Baby Dedication: What Does Your Church Do?

Welcome to the latest session of the Children’s Ministry Think Tank. Grab some coffee, print off this post and put your thinking cap on. The aim is to get different perspectives and help everyone to learn (including me). Please read through the responses and share your own ideas in the comments.

Think Tank #3 Questions About Baby Dedication

What is your church’s practice of baby dedication? Does it integrate with a family ministry strategy? Are their membership requirements for the parents? What do you include in the ceremony?

Response From Terry Delaney

In years past, we have had a baby dedication once a year on Mother’s Day. However, we have talked about doing these quarterly though nothing is set in stone as of yet. In order to be a part of the baby dedication, one of the parents must be a member of the church as well as be in “good standing” (i.e., not living in sin insofar as our staff is aware) with the church. Fortunately, we have not really had to cross the bridge of saying no to someone.

Included in our ceremony is a charge read by the pastor and agreed upon by the parents and congregation. We give each family a certificate commemorating their child’s dedication and a red rose. We hold our dedication at the end of the service so that the rest of the church can come up afterward and greet the families.

I would love to hear what others think about a once a year dedication versus a quarterly or as-needed dedication.

Response From Brenna Phillips

Baby dedication in my current Children’s-Family ministry is offered to parents and families on an individual basis. The ceremony becomes more personal to each family when it is their choice of time, not at the same time as other families in the younger preschool small groups. A professor once told me that a baby dedication service with multiple participants looks like a cattle herd – get ‘em in, get ‘em out. That’s not personal at all.

Parents choose to dedicate their children usually before the child’s first birthday; although, some parents wait until their child is close to 3 years of age. They consult the pastor on times. If there are other families desiring a dedication service, then those families are encouraged to work out times in which they are the only family participating on a particular day; therefore, each family is secured a personal service and not hurried through the ceremony. The service is performed in the spirit of Hannah dedicating Samuel in the Old Testament.

In my children’s ministry experience, I have not been given the responsibility of planning a service or an order of worship. I have only organized the special day with details of the family names, ages, guests, other information, and special lunches afterward to assist the senior pastor. Without planning or having input into the elements to include in a ceremony, I consulted some senior pastors about what they normally include for the families.

One pastor in Maryland said at his church they hold their baby dedication service for multiple families. He shares an informational sheet of questions with parents who are interested in a baby dedication service. If they can sincerely answer “yes” to each question, then he invites them to begin the planning process for a service. The following questions are included on the informational sheet:

  • Do you confess your faith and commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
  • Do you acknowledge that your child is a gift and a trust from God, and that you are responsible to God for his/her Christian nurture?
  • Will you pray for your child’s salvation and teach your child the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?
  • Since your child will learn by both your word and example, will you set a Godly example in prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, giving, and serving others in your church home?
  • Do you, at this time, present your child before God, saying that whatever God might want your child to do or be, you are willing to release him/her to His perfect plan?

The following is a draft of a typical baby dedication service:

Pastor: The purpose of baby dedication is to establish the partnership between the parents and the church in passing on the faith to their children and their children’s children.

The pastor speaks to the congregation: reading Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:1-8.

Each family has read the scriptures and more and are impressed to make a public proclamation to dedicate their children and to bear witness of their intent to pass on their faith to their children.

The pastor then introduces the families and speaks to these families, saying the following:

God gives clear commands to parents to pass on their faith to their children. The church is your faith family that will walk along side you with love, support, and prayer in this endeavor. We do this by promising to equip you as parents for this task, by praying with and for you, by providing solid, biblically based developmentally appropriate programs, for you and your child to learn, and by giving you opportunities with and in the family of God to worship, study, fellowship, service, and witness as a family unit in the larger community of faith setting. We want to be the best friend a parent can have as they seek to pass on their faith to their children. We want to be available to you and your family.

The pastor asks each family participating in the dedication to respond by saying “I will” to each question if they agree before God and the church family. The questions are the same questions that were asked of each family on the informational sheet in the initial meeting between pastor and family.

