On mother’s day, our church had a Baby Dedication Service. Many churches dedicate infants and babies because of tradition rather than theology. We want our families to have a Christian vision for their children. We want them to see parenting as a divine responsibility. We believe every child is a gift from God.
Pastor David Michael at Bethlehem Baptist Church has given us some great ideas for baby dedication. David and his wife Sally are behind the Children’s Desiring God curriculum. Their approach to baby dedication emphasizes parental promises and includes a mandatory parenting class. So before the ceremony, parents are challenged to have a God-centered vision for their children. Here is what we are planning at our church:
- I invited parents to meet with me about baby dedication. These are families from our church that have added new children since last year. I take the initiative to contact them.
- We have arranged a training meeting several weeks before the dedication. We will use this as a teaching time to explain the dedication service and reinforce a biblical vision for Christian parenting. We discuss specific scriptures about parenting. We invite them to define their vision for their children. We challenge them to dedicate themselves as parents to raising God-centered children.
- At the dedication service the parents stand before the congregation with their children and are asked the following questions:
- Do you today recognize these children as the gifts of God and give heartfelt thanks for God’s blessing?
- Do you now dedicate your children to the Lord who gave them to you all, surrendering all worldly claims upon their lives in the hope that they will belong wholly to God?
- Do you pledge as parents that, with God’s fatherly help, you will bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, making every reasonable effort, with patience and love, to build the Word of God, the character of Christ and the joy of the Lord into their lives?
- Do you promise to provide, through God’s blessing, for the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs of your children, looking to your own heavenly Father for the wisdom, love and strength to serve them and not use them?
- Do you promise, God helping you, to make it your regular prayer that, by God’s grace, your children will come to trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and for the fulfillment of all his promises to them, even eternal life; and in this faith follow Jesus as Lord and obey his teachings?
- The congregation will have these same promises as a bulletin insert. We want this time to reinforce a biblical vision of parenting for the whole congregation. We invite parents to silently re-commit to being intentionally Christian in their parenting.
- After the parents have affirmed the promises the senior pastor will pray this prayer of dedication: (child’s name), together with your parents, who love you dearly, and this people who care about the outcome of your faith, I dedicate you to God, surrendering together with them all worldly claims upon your life, in the hope that you will belong wholly to God for ever .
- After the ceremony, each child will receive a gift. We usually give them a Children’s Bible. They also receive a certificate. We have discussed writing a pastoral letter to the child.
We are careful to make this a time of commitment and prayer. I think the approach I’ve described removes the “sacramental” feel that accompanies infant baptism (which we cannot practice in clear conscience). What are your thoughts? Does your church have a similar process? Leave a comment and let me know. We are always eager to learn.