Perhaps I should preface this post with a disclaimer. I was baptized as a young child – and I have baptized children. Despite abuses by some in this area, I believe child baptism can be practiced with discernment and care. It should certainly never be rushed into or treated lightly. Here are some general guidelines I follow:
1. Baptism follows a public profession of faith in Christ (we are credo- after all!). While we teach the Gospel to our children, we strive to avoid manipulating them into empty confessions.
2. Baptism must be desired by the child (and though we do teach it as an essential step in the Christian life, we make effort to avoid ANY type of manipulation in this).
3. We never baptize a child without parental consent.
4. A child must be guided by their parent through an age-appropriate study of the meaning of salvation, baptism, church membership, and discipleship before they are baptized.
5. After completing the Bible study, the child and parent(s) meet with the pastor to determine the child’s understanding of these topics.
6. Only after the parent(s) and the pastor have questioned the child and are convinced of their thorough understanding is the child baptized.
The basic requirement is therefore not a set age, but a level of understanding as determined by both parents and pastor.
I know other churches and traditions have differing guidelines – a certain age, paedo-baptism, etc. I’d be interested to hear what approach the church you attend takes with this issue.