Baptism is a sacrament practised in many sects of Christianity that represents a covenant with God and/or Jesus to live in accordance with Christian principles. Baptism is associated with themes of death, rebirth and cleansing. The ritual itself usually consists of the person or people being baptised standing, sitting or kneeling in or near water and a baptised believer immersing them in holy water and lifting them back up again. Some denominations opt to sprinkle the water on the people. When talking to a young child about this process, especially one about to undergo a baptism, you should focus on the meaning of the sacrament for those participating in it.
Talk with your pastor, children`s liturgy leaders and other church officials to get ideas and insight. Knowing the terminology and explanations these other people will provide the children will be important in explaining baptism as clearly as possible without contradictions or confusing statements.
Consult your Bible for relevant passages. Consider purchasing or borrowing other relevant materials to guide you through the explanation. Several speciality pamphlets and ebooks focus on explaining baptism to a child.
Remind the child of the story of Jesus` death and resurrection. This story is relevant to people who believe this was an event that signifies a rebirth for all the people who believe in Jesus and use this rebirth in discussions of baptism.
Focus on the symbolism of water as a cleansing element. Many explain to children that the baptismal water washes away their sins like how dirt is washed away from them in the bath, which makes them feel unclean and longing to be purified. Explain the symbolism of the water and the cleansing; avoid leading children to believe that the water itself is magic and will do the work of salvation for them.
Explain that Christian baptism is a sign of putting blind trust into Jesus. It represents a sort of agreement with Jesus that once baptised, the person becomes a follower of Christ. Many people would also stress that baptism is an important task for Christians to undergo and tell children that God himself wants them to do it.
Distinguish between the idea of a person's soul getting saved through a ritual like baptism from the idea of a salvation through an honest communication with God. Point out that anyone can go through the sacrament of baptism disingenuously and the important part is to pray during the ceremony and mean what you say during the prayer. Baptism means honestly asking God to forgive your sins, true repentance for them and having the faith that God will forgive you. Remind children that the important part of baptism is what is happening inside the person being baptised rather than secondary elements like the water, preacher or congregation.
Use language that connects baptism in the child's mind with concepts they should already be familiar with about faith leading to eternal life in the Christian heaven. Believers want children undergoing the sacrament to understand their belief that trusting in Jesus has a direct relationship with them getting to experience eternal life.