If there is one thing we look forward to each year is working with many Southern California churches at their annual beach baptism days. It is a day where church families can enjoy their fun in the sun, enjoy the surf and of course to spend the day in fellowship with one another at one of the many popular spots along the coast.
When church planning teams start the process of organizing and scheduling the annual beach baptism event, they often fail to factor in safety such as hiring dedicated beach lifeguards for their group. Instead they pick a beach and hope there is an open lifeguard tower. While it is true that there may be a lifeguard tower on the beach, many towers either open early or they open later in the day. Sometimes and depending on the year, a tower may not be open due to staffing. It is also true that although there may be a county lifeguard on duty, having a dedicated lifeguard or two specifically to watch the group has become a very popular service. The county lifeguards at the chosen beach are responsible for a section and must watch the entire beach.
Hiring dedicated beach lifeguards helps to ease the burden on the county lifeguards and to ensure that the church group is carefully monitored apart from the general beach population especially if it is a busy day. Typically, privately contracted beach lifeguards will notify the agency in charge of a particular beach and will work together as a team in the event of a rescue or medical emergency. Usually the dedicated lifeguards will be self-contained and have their own set of rescue and medical gear for the day.
Since the start of the COVID pandemic and with the closures of churches to in-person services in Southern California, beach baptisms have become extremely popular and serves as a work-around to the closures. Typically, baptisms would be held at the church during the service or at someone’s home pool. Beach baptisms will continue to gain popularity and be on the rise for the year 2021.
The size of beach takeovers could vary in size and anywhere between a small group of under fifty to a couple thousand depending on the church hosting the event. The number of people getting baptized in the water could be a small group to a very large group. For example, late last year (October) there was a mega church baptism (Calvary Chapel Chino Hills) event at Corona De Mar State Beach that had a thousand people baptized.
Even before the pandemic, pastor Greg Laurie held a beach baptism at Pirates Cove and they had 550 people baptized. When interviewed, he stated that his plan was for the beach events to become much larger with each passing year. With numbers like this could place a bigger load of responsibility on county lifeguards who are already watching the beach for any signs of distress or medical emergencies.
A beach baptism event whether it is held at an Orange County beach (Pirates Cove, Laguna Shores) or a Los Angeles County beach (Zuma, Santa Monica) requires a thorough risk assessment by the church planning teams. Each beach has its own set of hazards such as static rip currents or perhaps is known for sting ray activity. It is always a good idea to talk to lifeguards who are familiar with the beach in question to get as much information as possible on existing hazards.
It is our desire for anyone, any group size to have fun and to be safe on the beach!