Baby dedication is a tradition practiced in many Protestant churches that includes an infant or child, parents and/or grandparents, a minister, and church congregation. Much variety is found in this practice, yet baby dedications commonly seek to challenge parents to commit themselves to raising their child in a godly manner, ask for God’s blessing upon the child, and ask the church congregation to commit to helping the family by providing a spiritual community to assist in the development of the child.
Being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life, but it’s no easy task. Often, you feel that nagging feeling in your gut that makes you wonder, “Am I doing this whole parenting thing right?” But, there’s good news! You—you don’t have to parent alone. That’s where child dedication comes in. You get to stand in front of your church family and commit to raising your child alongside your church family.
The New Testament does not include a specific practice or any commands related to a baby dedication. Therefore, it is not commanded or required for the parents of a child. However, the practice can serve a very positive role and be a great encouragement to all involved.
The idea of dedicating a child to God can certainly be found in the Bible. For example, Hannah was a woman unable to bear a child. She prayed for a child and promised to dedicate him to the Lord if He would give her a son (1 Samuel 1:11). Joseph and Mary took baby Jesus to the temple for a dedication (Luke 2:22), a common practice under the Jewish law.
Common Bible verses heard at a baby dedication usually include Psalm 127:3: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Another passage is 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.”
Why Child Dedication?
We know that, as a parent, you’re the most important influence in your child’s life. But you’re not the only influence your child needs. That’s where your church family comes in. Child dedication is an opportunity to invite others to develop and influence your child as they grow in their faith. It can relieve a lot of parenting pressure because you get to partner with people who will love and lead your child well.
Your kids didn’t begin following Jesus by accident. When you dedicate your child, you’re deciding that you’ll raise your kids knowing who Jesus is. Check out what Deuteronomy 6:4-7 NIV says about this:
Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one. Love the Lᴏʀᴅ your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
We love God with everything in us, and we model that for our kids because we know that our example is far more powerful than our words. We teach our kids what it looks like to follow Jesus. And we talk about it and think about it often. Leading kids to live like Jesus isn’t a checkbox on a parenting to-do list. It’s an intentional, ongoing conversation that shapes who they are now and who they’re becoming.
3 Common Questions about Child Dedication
1. Do my kids need to be dedicated for them to be Christian?
Child dedication is a great step for your family, but it’s certainly not the same thing as salvation. Salvation is what happens when your child decides to start a relationship with God, and baptism is when they decide to go public with their faith. Child dedication is less about your child’s choice now and more about setting them up for those choices later. When you dedicate your child, you’re committing to raise them in an environment where they hear about Jesus and have an opportunity to accept Him. It’s a great practice, but it is optional.
2. What’s the big deal about child dedication?
Child dedications are a spiritually significant milestone for your whole family. When you dedicate your child, you’re choosing to make some parenting decisions that honor God, like finding trusted relationships through a LifeGroup, modeling what it looks like to be planted in the church through serving, and showing your kids an example of what an irrationally generous life looks like. And while it sounds like you’ve got more things to do, you’re actually lightening the load because you’re committing to do these things in partnership with the church.
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3. When can you dedicate your child?
That’s your decision. You can dedicate your child whether they’re three days old or 13 years old. The age doesn’t matter as much as the principle. Child dedication is an important step in your family’s faith life because it’s setting a foundation that your family will be known for following Christ. So, consider choosing a family verse, picking family values, or finding friends that will help you grow in these values and become the people God has called you to be.
The historical reason behind baby dedication in many Protestant churches emerges from the Protestant Reformation’s break from the Catholic Church. Some traditions, such as the Anabaptist movement, rejected the practice of infant baptism, instead only baptizing those who had made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. However, parents still desired to dedicate their children to the Lord when they were born. Instead of a christening service, which might be inappropriately perceived as effecting salvation for a child, baby dedications became common.
Baby or child dedication is a way to commit one’s child to God. Parents express their understanding that their children belong to the Lord and that they have been entrusted to raise them well. They express their intent to raise their child up in the Lord, with the hope that he or she will come to faith in Jesus. Baby dedication is also a way for the congregation to join in prayer for the parents and child as well as commit to being a supportive community of faith.
Parenting doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Let’s parent together—trusting that with multiple voices and collective influence, our kids will be trained up in the right ways they should go.