Baby dedications are a great way for a church to celebrate a new life and uphold a family. Recently, a pastor asked me how we conduct ours. Here’s how:
After Sunday Service
I like doing baby dedications after Sunday morning church services, not during. Here are our reasons.
First, although it is cute for the body to see a young family, it seemed less than genuine to me. During baby dedications we confess it takes other believers to raise our kids well. We need the support of the church. But this support will not be given by the entire congregation. Most of them will never have even a conversation with the family. The support is going to come from the family’s small group and closer Christian friends.
Second, I want to schedule baby dedications on any Sunday date a family chooses. They might have family flying into town on one particular weekend. I want to have extreme flexibility to make sure their child is dedicated on the date they choose. With all our pastoral staff plans for weekend services, this type of flexibility isn’t possible during the service.
Third, many people are terrified of being on a stage in front of other people. More private baby dedication allows all personality types to engage.
Fourth, a more private ceremony allows a family to invite their friends to church, but without the pressure to sit in the front row for the special occasion. They can take in the service, then gather afterwards for a private ceremony.
Baby dedications are a fun way for a family to praise God for their new child. They allow parents to ask for the blessing of God on their family, and for the help of other believers in the raising of their child. They are not a way for babies to become Christians; that must come later. They must grow and make their own personal decision for Christ.
- Welcome: I like to stand up with the family and ask everyone else to be seated. I will then announce why we have gathered, naming the couple, their new child, and any siblings.
- Explanation: With joy, I explain the blessing of baby dedication. I like to talk about what it is (celebration, prayer, a plea for support) and what it isn’t (salvation). I will often explain why it is different from infant baptism, and why we practice it instead. Sometimes I will clarify that it isn’t necessary, because the Bible doesn’t require it, but that it is allowed. Hannah and Samuel's story are great to draw from here.
- Scripture: Then I quickly move to sharing a selected reading. A favorite of mine is Psalm 127, which begins with “unless the LORD builds the house” and ends with “blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them.” If the child has a Biblical first or middle name, I will sometimes draw out the positive characteristics of that biblical character. I will incorporate the attributes of these Scriptures into my prayer for the child.
- Prayer: For the dedication itself I will try to hold the baby. Often, there is time to play with or interact with the child ahead of time, but sometimes there isn’t. If they’ll let me hold them, I prefer it. But if they panic, I don’t push it, handing them back to their parents. With my hands on the parents and child, I ask the guests to stand while I pray for the child, each parent, their marriage, and those in attendance. For the child I pray for their whole person, spirit, soul, and body. I pray for their future conversion to Christ. I pray for their protection and health. I pray for their deliverance from sin. I try not to hold back. I don’t want to pray an innocuous prayer of blessing. I want to pray publicly in the way I would pray for that child privately, so I pray for the core issue stuff.
- Words: I will then give the father or mother an opportunity to share any words they’d like with their guests. Sometimes this is short, sometimes lengthier, but it is always a blessing. Hearing a parent’s heart and gratitude is edifying for everyone.
- Dismissal: I like to give a firm dismissal, something like “this concludes our service.” It is less awkward than nebulously dissolving the meeting.
- Photos: While we are still standing, I ask the couple if they would like to take photographs. They will likely take some with their extended family and friends, but they usually like having a close up photo or two with just them, their children, and the dedicating pastor.
- Intake Form: A good intake form is vital to all this. Getting names (and their proper pronunciations) down is vital. I usually have these name printed on a card I place in my Bible.
So, that's how we've done baby dedications for the past few years. I think it has been wonderful.