I led my first Baby Dedication sometime in 2001, about 22 years ago. It’s crazy to think that I’ve done so many. I wish I had kept better records personally to know exactly which kids I dedicated each of those past 22 years. Doing some rough math, I believe I’ve been able to dedicate close to 700 babies since that first one in 2001. Ridiculous, I know!
However, the experience for each of those families was not the same. Over the course of the last 22 years, Baby Dedication evolved in my ministry. Sometimes it helps to see real-world examples to understand context and personally plot a course from here to there. So, let me unpack my Baby Dedication journey so you’ll see how this event evolved in my own personal ministry over the years.
2001-2007: THE EARLY YEARS
This era in my Baby Dedication journey was when I was in my second kids’ ministry role, but my first full-time role as a Kids Pastor. In my previous church, I only oversaw elementary ministry, so I wasn’t involved in Baby Dedication. Because it was a small church with only one service, I don’t even know if they did any while I was there. But at Graceland Baptist Church in New Albany, IN – I would host a Baby Dedication 1-2 times a year in the worship center. At this point, the only thing I knew about Baby Dedication is exactly what I was told by the person who was the kids’ pastor before me (who also happened to be my boss). This Baby Dedication looked exactly like Baby Dedication at just about every church in the country. Parents made reservations to participate 2-3 weeks before the big day. On the day of the event, we dedicated a dozen kids between our two services. Parents would check-in at the Kids Ministry Info table in the main lobby 10-15 minutes before the service. As much as I enjoyed hosting this Baby Dedication, I remember it being 100% pure chaos. We had parents who showed up seconds before we walked up on stage. We had parents who didn’t show up at all. We even had a handful of parents who didn’t RSVP but planned to dedicate their kids. That part wasn’t fun and I made some slight adjustments over the year to reduce the day-of stress.
In 2004, I started my second full-time kids’ ministry role just north of Fort Worth, TX at Cross Timbers Community Church. Here I would be the Kids Pastor at the smallest campus, the kids pastor at the largest campus, and the central kids pastor overseeing all of the campuses. I was learning so much about children’s ministry in this season, but unfortunately, little changed in the way I would host Baby Dedication. It was in 2007 that I had a defining moment that would forever change how I saw Baby Dedication. It was in 2007 that I became a father. Isn’t it interesting how becoming a parent actually changes your perspective on leading kids’ ministry?
On the last day I would ever lead a Child Dedication the way I’d done for 6 years, I had a quick conversation with my wife before heading off to church. We were just a couple of months away from meeting our son Titus and Sara asked me, “Are we going to dedicate Titus at the next Baby Dedication?” Immediately, I said yes, but then I hesitated as another idea came to mind. Although we were about to have our first baby, this wasn’t our first pregnancy. We had actually been pregnant three times before Titus. Over the course of 18-24 months, Sara and I assembled a small team of prayer warriors who walked with us on this difficult journey. At this moment I was thinking of them. “I think I want to do something different… or something in addition to the Child Dedication at Church. I’d like to have all our family and friends over for lunch (Probably BBQ – because we were in Texas) and I’d really love to celebrate the birth of Titus with these people. I’d like the personal opportunity to thank them for loving us so well and I’d really love to have them pray over us and our boy.” What Sara said next was beautiful and changed everything – and definitely impacted a large portion of the hundreds of families who would participate in future Baby Dedications. Sara replied. “Yes, I think that’s beautiful. Hey, why can’t you do something like that for everyone who wants to dedicate a child?”
2008-2016: EXPERIMENTING YEARS
Less than a year after becoming a father (for the first time), I would have my first opportunity to craft Baby Dedication into the experience I wanted to share with everyone. I had just become the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. As most people do, I inherited a Baby Dedication experience and my first dedication to host at Gateway was a hold-over from what was done before. Fortunately for me, Gateway did Baby Dedication differently, making it easier to make future changes. Gateway didn’t do Prep for Baby Dedication classes, but they had a more robust RSVP that I would later expand. A volunteer ran a large chunk of the event and she collected 3-5 photographs of all the kids who participated, creating a beautiful slideshow to include in the dedication. Gateway also hosted Child Dedication on Sunday afternoon, 20-30 minutes before a once-a-month Sunday afternoon worship gathering. I loved the idea of getting the event off of the weekend schedule, giving us more time to make the event something really special.
This was the same time that I was significantly impacted by the Orange Strategy of Partnering with Parents. I launched a Prep for Baby Dedication Class that was almost entirely based on the book, “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity.” It was during this season that I had parents attend the Dedication Class and for homework, write a letter to their child. At the dedication, I had a musician lead a few songs to set the pace and feel for the event. As the NextGen Pastor, I’d talk for 6-10 minutes before sending families to meet their prayer leaders for the individual dedications. It was at Gateway that I began recruiting staff, pastors, and elders to attend the event as prayer leaders. Depending on how many families were dedicating kids, I had prayer leaders pray for 1-2 rounds of families, taking 10-15 minutes to create a moment with their assigned families. Parents would read their letters to their kids to their family and friends and share their hopes and dreams for their kids. It was beautiful. The wife of one of my key Baby Dedication volunteers was a professional photographer. She would hang out in the courtyard after the dedication and take pictures of all the families afterward. The other two big changes were moving Baby Dedication to Saturday mornings and eventually moving the event out of the massive auditorium. We had a smaller space that felt much cozier and created a better environment for 20-30 people gathering around a single family. I did keep the slideshow, but I moved to a brilliant software called Animoto that allowed me to make the BEST photo slideshows in just minutes.
