Summer is upon us which means we shed our coats, come out of temporary hibernation and, as is the case for many of us, take to camping. Often, churches at this time of the year may register lower attendance. But there’s one event that many members are likely to sign up for: the annual church camp or the summer church picnic.
On the agenda is food, fellowship and fun, but it’s also a time for one of the most significant events on the church calendar – baptisms. This is a milestone for those who want to follow Jesus in this step of obedience, identifying in His death, burial and resurrection.
Historically, baptisms were done outdoors. Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan River. However, outside the more predictable church setting, baptisms at a lake or beach present logistics that are somewhat more complex. We’ve listed a few pointers to help you navigate on-location baptisms.
1) Set It Up
Like baptism services within the church premises, on-location baptisms require preparing both the person being baptized and the congregation. Assuming that the reasons behind baptism have been covered through classes, it’s now time to inform the participants about the arrangements.
Let them know how long the event will take, how many people have signed up and what their testimony should include. In addition, for on-location baptisms, logistics like what to wear, what to bring and where to change are particularly important. Members can be advised to wear dark clothing and old tennis shoes or flip flops, and to bring a towel. It’s advisable to keep back-up supplies, especially towels, for those who might have forgotten to carry their own.
Reserve the venue you’ve chosen and make sure there is no other especially loud or boisterous event going on at the same time. While it’s likely you’ll have picnickers in the area, a sports event or a large party may prove a distraction. It’s wise to consider alternative locations, if that’s the case.
2) Arrange for seating
If your congregation comprises older members, it is especially important to remember seating arrangements. In addition to picnic blankets, arrange for folding chairs, or send reminders to members to bring their own chairs.
3) Rope in Volunteers
In an unfamiliar setting, it’s always helpful to have volunteers on hand to guide the newly baptized on logistics like where to change or where to assemble after the service. Ensure that both male and female volunteers are present and that they know the lay of the land. If the park or beach allows for it, reserve a couple of restrooms.
4) Make sure you’re heard
On-location baptisms require some creativity in making sure the service is audible to those present. If your group is larger or more spread out, the need for an audio system becomes more evident. Obviously, mics with cables pose a safety hazard. Lapel mics and headsets are a good alternative, but make sure their associated bodypacks are in a Ziploc bag. If your church is able to swing the budget, waterproof bodypacks and headsets are a good option. A wireless handheld mike on a boom is the best option as the mic will probably need to be handed to different individuals through the service.
5) Include Onlookers
If the baptisms are taking place at a public venue, there might be bystanders who are curious about proceedings. This poses an organic opportunity to share the love of Christ. Make sure you appoint people from your congregation to mingle with onlookers after the service, answer any questions they might have and invite them to church the following Sunday.
6) Prepare for a Rainy Day
Literally! If you live in an area where summer showers are common, decide beforehand whether it will be a rain-or-shine event. Purchase a few cheap, disposable ponchos in case of rain and send a reminder email out about bringing raincoats to the event. It may be helpful to reserve a covered picnic area to gather together in case of inclement weather.
7) Celebrate After
Speaking of covered picnic areas, summer baptisms are a great time of celebrate this significant event with a barbecue. Appoint a few people from the congregation to handle the logistics for a potluck. It’ll be the perfect time for members to wish newly baptized members and to celebrate this landmark event in a believer’s life.
As with any event, don’t forget to cover the whole occasion with prayer. This is an important celebration – an open declaration of faith – that is likely to involve some challenges. Enlist the help of prayer warriors and other volunteers who can pitch in so the baptism is what it should be: a public profession of faith.
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