Baptism is the outward sign of an inward change in a person who has placed their trust in Jesus. We don't save people—Jesus does that. We just have the privilege of helping them make their big outward profession of faith in the form of baptism.
Although I don't believe we should manipulate people or manufacture results for the sake of numbers, I do believe it's significant that the Bible records how many people trusted in Jesus and were baptized on the day of Pentecost. The Bible says in Acts 2:41, "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added to them."
We ought to do all that we can to share the gospel well, to make it very clear what the new believer's next steps are and to celebrate the results of more people on their way to heaven. At Saddleback, we've baptized more than 47,000 people in the last 36 years, and I'd like to believe we're just getting started.
Here's a list of some simple things we do to set the stage for more baptisms at Saddleback that almost any church can do.
1. Mention the value, purpose and benefits of baptism regularly in sermons.
2. Videotape some of your baptisms. Prepare a music video of baptisms to show in your worship service so people who've never seen a baptism can witness one.
3. Have clothes ready for people who decide spontaneously to be baptized after a service.
4. Make it a party atmosphere. It's a celebration, not a funeral. Applaud baptisms!
5. Invite small group members to witness the baptism and identify them before each baptism.
6. Prepare a beautiful baptism folder to hold their certificate.
7. Have a required membership class that explains the meaning of baptism in detail.
8. Always baptize on special days when relatives may be in town: Christmas, Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, etc.
9. Always baptize on special days of the church (We baptized more than 400 on the day we opened our worship center).
10. Allow entire families (after confirming that all are believers) to enter the pool together.
11. Hug each person after they have been baptized.
12. Interview all candidates at the water's edge to hear their stories of how Jesus changed them.
13. Build a team of volunteers who assist with all baptisms. Have matching shirts to identify the baptism team and the pastors leading the service.
14. Have a photographer there to capture the moment, and include a picture of each person's baptism along with their certificate of baptism.
15. Print a "Why Be Baptized?" brochure. Use Scripture and lots of testimonies.
16. Put the brochure information, baptism pictures and even videos of baptisms on your website so people can forward them to others.
17. Have pre-printed invitations for the baptism candidates to use in inviting lost friends and relatives to a service and to witness their baptism.
18. Make the baptism pool and surrounding area beautiful, inviting and non-threatening. (Many baptisms are perched up so high inside the church that it feels distant and disconnected. Our baptism pool is outside in our patio area so people can gather up close around it for a more intimate feeling.)
19. After the baptism service, encourage people to go out afterward for coffee or dessert to celebrate and find out what the experience meant to the person baptized and to the family and friends who watched it.
20. Publicize the baptisms with posters around your church. Get one-line testimonies from people who have been baptized.
21. Have small groups encourage those in the group to sign up for the next baptism.
22. Identify and celebrate other special moments at the water's edge (birthdays, anniversaries, spiritual birthdays, etc.).
23. Train your baptism team volunteers to greet everyone and make them comfortable.
24. Provide a sound system that will allow spectators to hear the testimonies.
25. Always have the baptismal pool warm and chlorinated before services.
26. Have a corporate prayer of celebration at the end of each service to thank God for those baptized.
27. Sing a great chorus or hymn about the power of God to change someone's life.
28. During warmer weather, offer baptisms at a beach, lake or slow-flow river.
29. Develop a "Baptism Party in a Box" kit that includes ideas for a family party following baptism.
30. Provide outdoor heaters if you baptize outdoors in the winter.
31. Set up good lighting if you baptize outside after evening services.
32. Have hand towels with the church's logo available as a gift (memory keeper).
33. Ask each small group in your church to have one week when each member shares his or her baptism experience.
34. Use banners and signs the week prior to baptisms to draw interest, especially for beach or lake baptisms.
35. Build a baptism service into an extended spiritual growth campaign. Build on momentum.
36. Constantly emphasize baptism as the next step after committing your life to Christ. Have sign-ups everywhere.
37. Give a follow-up booklet, a button and a free gift for those who obey Christ's command to be baptized.
38. Have a special baptism class as a requirement for baptizing children. Insist that at least one parent attend with their child.
39. When baptizing grade-school children, have the baptizing pastor hold their hands lifted high after they come out of the water, as you would with a winner in a game.
40. Address Frequently Asked Questions in a brochure people can walk away with, and deal personally with every fear or hang-up about baptism.
Do these 40 things in your church, and I'm confident the number of people wanting to publicly demonstrate their faith through baptism will rise dramatically.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!
Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.