A baby dedication is a ceremony in which believing parents, and sometimes entire families, make a commitment before the Lord to raise that child according to God’s Word and God’s ways.
Many Christian churches practice baby dedication instead of infant baptism (also known as Christening) as their primary celebration of a child’s birth into the community of faith. The use of dedication varies widely from denomination to denomination.
Roman Catholics almost universally practice infant baptism, while Protestant denominations more commonly perform baby dedications. Churches that hold baby dedications believe baptism comes later in life as a result of the individual’s own decision to be baptized.
The practice of baby dedication is rooted in this passage found in Deuteronomy 6:4-7: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (ESV)
Responsibilities Involved in Baby Dedication
Christian parents who dedicate a child are making a promise to the Lord before friends and family to do everything within their power to raise the child in a godly way — prayerfully — until he or she can make a decision on his or her own to follow God. As is the case with infant baptism, it is sometimes customary at this time to name godparents to help raise the child according to godly principles.
Parents who make this vow, or commitment, are instructed to raise the child in the ways of God and not according to their own ways. Some of the responsibilities include teaching and training the child in God’s Word, demonstrating practical examples of godliness, disciplining the child according to God’s ways, and praying for the child.
In practice, the precise meaning of raising a child “in a godly way” can vary widely, depending on the Christian denomination and even on the particular congregation within that denomination. Some groups place more emphasis on discipline and obedience, for example, while others might regard charity and acceptance as superior virtues. The Bible supplies abundant wisdom, guidance, and instruction for Christian parents to draw from. Regardless, the importance of baby dedication lies in the family’s promise to raise their child in a manner consistent with the spiritual community to which they belong, whatever that might be.
A formal baby dedication ceremony can take many forms, depending on the practices and preferences of the parents. It may be a short private ceremony or a gathering of family and friends.
Typically, the ceremony involves the reading of key Bible passages and a verbal exchange in which the officiant asks the parents (and godparents, if so included) if they agree to raise the child according to several criteria.
Sometimes, the entire gathering is welcomed to also respond, indicating their mutual responsibility for the child’s well-being. There may be a ritual handing-off of the infant to the officiant, symbolizing that the child is being offered to God. This may be followed by a final prayer and a gift of some kind being offered to the child and parents, as well as a certificate.
An Example of Baby Dedication in Scripture
Hannah, a barren woman, prayed for a child:
And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11, NIV)
When God answered Hannah’s prayer by giving her a son, she remembered her vow, presenting Samuel to the Lord:
“As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. (1 Samuel 1:26-28, NIV)