Family Dedications (baby dedications)

At Berean Baptist Church, parents may choose to dedicate their infants or small children to the Lord in a public ceremony during a Sunday morning worship service. As a family they present themselves before the fellowship expressing their desire to “dedicate” their young child(ren) to the Lord.

What does it mean to “dedicate” a child to the Lord? Is this simply a “photo op,” or is it something much more serious and important? Is this child’s dedication the same as infant baptism? Is a child’s dedication a church sacrament? Does it dispense grace? Since various Christians would answer these questions differently, the purpose of this article is to offer clarity to what we believe at BBC.

In the Jewish religion, male infants are circumcised in obedience to the Mosaic Law. In Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other reformed churches, children are baptized into the church; however, as Baptists we do not baptize children, nor do we believe that circumcision is necessary from a biblical perspective. Moreover, as Baptists we believe that it is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that anyone, including children, can become a part of the body of Christ.

Some suggest that the practice of dedicating a baby to the Lord is simply a matter of praying for the infant’s health and salvation. This is based on the example Matthew presents in his 19th chapter where Jesus lays hands on small children and prays for them in verse nine. The trouble with this understanding of the text as the basis for a baby dedication is that it elevates the pastor to a position of being able to convene a “special blessing” through a prayer, an unbiblical assumption.

A few suggest that Hannah’s dedication of her toddler son, Samuel, to the Lord in I Samuel 1:19-28 is the basis for the modern day “baby dedication” ceremony. However, the difficulty with using this passage as the scriptural basis for a baby dedication ceremony is that Hannah left Samuel with the High Priest Eli to serve the Lord all the days of his life at the “house of the LORD in Shiloh” (v. 25). The church is not prepared to rear a child in the house of the Lord forever. Nor are most parents truly giving their child at birth to the work of the Lord in the house of the Lord.

Therefore, it seems best to conclude that we are unsure of the origin or tradition of the dedication of children in ceremony. We cannot say that the “baby dedication” ceremony is a biblical requirement unless we view Jesus being brought to Simeon (Luke 2) as an act of fulfilling a Mosaic Law requirement (see Leviticus 12)—in which case, a child’s dedication would be an old covenant expectation for Jews. We are also unsure if baby dedication was practiced by the early church. There isn’t anything in the New Testament indicating that babies of believers are to be dedicated to the Lord in a special church ceremony.

Some churches conduct special baby dedication Sundays or special services where all who had a child within a specified period of time collectively dedicate themselves before the church. Berean does not hold such special services; instead, a special time is taken through the course of a morning service to recognize the parent(s) and the child, and most importantly their common commitment to raise the child according to God’s Word. In reality, our ceremony should be called a family dedication.

Parental Responsibilities

According to Psalm 127:3, children are a gift from God; and parents have a responsibility to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Moreover, Deuteronomy 6:4-7 provides even more specific guidance concerning parental responsibilities toward their children.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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.

Parents are to be the primary teachers of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, beginning with the most orthodox truth that the “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” who has always existed as three Persons–the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—and that every man, woman, and child is to love the LORD their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matt 3:16-17; Mk 12:30-31).

Therefore, instead of dedicating a baby, it seems much more appropriate for each family to dedicate themselves to both God and their child and to be obedient to their God-given parental responsibilities. Doing this before the body of Christ is a sign of the parent’s commitment to fulfill these responsibilities within a community of believers.

These parental responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  1. Remaining faithful in covenant marriage in recognition that God’s plan for the biological father and mother is to rear their children together in their home. (This is not meant to exempt single parents.)
  2. Being the spiritual leader(s) of their children—which includes setting the example in their relationship with Christ and the church as well as teaching their children the gospel and the whole counsel of the Word of God and its application to life.
  3. Maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of their children.
  4. Praying without ceasing for their children’s salvation and sanctification to the glory of God.
  5. Shepherding their child’s heart toward a full relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel by God’s Sovereign grace.

 

At Berean, the “family dedication” is a special time in which parents recognize that their child is a gift from God and publicly affirm their commitment to fulfill God’s expectations. It also is a time in which the church family commits to pray for and offer encouragement to the family as they purpose to serve God together. In essence, each parent who participates enters into a covenant with God and the body of Christ to do what they have been called to do as parents. As such, those who are not truly committed to doing what God expects, by His grace, should not present themselves before the church for a family dedication. Although photos are often taken during this public proclamation of a commitment to the Lord, it is much more than a photo op; it is a solemn commitment to obey the Lord as parents.

What if I am not a church member?

Parents who are not members of the church may request that the pastor meet with them to pray for their child’s health and salvation, but the public dedication of families will be limited to those already in a covenant relationship with the church through membership. A family dedication in church is a church family event and loses its significance if the parents proclaiming their dedication to the Lord are not part of the family. Those who are not part of Berean through covenant membership are encouraged to seek to join first in church membership before they publicly present themselves before the church for a baby dedication.

Questions

Questions about “family dedications” or these expectations should be directed to the church office. Church members should notify the church office of their desire to present themselves and their child for a dedication as soon as possible to afford sufficient time to plan for the dedication. Parents should review the expectations in detail before contacting the church for a family dedication.