WHAT IS BABY DEDICATION?
The word "dedication" means to consecrate or the act of setting apart people or things for the purposes of serving God. In the Old Testament we see how Hannah prayed for a child and promised God that the child, Samuel, would be given to the Lord all the days of his life. (1 Samuel 1:11, 28). In the New Testament we see how Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to "present" Him to the Lord (Luke 2:22).
These parents took this act very seriously and were making a commitment in presenting their children to the Lord. Bringing a child before the Lord is not a secret formula for keeping them from ever experiencing harm or pain. It is a commitment of the parents to do their part in raising the child before the Lord. Just as the Nazarite children in the Bible had set boundaries and lived their lives set apart to God from birth (Judges 13:5), so parents today, through baby dedication, commit to a lifestyle of raising their children separated from the world and its values.
WHAT KIND OF COMMITMENT AM I MAKING?
As parents, you begin by publicly acknowledging your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As you present your child to God in the presence of the pastor and congregation, you are recognizing that they belong to Him and have been born to experience His love and to serve Him.
You are committing, as Christian parents, to teach the truths of God's Word in your home and participate in regular worship with your children. You are also committing to be a Christ-like example and seek to lead your children to a personal faith in Christ as soon as they are ready.
WHAT HAPPENS AT BABY DEDICATIONS?
Baby dedications generally occur following the worship portion of the service and before the pastor's message. We ask that you arrive shortly before the service starts and find a seat in the front section closest to the platform and steps. An usher can assist you in finding a suitable location. When the pastor announces your names, an usher will escort you on to the platform. The pastor will explain the importance of dedication, and lead you in making a commitment before God and the congregation that you be raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The pastor will take the child and pray over your child, asking God for His protection and guidance, and to lead the child to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The pastor will then pray over you as parents, as well as anointing and praying over your child. You will also be given a gift as a memorial of this sacred service. After you are escorted off the platform you may take your child to the nursery and return to the service.
DO YOU PERFORM INFANT BAPTISM?
In many Christian traditions it is customary to do a 'baptism' of an infant rather than just a ‘dedication.’ But the Biblical practice of baptism was matter of choice. Baptism is an expression of personal faith in Christ. The dedication service is designed to bless infants and is based on the choice that parents make on their child’s behalf.
What’s the same?
Parents present their child to God.
A pastor prays over that child.
The Holy Spirit marks this moment in the child’s life as a moment when they were intentionally dedicated to God’s purpose.
The only thing that is different is the theology behind the moment. In the New Testament baptism was always a step of obedience taken by a believer in Jesus to identify with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. The word 'baptize' means, 'to dip under' (much like the word capsize means for a boat to tip over). Every person baptized in the Bible was an adult (or old enough to make a decision for themselves to turn from sin and follow Christ). There is no biblical record of infants being baptized. It is absent from the early history of the church.
The picture of baptism is all about the death, burial, and resurrection. Just as Jesus died and was buried, so we symbolically bury our old life of past sin and disobedience (we are dipped as a symbol of death/burial). Just as Jesus rose we symbolically rise out of the water as a declaration of a fresh start and new life (Rom. 6:4). In reality a baby cannot yet choose to identify with Christ's death and resurrection because they are not yet aware of what is happening around them. They have no need to die to the past since they have not willfully sinned. There is no need yet to rise to a ‘new life’ because their life has just begun.
At some point in their future, when they are old enought to choose - they will choose to sin and disobey God. We all do. As a result they will need to receive forgiveness of sin through the work that Jesus did on the cross. When they come to understand the power of the cross and the opportunity to have ‘new’ and ‘spiritual’ life in Christ – then they can be water baptized in the Biblical sense of the word. But in their infancy the best thing we can do for them is to present them to God in dedication, and to pray down God's powerful blessing upon the beginning of their life. This is actually the most historically accurate and Biblical consistent practice of baptism and dedication.
