Why I hate Child Dedication

Posted on 02. Mar, 2009 by in Early Childhood, Fresh Ideas, Parents

This week I’m going to be writing about Child Dedication. Most Children’s Pastors are responsible to hold these 2-4 times a year. Most I’ve talked to hate them. Maybe that’s too strong of a word. Most really don’t like them.

Let me tell you why I don’t like them and what I’m doing about it.

I’ve been responsible to host 2-4 of these suckers a year for the last 8-9 years of ministry. To some degree, they’re an administrative nightmare. All year long people are either asking about them or signing up for them. Then when the day comes, you call and email to see who is coming. Then you call and email to double check. You print out certificates and write in Bibles. Then the day comes and you parade all these babies across the stage for four minutes of Child Dedication Glory. You have to determine if you’re going to have them come up one at a time and hand them their Bible’s and certificates one by one, or just have all of them come at once, pray and then get them on their way before the worship pastor gets mad at you for taking so long. Inevitably, you always have that one family that comes up on stage that never registered, never called or never emailed. Who knows why they came up, but they didn’t get a certificate or a Bible and they’re a little frustrated for not getting called out.

Does that sum up your experience? Was I even close?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind an administrative challenge. To be honest, I’m up for a challenge. Here is why I hate Child Dedication.

Two years ago, my wife was pregnant with Titus. It was the day before a child dedication. Sara asked me, “what do you think about child dedication?” I was a little confused. “What do you mean? Child Dedication is something I do.” Then she asked, “Is the way you do child dedication what you want for dedicating Titus.” My answer was quick. “No.”

I knew what I wanted for Titus. I wanted to have friends and family over at our house for a small party. Then we’d have a good friend/pastor lead us in prayer as we dedicated Titus in the company of the people we did life with. That’s what I wanted.

That was the day I began to hate child dedication. Why would I offer a dedication that was far less than I would want for my own children. What a hypocrite. I started to realize that what I did was less of a child dedication and more of a dog and pony show… a chance for parents to show off their new babies. I don’t want to minimize what Child Dedication is for so many people… I just think it can be so much more.

So, in a few days I’ll be hosting a Child Dedication at Gateway that looks a little more like the kind of dedication that I’d want for my own child. Actually, Sara and I will be dedicating Titus at this dedication. This week I’m going to share with you my thoughts, my dreams and what my dedication’s going to look like this time around.

Meet Kenny

Kenny Conley has written 1891 posts on CMO.

Kenny Conley is the primary author of Childrens Ministry Online and the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. In addition to creating the Illuminate Conference, a high quality kidmin conference designed specifically for volunteers, Kenny is a published author and speaker. For more biographical info, click here.


Tags: ,

12 Responses to “Why I hate Child Dedication”

  1. Amanda Sims

    02. Mar, 2009

    I find this an interesting topic. I was the children’s minister for our church when it was time to dedicate my daughter Jadyn. But I wanted to do it in front of the whole church. That’s because we’d gone through 4 1/2 years of infertility and miscarriage before she finally came along, and we wanted to praise God for her publicly, along with so many of our body who had prayed for us during our “trying” and pregnancy phases.

    All that being said, I do find that it can be a rather showy and shallow time for many. I like your idea of a small party and maybe I would have preferred that in some ways if I had thought of it.

    Amanda Sims’s last blog post..Sacrifice

    Reply to this comment
  2. Donald

    02. Mar, 2009

    Just described my experience at our church until we officially moved it to my, Children’s Pastor, department. I now use Parent/Baby Dedication as an opportunity to cast family ministry vision to each family and the entire church body.
    -keep frequency at a pace to do no more than 3-4 families at a time.(helps keep it special for them, also) Emphasize to parents that if there is some urgency to gettin er done, then they don’t understand what we are doing. Have had to ‘decline’ to do for a family cuz – “Who are you, do you attend church here…anywhere?” Encouraged them to start with their exploring their personal faith, then let’s go from there.
    -meet with parents, at their home to eval, encourage, and educate where they are in their own faith, know what Deut. 6 calls us to, and get busy praying as a couple about what commitments they are ready to make as the spiritual leaders in their child’s life (hit those lukewarm dads hard with this, often leads to us having lunch, just couple of dads.
    -day of event, cover some verses:Psalm 127:3, 1 Samuel 1, Luke 2:22, Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Ephesians 6:4
    -intro families individually. Parents take verbal pledge before God, and church family (representing church body of JC) to make the highest priority in their child’s life to raise child as Christ follower.
    -followed by believers in the church body standing and verbalizing commitment to partner in teach, train, encourage this family.
    -encourage families to have get together at their home that Sunday afternoon: family, close friends, etc. (in line with your ‘do life with’ vision)
    -try to schedule one the week before Senior Recogintion (another post topic) in order to tie in the ‘cradle to college’ thing.

    Look forward to hear bout some others. Most of above stuff is stolen pieces from different sources.

    Reply to this comment
  3. laurie curtis

    02. Mar, 2009

    hey kenny! i found you through twitter–i am the waumba land director at athens church in athens ga. waumba land is our preschool ministry environment for kids birth-preK. i have been facing this SAME question about baby/child dedication since i started in this roll a year ago and me and my team have come to the same and have come to the SAME conclusion. I did some research and The Village church in TX encourages their people do host baby dedication in their homes too. they developed a baby dedication box- w. invites, etc in it. We are on this same journey here. My heart is for parents is to have an intimate time w. their close family and friends to pray for their child in their home. I would love to dialog w. you about this! laurie@athenschurch.com

    Reply to this comment
  4. Kenny

    02. Mar, 2009

    Good thoughts everyone. I’m looking forward to unpacking this with you this week. I haven’t figured it out, just trying something new. All of us are smarter than any one of us. I just know that the way I’ve done it in the past is broken and I’m looking at ways to do this that is significant for families.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Sam

    02. Mar, 2009

    Great post Kenny. I have never had to do be involved with or organize dedications it’s done through our admin office. Maybe that’s what you should do push it on the admin department. Ha!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Kidzturn

    02. Mar, 2009

    I’m liking your thoughts on this, from a parent’s perspective.

