, then a talk by someone else, then a special type of prayer where Dad and some other priesthood holders put their hands on her head and give her a blessing which is called “THe gift of the Holy Ghost” then a song, then a prayer, then the meeting is over and we will…..

  4. shelley said

    My only advice is to make this about AE and no one else (reflecting about the baptisms we had on my mission, I think we focused a too much on making them a “missionary opportunity” and not enough on celebrating the person’s baptism, if that makes sense). That’s one reason I really like Amira’s suggestion for the interlude. And involve AE in as much of the planning process as you can.

    Oh, and make her aunt bring treats–I hear she makes some killer ginger molasses cookies.

  5. shelley said

    that is, “focused too much” (it originally said a bit too much, but, no, it was way too much!)

  6. shelley said

    I just re-read my post and realized it isn’t particularly concrete. So here’s a specific example of what I mean by making it about AE: Instead of the usual this-is-what-baptism-is talk (which is usually geared for the non-LDS folks in the audience), focus more on what you want AE to remember. You can always put a simple explanation of the ordinance and its significance in the program for those who don’t know about it (my friend did this for her Jewish wedding, and it worked really well).

    As far as inviting your athiest friends, I think we (Mormons) worry about that a lot more than we need to. Maybe because we put such an emphasis on missionary service, we feel like our friends will think it’s a ruse to sneak them into the church or something? But I know you, and I know the reason you want them to come is that this is a special day for your family and you want them to be a part of it. Nothing more, nothing less. As long as they feel that from you, I don’t think the fact that it’s a religious service would be a problem. Am I too naive?

  7. Jeremy said

    It has been my experience that a short video during the changing-process can be effective if planned correctly. It takes approximately 10-15 mins for the baptismal participants to change. Look for a video, or a specific segment of a video that covers this time. Have it ready to go right when the font doors close; give a short explanation (if needed); and press play.

    The Seminary videos are perfect for this, and bring a great message. If the video goes over in time, there is no reason to stop it the moment the baptismal participants return; the service should be uplifting and spiritual for all, not just the person being baptized.

    I have found testimonies to be more detrimental than spiritual in some cases. Members of the family often feel forced or obligated to bear testimony. With the right planning, however, there can be no stronger Spirit felt than when heartfelt testimonies of Christ and the restoration are shared. You may ask a few people in advance to do this.

  8. Hunter said

    We attended a baptism last week that worked nicely, I thought. (I dislike having to sit through forced hymn singing, or having to sit there quietly while the pianist plays a bunch of background music while we tear our hair out trying to quiet down the kids.) What they did in this Stake was so simple and worked perfectly: After the baptism in the font area, we gradually migrated back to the chapel and quietly visited. That’s it. Nothing else. There was no “forced spirituality” during the waiting time (i.e., videos, music). Just quiet visiting amongst family and friends. Those that had to go out to the foyer with a loud kid, or for a bathroom break were perfectly free to do it.

    Then after this nice moment, in came the newly baptised, and he was confirmed a member of the Church. PERFECT.

    So, that’s my suggestion: Do nothing (except migrate back to the chapel). Everything else I’ve witnessed has not been as successful.

    And what a privilege to have some say on planning the service! You should count yourself lucky.

  9. Dawn said

    I went to a baptism where we sang hymns – but instead of just singing hymn after hymn they had people stand up and say why a certain hymn was special to them and then we sang it. It was really nice.

  10. Fraser said

    I think if the atheist friends are significant enough that you want to invite them, then their reason for coming will be to support you and your daughter, and they aren’t going to be upset at being invited. I think the suggestion of an ‘itinery’ is good – particularly to note that there isn’t anything that they’re required to actively participate in.

    I’d also suggest not going with the standard talks on Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost. Your daughter should know all about these by then. They can be good topics when the baptism is also a large missionary opportunity. Instead, I’d suggest topics to do with her future, like Enduring to the End, Temple Work, Families, The Atonement.

    Oh, and definately agree with having her involved in the organizing – and maybe the invites too.

  11. BrianJ said

    Thank you everyone for commenting! I’ve sort of been holding off responding not wanting to “influence the vote,” so to speak. I’m not sure which of these suggestions we’ll incorporate except for one that should have been obvious: include my daughter in the planning.

    Thanks again and please keep posting any thoughts you have—the baptism isn’t for another 8 weeks!

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