There's a fine line between ritual and the sacred. Ritual is all about doing something because you "ought to" or because it's what you're "supposed to do". Sacred is holy. Sacred is something you do because you know you're called to. It is set apart as something different and unique- something that is treasured.
When I was asked to take over the leadership of our kids ministry team, one of the sacred/ritual lines we were faced with evaluating was that of Baptism for kids. We began to ask, "How do we help kids understand baptism in an authentic way? How do we help them to honor and understand a sacred moment and not settle for just a religious experience based on the desires of others?"
#1. At what age, can a child actually understand the concept of "symbol"? Baptism in the Scriptures is a symbol, and by definition, it requires abstract thinking skills to comprehend. A child must be able to understand that Baptism symbolizes Jesus' death and resurrection, but does not require them to actually physically die to experience it. It's a complicated concept for a child.
#2. How do we help parents to share in this role, helping their child to embrace baptism without being forced to do that which they are not ready to do out of ritual expectations?
#3. What rules should we set up and at what point are we actually imposing our opinion on a family/child's decision? Like, who are we to tell parents when and how their kid can get baptized? For me, our family has set 10 at the minimum age. Jake has been asking get baptized for 2 years, but we don't think he really understands it yet. In the case of a baptism policy, essentially we were trying to dig for the lowest common denominator- the point where we felt like we were not doing something a kin to solely a parental decision like infant baptism and yet not being some kinda pharisee gate keeper either.
Last weekend was our semi-annual church baptisms. So, here's what we decided for now:
How old? We chose third grade.
What do parents need to know? We wrote this letter.
What do kids need? We made this worksheet that a kid fills out and goes over with their parent.
How about you? Does your church have a policy on this you like that is similar or different?