Dedication is a serious public declaration of your intent to commit to obey God’s word, and pass on your faith to the next generation. At the same time it is also an affirmation that you are not alone in this awesome task; the body of Christ is standing with you.

The pastor finishes the service by asking the congregation the following question:

“Church, are you willing to take on the responsibility to love, care, and support these parents as they work to pass on their faith to their children. Promising to love them, equip them, pray for and with them, supporting by example and involvement in their lives as they work toward this end. If you agree to that please stand and say, ‘I will.’”

Then, the pastor closes in prayer.

Brenna Phillips is the Children’s-Family Minister at Mission Fellowship Church in Middletown, Delaware, and teaches 3-4 year old students at an early childhood learning center. www.brennaphillips.com

Response From Glen Woods

I responded as follows to a similar question in a recent comment exchange on Think Tank #2.

In my church baby dedication is not taught as being salvific or sacramental in the biblical sense. For example, we would not try to compare it to the OT mandate to circumcise children in Hebrew culture. Instead, it is really a commitment on the part of parents to raise the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is also a corporate commitment on the part of the church community to provide a supportive environment for the parents and child. Yes, we pray and ask God to protect and guide the child. But we do so with the understanding that it is through us that this must happen. We own the responsibility as unto the Lord.

I will add to the above specific brief responses to the questions above as well as one caveat regarding my comment. First, the caveat. God uses us to nurture young children. This does not take away from God’s sovereignty or  agency independent of human influence. However, it does demonstrate the enormous responsibility we own as parents, family members, and the larger
community.

Now for the specific responses to the questions.

Integrative Family Ministry Strategy: My church is in the process of  developing an integrative family ministry strategy. Baby dedication has long been a fundamental aspect of pastoral care in our congregation. It will continue in this role as we slowly put into place new components of family ministry.

Membership Requirements for Parents: We do not require parents who desire their children to be dedicated to become official members beforehand. If they attend corporate worship regularly then we consider them part of our  church family. This does not downplay the validity of membership. It simply means that we do not use membership as a litmus test to exclude folks from benefitting from ministry expressions. Indeed, I personally can
foresee the possibility that we would dedicate a child whose family just recently started attended. Why not? What a privilege to come alongside them in this most tender season of their lives and commit to them our promise to walk with them through joys and trials.

What is included in the ceremony: I have only officiate one baby dedication and that was in the home of some personal friends. It was a precious time and a powerful opportunity to be a witness. In my church I have never been involved in a baby dedication ceremony. I have observed them in the past, though not recently because we have only had one service
for the past several years and I rarely attend adult worship since I am worshipping with the children. So based on my memory, the ceremony typically includes the parents coming up front with the child in their arms. My pastor usually takes the child and positions the baby so the audience can see. This is the time for the cute factor and oohs and aahs. Pastor then usually reads or recites a charge of dedication to the parents. He reminds the audience that they also share responsibility to rear the child in the faith as the child grows older and is influenced by
them. He often will invite the father to pray for the family, and the child. He then prays as well over the family. In total, it usually lasts about ten minutes. There is a certificate of dedication given to the family and often gifts as well.

Glen Woods is a Children’s Pastor and warehouseman in Portland, Oregon. He writes at Children’s Ministry Conversation.

What Does Your Church Practice For Baby Dedication?

This conversation is open for your input or questions. Share your own thoughts about this issue in the comment section below.


Comments

  1. says

    I am curious, in our church we used to dedicate babies with different herbs – salt (the salt of the earth), vinegar (the bitterness), sugar (the sweetness of life), and another spice which signified I cannot remember, but it was a tradition I grew up with, an now no one knows remembers why, or where the tradition came from.

    Can you help with the spices used and what was tradition that brought this about?