It was actually at Gateway where I was able to dedicate both Titus and Genevive – and they were amazing moments for my family.
2016-2020: TWEAKING WHAT WAS WORKING
In 2016, I made another life transition, becoming the NextGen Pastor at MISSION Church in Gilbert, AZ. I had a really good Baby Dedication experience figured out, but it was at MISSION where I made some small improvements that went a really long way. MISSION was a North Point Strategic Partner Church and it was there that I learned some of the things Northpoint used to do with Baby D. I was a big fan of moving the entire event to a room where everyone was sitting at rounds. We created assigned tables where families and friends would know where to sit. We also got a little better with the Baby Dedication gifts. For years, I’d been giving away copies of “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity,” knowing that few parents are actually going to invest the time to read another parenting book. We gave away small jars of 52 marbles (one for each week of the year), some nicely printed “it’s just a phase” resources, and eventually a framed Dedication Certificate. Since parents were sending us 3-5 pictures of the child they were dedicating, we started decorating the tables with photos. Another big move was the addition of food. We had coffee, water, juices, fruit, and a variety of finger pastries. It created a much more inviting environment to celebrate families. It also kept families busy who weren’t dedicating a child in the first round. It kept everyone (especially the littles) patient and happy.
It was also at MISSION where I made a major change to the Dedication Event that made pulling it off a little easier. For almost 10 years, I’d had a musician leading a couple of songs for this event. I’m a really big fan of family worship experiences, but Baby Dedication is a little different. You have parents who are juggling very young children, grandparents, neighbors, friends from work, and who knows who else is there. It’s a bit of an odd crowd. My youth pastor suggested that I drop the musician. We debated what needed to happen in its place. I felt like something creative needed to happen that helped people feel something and prepare for the significance of what was happening next. Instead, we decided on a fun and entertaining host to launch a conversation starter at the tables that would then lead into the “It’s Just a Phase Marble” videos that Orange created. It was perfect and really made the experience flow, especially with the odd gathering of people. There were 2-3 dedications I hosted at MISSION where I felt, “this might be one of the greatest things we do at MISSION that nobody really knows about.” It was during this season that we started to get a lot more intentional about promoting what we were doing to the rest of the church. This season was also punctuated by the Global Coronavirus Pandemic.
2020-2022: BABY DEDICATION PERFECTION
I hesitate to use a word like perfection because I 100% believe that every year, we’d find a way to do this event better than before. But I have to say that the last 2-3 dedications I did in 2021 and 2022 were outstanding. I was now the Kids Pastor at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, and not only were we putting together the most beautiful MASSIVE Baby Dedications I’d ever done, but we were replicating versions of it across all of our congregations. These are the two big changes I made in this season of my Baby Dedication journey.
First of all, zoom proved to become a smash hit for Prep for Baby Dedication Classes. All during the pandemic, I continued to host online baptism classes. We didn’t really have a plan for baptizing anyone during the quarantine, but that didn’t stop us from hosting monthly baptism classes. To be honest, online baptism classes for kids were always a little weird. I’m still a big fan of online classes whenever possible, but having 2-3 elementary kids on a zoom call, always just felt weird. However, at Mariners, we tried to offer an online version of everything we did. As we moved toward having in-person Baby Dedications again, we launched RSVPs for the Prep for Baby Dedication Classes. For the main campus, we offered 2 in-person classes and 1 online class. Our smaller congregations offered 1 in-person class and they could also join the online class. The parents spoke – they LOVED the Monday night online class. I still had a good showing for the in-person classes, but easily two-thirds of parents preferred to attend online. It was a little more difficult to do the relational stuff online (but not impossible), but it’s really fun to host a Dedication Class with 70-80 parents. Really fun!
Secondly, Baby Dedication being a part of the weekend service was really important to Mariners Church. For decades, this church celebrated the next generation by having elders come on stage and pray over families during the weekend service. It was important for the entire church to be involved, praying for and supporting families who were dedicating their children. I was not excited about going back to a service-based dedication, but I greatly appreciated the way my church didn’t want dedication to just be something that was done in isolation (something I was really wrestling with at MISSION just before COVID). Fortunately, we had the perfect solution. Our first service on Saturdays was at 4p. We had an opportunity to host a dedication on Saturday afternoon with all of our families and celebrate the dedication with photos and videos at services all weekend long. We would have 400-500 people participate in our dedication at 2:30p get family photos taken, drop off their kids, and get to the 4p service just in time for our first weekend service. We’d have a nice attendance bump (which every lead pastor loves), and it would make for a really amazing experience for families and the church. I would host all of our services and while speaking, a collage of all the babies being dedicated would be on the screen. I’d invite the church to stand and pray for these kids and their parents – it was a truly beautiful moment – the best of both worlds.
SUMMARIZING 22 YEARS OF DEDICATION
Yes, it’s been 22 years since I hosted my first Baby Dedication, but it’s only been 15 years of actively innovating this experience.
I feel like I know Baby Dedication as well as I know just about anything. There’s not an angle, component, or part that I haven’t thought through more times than I can count. I’m grateful for every dedication, even the awkward ones, that helped me see dedication develop the way that it did. I hope and pray that my Baby Dedication journey impacts your Baby Dedication journey and the families you will host in the years to come.
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