A dedication of a baby or infant is a ceremony in which parents, and sometimes entire families, make a commitment to raise their child according to God’s ways as revealed in the Bible.
Our church practices baby dedication instead of infant baptism (also known as Christening) as the means of celebrating a child’s birth into the community of faith. The way this takes place will vary from time to time according to the preference of the parents and the Pastor. We believe that baptism comes later in life as a result of a person’s own decision to be baptized. We believe that the salvation of all children is secure until they reach the age of moral responsibility at which time, they will make their own choice to put their faith in Christ.
The basis behind baby dedication is found in passages like this, 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)
Or 1 Samuel 1:26-28:
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.
Christian parents who dedicate a child are making a promise to the Lord, before the church congregation, to do everything within their power to raise their child in a godly way until he or she can make a decision on his or her own to follow God. Parents may wish to nominate others to stand with them in raising their child in this way. In some church traditions these people may be called godparents.
Once the parents, or parent make this commitment, they will be encouraged to raise their child in God’s ways. That may include teaching and training, demonstrating practical examples of godliness, disciplining, and praying for their child. The precise meaning of raising a child “in a godly way” is not always clear and there isn’t complete agreement on every issue a parent will encounter along their child’s journey to adulthood. The Bible does give abundant wisdom, guidance, and instruction for to draw from as does a community of faith, which is the church. The importance of baby dedication rests in the family’s promise to raise their child in a manner that is consistent with the spiritual community to which they belong.
A dedication ceremony can take many forms, it may be a short private ceremony or part of a larger worship service involving the entire congregation. Normally, the ceremony involves reading key Bible passages and an exchange between the Pastor and the parents (and godparents, if included) in which they agree to raise the child in a manner which will give him, or her the best opportunity and encouragement to make a personal decision to put their faith in Christ.
The dedication differs in a number of aspects from an infant Baptism or Christening. It does not involve sprinkling or any other application of water or anointing with oil and it does not involve the formal naming of the child. As we believe that that the salvation of an infant is not in question, the act of dedication is not as some would call a sacrament.
If the ceremony is part of a congregational service, the entire congregation is asked to respond, accepting their responsibility to support the parents and encourage their child to grow in their faith. This may be followed by a final prayer and a presentation of a certificate.