    Bobby

  2. says

    We have been heading down the path of contemporary and as the Worship Arts Pastor I have been given the task of making this frequent part of our service unique and contemporary. Instead of just question and answer like it traditionally has been. Looking at the idea and theology behind these questions I realize that we want to encourage the church family to be a part of encouraging the family in raising their child with Godly values and examples like many of these posts and comments have said, however, again, the question was how to make it contemporary/more relevant. Also another question was how do you encourage a church of 300 who only 50 people may know them to be encouraging to those families. I decided that we would make it more than having them on the stage answering questions, so we started going into their homes with a video camera (we have a guy who does very good professional looking work or else it would just be distracting) and ask them why and how did they come to the decision to dedicate their baby, and how do they plan on acting upon this decision. The response was amazing! People felt a much closer connection to those who were dedicating their children and those who never really wanted to do it were compelled to do so! We also made the actual time on stage about family values and the role of each person in the family and their impact on their child’s life. We would read the scripture and have the father of that family respond to dedicating his life to being a Godly head of his house and then use this as a reminder to the men of our congregation and have them hold him accountable for his commitment as well as be reminded of their commitment. We would also do this with the mother, and then the children as well. It was a great response. I’m looking forward to starting the process again with another family this week.

  3. Ricardo says

    At our church we have what we call a rose ceremony. Our Pastor introduces family and witnesses and commences with a brief explanation of the dedication and etc… Then he hands a white rose to the Father of child and explains how he must be a pure example for the child as he will be a major influence. Explanation goes on to say (if boy) that he will want to follow his father’s steps, (if girl) that she will use father as a model of what a man should be like and she will one day search for a man who has similar principles/moral and so on… A red rose is handed to the mother and she is informed that it signifies her sacrifice as a mother. There will be times when she will choose to feed child instead of herself and times when she will buy clothes and necessities for child instead of herself because of her love for child. The last rose is actually a bud it has not yet bloomed and is symbolic of child’s life and how they can place it in water and care for it and it will bloom into a beautiful rose or they can put it aside and let it dry out and die and never enjoy the beauty of the rose. The same goes to the child. Their instruction, guidance, and dependence on God will let them see their child bloom into a full grown man or woman of God.

  4. Jamie Webb says

    I am a parent who is still in a relationship with the father of my child. We are not getting married for another 2 years because of finance and so forth. The church we call home will not let us dedicate our baby until we are married. I feel sad because I would like to publicly acknowledge my daughter as a child of God.

    • R Hodge says

      I think the best thing for your child is to set a biblical example of your commitment to each other before God. Don’t put this off.

  5. Cara Haren says

    In the past our baby dedications have been just 1 or 2 minutes in the worship service. We are trying to get away from that and make it more personal, we will still be dedicating quite a few infants 2 or 3 times a year ( as our church is growing), but we
    decided to try a Sunday afternoon service just for the purpose of dedication with a class before hand explaining the responsibilities and a reception afterwards. I think it is a big deal, so I wanted it to be something a kin to a ceremony. After all you are making a pledge before God.

  6. Maarten says

    Good resources, thanks. Most are concerned with the *how* though, and not with the *why*. I am looking for more theologically sound resources though. My problems:

    * About.com compares dedication to infant baptism. The two are not related. Dedication is *not* a dry baptism.
    * The comparison to Hannah (1Sam 1) also does not really work, since we do not leave our children in the temple. We do not totally surrender our kids in the way she did.
    * Luke 2:22 (also often used) talks about the first male child, in this case Jesus, being presented in the temple.

    I would appreciate more theological reasons for baby dedication. And don’t get me wrong — I think it is a very good thing that people stand up and promise to raise their kids in a godly manner!

  7. says

    I liked the resources provided on “Baby Dedication”. They are very useful.
    Dr. Hem Sagar Rasaily
    Director, LOGOS STUDY CENTER
    (Correspondence Bible College)
    Hyderabad, India

  8. says

    I just ran across this post. I’ve been redesigning and refining the way we do child dedications at my church. It’s gone from being a dog and pony show to being one of the best things we do. We have a required prep for child dedication class as well as the dedication on Saturday morning so each family gets plenty of individual attention and prayer. It’s not perfect, but we’re engaging with families in a powerful way and our families are loving it! You can read through our journey here: http://www.childrensministryonline.com/tag/child-dedication/

    • says

      Thanks for sharing the link, it looks like you’ve been dealing with these same questions too. The pre-dedication class is a great chance to give parents a vision for their role in shaping the faith of their kids. Great posts!

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