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.