    Reply to this comment
  7. David Scott

    02. Mar, 2009

    A couple of thoughts for you: First of all, our dedication is much different, which I think makes it more a special event. We do our dedications individually, as soon as child and mother are ready after the child’s birth, sometimes within weeks of the birth. We have the child and parents, along with siblings and any other family come up, and then we have the family’s cell group come and gather around, because we stress that they are the “spiritual” aunts, uncles and grandparents to the new infant. Then the family’s cell leader(s) are responsible for the time of blessing. We’re very intentional about saying that the community of believers has a place in raising a child to know God.

    Second thought: I, like you, asked the question “is this what I’d want for my child?”, but in the context of baptism, not dedication. And because it is in my power (and my desire) to change culture, when it came time for my own child’s baptism, I did what you suggest: We threw a huge party, invited everyone, had scripture read over him, terrific singing and praise that the one who was lost had come home, and even enlisted special men in his life to dedicate themselves discipling him. Guess what the culture is like now? It has completely changed.

    Be the change, bro!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jim Meldrim

    02. Mar, 2009

    I like your take on this. We have just developed a kit for our LifeGroups (small groups) that empowers them to have child dedications in the context of smaller community. While we are just testing this out, I already like the direction because the accountability for helping to raise that child is in the context of the relationships of those with whom we already do life together.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Jesse Smith

    02. Mar, 2009

    I look forward to hearing what you have to say on dedication.
    At my old church we didn’t do mass dedications and we worked with the parents to structure something that they felt appropriate while at the same time committing the membership of the church to the children of the church…but it still seemed dog & ponyish.

    At my church now, we still do dedications, but I haven’t been involved in any of them, but it is my area so I’d love to find some ways to make this better for everyone.

    Jesse Smith’s last blog post..Why Home School

    Reply to this comment
  10. Ned Gable

    02. Mar, 2009

    Thanks for the post. I actually love our parent/child dedications. Here’s why.

    For years I did individual dedications. Basically we chose a Saturday and scheduled families in 45 min blocks. (the ceremony usually took about 30 minutes and we left 15 minutes to transition) People could invite their friends and families and I would usually do 8 to 10 dedications back to back. This was a nice format but it became difficult to manage as the ministry grew.

    In my current ministry there is almost no way to pull off an individual dedication. But at the same time I hate the cattle call dedication as much as anyone. This was our compromise. First let me say that I have wonderful staff. Patti Jo Mackey and Jenni Bowman are the main reasons our dedications are successful. Here’s what they do. About a month before dedication we have a dedication class for parents. This class is required and I think it is the most essential ingredient in our process. At the class Patti Jo helps families understand the significance and meaning of dedication as well as helping them lay a strong spiritual foundation for their kids. Also in the class we introduce several elements that we will use in the dedication. We have parents choose a life verse and dedication sponsors for their child (just someone who is important to the family and commits to pray for the child). We also give them a template to write a letter to their child.

    We hold our dedication as a special service on Sunday afternoon where participants can invite their family and friends. We have special music, I present a brief challenge to parents then we have the families come up. Rather than just a cattle call we have families come up one at a time with their sponsors. Their sponsors read the child’s life verse then the parents read a portion of the letter they have written to the child. (If they can without crying. Some have their sponsor read the letter.) After each family has been introduced and read their letter, we close with vows from the parents and tthe audience and I pray over the families. After the service we have a photographer and a nice reception.

    This format is great for us. We have time to build into families. It’s personal and meaningful, mainly because families have put thought into what their doing and they come prepared. This format is also practical. We’ve had dedications with as many as 20 children and the service lasts a little less than an hour.

    Thanks for creating a great forum for discussion.I’m looking forward to seeing what is successful for others.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Kenny

    02. Mar, 2009

    It’s discussions like these that remind me why I blog. Great stuff and a lot of great ideas. I’m going to unpack this over the next few days and unveil what I’m doing this week as a result of these questions I’ve been asking. However, I’m liking some of what I’m reading here and I may have to try to add some of this stuff to the agenda.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Henry Zonio

    03. Mar, 2009

    There is only one time that I experienced anything similar to what you have described as a dedication. Maybe I’ve just been lucky to have the experiences I’ve had. I’ve never really been to dedications that were scheduled at certain time of years (and these were at mega and smaller churches). It’s always been on an as needed basis, so sometimes there was one family and sometimes 5 or 6 or more. Although they weren’t long, they were sacred moments and times to emphasize the role of parents and community in the rearing of a child. Currently, the church I am at, the dedications are done when parents request them. Usually, I am the one who does the initial follow up with the parents and talk with them about dedication and what it means for them, their child and the community. Usually me or my senior pastor do the dedications, but the family is free to choose whichever “staff” person they’d like to do the dedication. To me, it is very pesonal and something that is important in the lives of the families involved as well as our community. The difference is in why you are doing the dedication. It IS a community event; a time to call the church community to greater commitment to being the “village” that helps to rear this child. It is also a community event in that the parents commit to the church community to rear their child in such a way that the child is introduced to Christ throughout the child’s life. It is also a community event in that the community and parents commit to God to do what they can to point the child to Christ.

    When seen as a community spiritual event, child dedication is put in a whole different context and is more than just an administrative nightmare as well as not simply limited to “close family and friends.”

    Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply