Baby Dedication is such a beautiful event. However, if you’ve done Baby Dedication for a while, you’re going to have some awkward moments. Oh, and I’m not talking about the silly things that happen when you add kids to a semi-formal event. Yes, you’re going to have bathroom accidents, kids who completely lose their minds, and everything in between. This post article is a reminder that there are several awkward moments that may visit your Baby Dedication event, but they’re entirely avoidable. Each time one of these awkward moments happened, we changed our systems to ensure that it never happened again. I’ll start with the slightly awkward and end with the moments that made me want to move to another country.
NAMES ARE HARD
There are a lot of ways that a child’s name might be spoken during your Baby Dedication. If your dedication is a part of the worship service, it’s possible that the name could be read out loud to everyone attending. If you’ve created smaller, more intimate settings, the child’s name may only be referenced before a child’s family. Regardless, the name will be spoken and sometimes it’s not an easy name to say. Names have gotten hard in many different ways:
- Parents have gotten creative with names in recent years. My all-time favorite name came about 8 years ago when I was at a church in Austin, Texas. The dad, an Army veteran named his son Tank Destroyer. That wasn’t a difficult name to pronounce. However, you’ve probably noticed that parents are using names like John and Sally less and less.
- It feels like there are more gender-ambiguous names than ever. This may not affect pronunciation, but it is very helpful in referring to the child as a baby boy or girl.
- Our communities are becoming more and more diverse. It’s likely that you’ll have children with names that are pronounced differently than it is spelled. If a family is Hispanic or Asian, it’s really important to say the name the way the family says the name.
- Since modern families are more complex, it’s possible that everyone in the family could have different last names.
I don’t have a really funny story to tell you about how I butchered a family name, but I’ve had too many close calls to count. I’ve had to track down families immediately before the dedication just to get pronunciation confirmation.
Here’s how I’ve made sure to get this one right. When the family registers for the Baby Dedication (a separate registration from the Preparation for Baby Dedication Class), I ask several questions in relation to name.
- Full name of the child being baptized
- Phonetic pronunciation of child’s full name
- Father’s First and Last Name
- Mother’s First and Last Name
Whenever I’m going to read any names, I have a cheat sheet with all of these answers. I want to know exactly who the mom and dad are as well as how to pronounce the child’s name. Before the event, I’ll practice all the names several times to eliminate random mistakes.
FAMILIES HAVE CHANGED
The complex nature of families can sometimes throw you for a loop. I’ve learned to never make assumptions about anyone. Ever! Here’s what happened a few years ago. When serving as the NextGen Pastor at a church in Arizona, a mom filled out the Prep for Child Dedication Class registration and explained her family dynamic. She was a single mom wanting to dedicate her 2-year-old son. She actually had a good relationship with the child’s father and she was hoping that the child’s father would want to participate in the upcoming Baby Dedication. They had never been married and there wasn’t going to be a marriage between her and the child’s father. That relationship was old news and she was seriously dating another man. All of this information came in through the Dedication Class registration, nearly two months before the actual dedication. By the time the actual dedication came around, a lot of things had changed. Important information didn’t get passed along. I don’t actually remember what information was transcribed to the prayer leader cheat sheet, but the back story of the child’s father was not included. The prayer leader initiated a conversation with the family at the start of the family dedication. He looked at the mother and the father and asked, “so how long have you been married?”
It was an embarrassing moment for the prayer leader (a volunteer I had recruited) and a little embarrassing for the family. It was a delicate situation that we didn’t handle well. We actually had the systems to ask the right kinds of questions, but we neglected to get that information to the final dedication cheat sheet. This is the information we asked for when a family is registering for the dedication class, but we held a separate registration for the actual dedication. After this mistake, we made sure to link the two registrations and we added a place on the prayer leader’s cheat sheet to indicate any special family dynamics.
You should ask for family background information for a lot of reasons. I like to ask these questions when they register for the Dedication Class because some family situations require conversations before the actual dedication. Here are some things you need to ask:
- Full name of the father and the mother
- Are the father and mother married to each other?
- If the father and mother are not currently married to each other, please explain your family relationships.
This is a fairly unassuming way to ask for this important information. Understanding these family relationships are important for several reasons:
- Not asking embarrassing questions at the Baby Dedication – for starters.
- It’s possible that this family has experienced hardship and brokenness at the very start of becoming a family. Knowing the full situation creates an opportunity to minister and pastor this family in a critical season of life.
- It’s possible that your church has some policies around Baby Dedication. If your church doesn’t feel comfortable dedicating a family where an unmarried couple is raising a child in the same household, it’s best not to discover this in the middle of your Baby Dedication. These questions aren’t to eliminate families from dedication, but to know where everyone is coming from so that the church can be personal with every family.
YOU CAN NEVER FORGET
Let me play out one of my worst nightmares. We put together a beautiful Baby Dedication experience. We have prayer leaders pray with all of our families and at the very end, we discover that one family was never assigned to a prayer leader. They and all their guests sat through the entire dedication service, probably assuming that they would be called in the final round. Unfortunately, they were never called because their name didn’t make it to a roster. We don’t have any pictures. We don’t have a gift. We don’t have a certificate. What a disaster.
In 22 years of hosting Baby Dedication, This happened 2 and a half times (I’ll explain what the half time was in a minute).
The first time this happened was over ten years ago. I had developed a very thorough process for tracking Baby Dedication inquiries, class attendance, and Baby Dedication registrations. I hired a new assistant and passed the process along to the assistant. I remember very clearly that this new assistant pushed back on my system, thinking that it was overly “detailed.” It was at the first Baby Dedication that my new assistant was running registration that the nightmare I described became a reality. Fortunately, another person from my team actually caught the situation before the dedication happened. They apologized profusely and a few weeks later, I led a personal Baby Dedication for that family at a big family gathering. It all worked out in the end, but it helped emphasize the importance of a thorough process.
The second time it happened was actually just one year ago. Honestly, it was a fluke. A family had attended one of our dedication classes. A recent innovation we were playing with was allowing parents to register for the upcoming Baby Dedication or future dedications. Normally, we’d only let families register for the immediate dedication, but because a lot of people decide to push back to a later date, I thought it would be a good idea to let a family still register for the next Baby Dedication that worked for them. This family filled out the Baby Dedication registration, put chose a later date on accident. They showed up to participate and we were not prepared for them at all. However, my AMAZING assistant saved the day. She figured out what had happened almost immediately. Because the family had registered (for the future event), she had all the information she needed. She ran to the office, printed out a certificate, put together a new gift bag (with their name printed on it), and sent 2-3 photos to the tech director running the slides. We had several empty tables in the front because a family called out earlier that morning. Within 5-7 minutes, we had this family situated and they got an experience identical to all the other families. We literally couldn’t put their photos into the slideshow, but we did a simple call-out after the slideshow that made it nice, but not awkward.
The half time… was a first. I had a record number of prayer leaders coming to pray for families. One of the prayer leaders had a car breakdown and he never called me. He made the assumption that I would notice that he wasn’t there and re-assign his family. One of my AMAZING prayer leaders noticed the family that hadn’t been prayed for, looked up their information on their prayer leader cheat sheet, and prayed for the family like they did their other families. It was a little bit of a longer wait, but the family had a wonderful experience.
Here’s what I learned.
- Build thorough systems to make sure you didn’t forget anyone.
- Double-check your final Baby Dedication Roster.
- Have someone else double-check your Baby Dedication Roster.
- Put people in charge of different parts of your Baby Dedication (when I had too many responsibilities, things would/could fall through the cracks).
- Have a backup plan for when someone is forgotten. Always have an extra seat/table with an extra certificate ready to print. Why? Because it’s going to happen sometime.
FINAL AWKWARD THOUGHTS
Awkward moments are often the things that drive innovation. Something undesirable happens, so a system is set up to make sure it never happens again. Hopefully, some of my awkward moments will save you from having to experience them. But don’t forget, we work in Children’s Ministry – awkwardness sometimes comes with the job. In all of my awkward moments, things were made right. We laughed. I got better at my job. We want to shoot for excellence, but embrace the awkwardness when it comes.
Oh, and one final thought. A good friend and co-worker had maybe one of my favorite AWKWARD Baby Dedication moments of all time. When you hear it, you’ll literally gasp. We’ll save this story for a conversation though, so the next time we meet, ask me about it and I’ll share it with you!