Some parents have asked, 'What about my child's soul?' If they die at an early age (God forbid) and are not baptized, will they go to heaven? The Bible seems to indicate that children are under God’s grace prior to the age where they can be held accountable for their own sin. King David's child died in the first week of his life (as recorded for us in 2 Sam. 12:22-23). David describes the eternal destiny of his deceased son, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." The phrase, 'I will go to him' implies that the boy was in heaven and would be reunited with David one day. In a similar way we trust that our children live under the grace of God until they are old enough to begin to choose their own way.
So neither dedication nor baptism is necessary to preserve their soul at this moment in their early life. What begin their life on earth with the launching moment of being properly presented to God and pointed toward God’s promise and purpose.We believe a person must make a personal commitment to Christ before being baptized. For this reason we provide parents the opportunity to dedicate their children to the Lord, praying that He would ultimately lead them to that personal decision.
ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS?
Only those parents who are both Christians and married (a man and a woman) may present their children to the Lord as a couple. Parents do not have to be members, but they must be actively involved in the life of the church through regular attendance. Because of the nature of the commitment being made at a baby dedication, a non-believing spouse would be unable to participate. If your spouse is not a believer or does not regularly attend church but would like to be present at the dedication, arrangements can be made to dedicate your child together following a weekend service.
WHAT IF WE ARE NOT MARRIED?
A parent who is single is welcome to present their children to the Lord alone, provided they are committed to raising the child in a Christian home environment. Because baby dedication involves making a commitment as a family to follow the Lord, parents co-habitating outside of marriage would be unable to make this vow or participate in the ceremony. If you would like Pastoral guidance with this issue, please contact the church office.
WHAT AGE SHOULD MY CHILD BE?
We recommend that children be dedicated during the first 9 months. Children respond more favorably to public presentation at this age. If your child is older, a date can be arranged when one of the pastors will pray over your child at the altar following a service.
CAN I CHOOSE MY OWN DATE?
Baby dedications are only able to occur on certain weekends when our service schedule allows. A service time may be selected on any of these designated weekends.
WHO IS INVITED ONTO THE PLATFORM?
Typically, only the immediate family comes onto the platform. Siblings are welcome provided they are able to remain still and quiet for the duration of the dedication. If they wish, parents may invite one or two family members or special guests to join them. (There is a place to list these names on the form.) Professional attired required for all participants.
WHAT ABOUT VIDEO TAPING OR PHOTOGRAPHY?
You may photograph or video tape the baby dedication so long as it does not disrupt the sacredness of the event. This means remaining seated and refraining from using flash photography or special lighting equipment. Also, a DVD of the service, which includes the baby dedication, is available for parents.
HOW CAN I MAKE THE MOST OUT OF MY BABY DEDICATION WEEKEND?
Prepare Spiritually. Fill out the dedication form and discuss the spiritual implications of this dedication with those closest to you. Begin to take steps to align your life with God's Word so that when we pray over your child – the faucets of heaven can be turned on full blast.
Consider a day of fasting and prayer – maybe on the Friday before the scheduled service fast a meal and pray for the release of God's power at this significant moment many believers will pray over your child.
Plan the celebration – moments like this are a fantastic time to have a party and mark this moment with family. So plan a post-service gathering of some kind to commemorate this time.
Invite your friends and family to church – we would love to provide you invitations to send. Just let us know how many. We promise we will design the service with your guests in mind and the topics taught will be relevant to their lives. This may be the one moment where your family is most likely to attend church with you. We want to make the most of this opportunity for you.
OKAY WE ARE READY, NOW WHAT?
Parents should complete the baby dedication form and return it to the church office. Someone will contact you to confirm a date and finalize details.
A WORD FROM THE PASTOR
Children are a gift from God and are precious to Him. Dedicating our children to the Lord is an important covenant we make before God. It is through baby dedication that parents make this covenant and publicly proclaim their faith in Christ and their commitment to pass their faith on to their children. As a church, we desire to help you succeed in this parenting journey. For this reason we have prepared this brochure to assist you in understanding what baby dedication is all about. It contains our policies and other important aspects of baby dedication. Please take the time to read it over. Any questions or further information about these guidelines may be directed to the Church Office at 301-490-0100. May God richly bless you as you welcome this new life into your family!