Otimar Gonçalves - Youth Ministries Director, South American Division

In March of 1963, Pastor Ademar Quint performed the first youth baptism in Rio de Janeiro. It was called the “spring baptism” even though it was not spring in Brazil; the program was so named because it involved youth who had surrendered themselves to Jesus. That year, 48 youth were baptized. 

The following spring, more youth were baptized. Other churches began holding similar events. Gradually, in many places, these events became the major baptismal feast of the year.

This spring we celebrate the forty-fifth anniversary of this baptismal feast and offer some suggestions on ways to make this celebration special:

GET THE YOUTH INVOLVED. The youth evangelism calendar peaks with the spring baptism. It is a great celebration. Each field should prepare orientation materials and promote this special event. The youth and other church members should be challenged to prepare the candidates for this feast.

PLAN A SPECIAL CEREMONY. The baptismal ceremony needs to be one of the best events in the church; there needs to be a feeling of celebration. The event needs to reflect the joy Heaven feels when a sinner repents. Spring baptism provides the perfect reason to celebrate.

1. Organize the program in advance. Meet with the pastor and others who are involved to plan the event, assign tasks, and choose special guests.

2. Write down the order of the program and give a copy to everyone involved.

3. Prepare nice decorations. The beauty of the church reveals the atmosphere of celebration and makes the environment more pleasing. Take advantage of the season and use lots of flowers and colors, specially around the baptistry.

4. Organize the candidates’ processional. Baptismal candidates may walk down the center aisle as their names are called. You may want to show a photo or a small video of each candidate, mentioning his or her name, age, what he or she likes most about church, the name of the person from whom he or she received Bible studies, etc.

5. Mention the members who prepared the candidates for baptism. These individuals may walk down the aisle beside “their” candidates. This gives recognition to these soulwinners and encourages others to follow their example.

6. Plan a special sermon. The pastor may illustrate the sermon with the stories or experiences of some of those who are being baptized.

7. Make it a meaningful occasion. The pastor may call each candidate by name as he or she enters the baptistry, or a young person might announce the name of the person being baptized.

8. Make a call, perhaps just before the last person is baptized. The conversion story of the one being baptized might be used as a call, or the person being baptized may make the call with the pastor.

9. Plan a ceremony to introduce the new members to the congregation. This could take place right after the baptismal ceremony, or, if you want to avoid having a very lengthy program, plan another meeting on a different day, which will give new members another opportunity to invite their friends.

10. Prepare special music. What hymns will be sung during the baptism? Who is going to coordinate the music? There should be no improvisation. Special music should be prepared in advance. Invite good singers. Remember to choose a special appeal song that is solemn and touching.

11. Make a good promotion. Seek creative ways to inform and motivate the church. Many people who are giving Bible studies will be encouraged to prepare their candidates or to invite friends to the ceremony. The Youth Ministries leader of each field or union may prepare promotional posters for the churches and invitations to be given to the candidate’s friends.

PREPARE THE YOUTH. Find out which boys and girls are old enough to be baptized. They might belong to the Pathfinder Club, attend the junior or teen Sabbath school classes, go to the local church school, be part of the church families, participate in small groups, or be members of the youth Bible study class. This baptism is special for them. Ellen White says, “As the Holy Spirit moves upon the hearts of the children, co-operate with His work. Teach them that the Saviour is calling them, that nothing can afford Him greater joy than for them to give themselves to Him in the bloom and freshness of their years” (Evangelism, p. 580). 

Some people may question the appropriate age for baptism. The youth should not be forced in this matter, and they shouldn’t be encouraged to be baptized if they are not yet ready. Two aspects need to be considered:

1. Bible knowledge. Youth should not be baptized simply because their parents are Seventh-day Adventists; they should study the Bible for themselves. They do not need to reach the knowledge level of the adults, but they need to know, accept, and live the basic practical teachings of the Bible. Those who do not come from Christian families should receive special orientation.

2. Maturity. Youth need to understand what is involved in their decision, and they need to make a commitment to Christ. Younger children often have a great knowledge of the Bible, but that is not enough. They need to understand what their decision to be baptized means. In this situation, Ellen White’s counsel is very clear. There is no specific age for baptism. Children should be encouraged to be baptized, but they need to be evaluated within their personal reality. She says, “Children of eight, ten, or twelve years are old enough to be addressed on the subject of personal religion. Do not teach your children with reference to some future period when they shall be old enough to repent and believe the truth. If properly instructed, very young children may have correct views of their state as sinners and of the way of salvation through Christ” (Child Guidance, p. 490, 491).

It is important to remember that one baptism can generate other baptisms. If you invest in the spring baptismal feast, you will be preparing new candidates for the next baptism. Join the other church elders and challenge the church to work, pray for decisions, and prepare a beautiful feast. After all, this is the reason why God’s church exists in the world: to win people for the kingdom of Heaven.

Otimar Gonçalves
South American Division Youth Director


He has been a local elder for 5 years at the Staten Island Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City, U.S.A. He is married to Carmen and they have 2 children, Eliecer and Emmanuel.

“I am so happy to be a part of God’s church and help prepare people for heaven. I understand as church elders we have many challenges, but I am convinced that God can empower and equip us to overcome all barriers to accomplish His work.”