I was a kids pastor for nearly ten years before I became a parent. I didn’t realize that my perspective of Children’s Ministry would change as much as it did once I had a child. The first perspective change came just a few months before I became a parent and it had everything to do with how my church conducted Baby Dedication. I would soon come to discover that many Kids Pastors felt exactly the way I did. Let me explain.
For nearly ten years, I conducted Baby Dedications 2-4 times a year. Usually, 2-3 weeks before the next dedication, we would let families know that we were doing a dedication and they would RSVP for it. A few days before the big day, we would confirm with all the families and give them instructions. Here’s what would happen.
- 15-20 minutes before the service began, parents would check in at a designated place in the lobby with their child.
- 15-20 minutes before the service began, we’d have to talk to 2-3 families who didn’t RSVP and were hoping to dedicate their child (they had invited out-of-town guests)
- 5 minutes before the service began, we would frantically text and call the 3-4 families who RSVP’d and confirmed who hadn’t yet checked in.
- 10-15 minutes into service, I or my Early Childhood Director would introduce each family as they walked onto the stage.
- Each family would be given a certificate and a special gift (usually a Children’s Bible)
- The lead pastor would say a few words about how beautiful these kids are, how much the church loves kids, and how important the role of the parent is.
- The lead pastor would then pray over all the children (not by name) and dedicate them and their families to the Lord.
- The church would clap as the families made their way back to the lobby where they would check their kids into the age-appropriate rooms before going back to adult service.
Honestly, it wasn’t awful. It had its frustrations, but at the end of the day, it was a nice experience. But then I became a parent and it radically changed how I felt about the Baby Dedication. Here’s what happened.
When Everything Changed
One Sunday in 2007, I was headed to church a few hours early because of a Baby Dedication. My wife and I were just 2-3 months from becoming first-time parents to our son (Titus). As I was saying goodbye to Sara, she asked me a question that started it all. She asked, “After Titus is born, do you want to dedicate him at church?”
Immediately, I answered, “Yes!” I was the kids pastor, of course I was going to dedicate Titus at church.
But at the exact same time, an idea formed in my brain and I blurted it out as well. For context, Titus wasn’t our first child. We had been pregnant three times before Titus and had lost all three of those babies to miscarriage. Over the years, we had accumulated a “Conley Baby Prayer Team” who rallied around us with each new pregnancy. My immediate thought was that this group of 15-20 people needed to be involved in our baby dedication. Then I explained, “I defiantly want to dedicate Titus at church, but I really want to do something that includes all our friends and family who have been on this pregnancy journey. Maybe we have everyone over after church and we have BBQ (we were in Texas at the time… it’s what you do) and have these people pray over us and Titus.”
Without missing a beat, I immediately disliked Baby Dedication, at least the way that I’ve experienced Baby Dedication for the last decade. Our story was a little different, but a lot of families have difficult pregnancy journeys. Shouldn’t the church do more to adequately support and truly celebrate the miracle of birth? As a soon-to-be parent, I wholeheartedly agreed. As soon as I said what I said to Sara, she replied, “That sounds beautiful. Why don’t you offer something like that for every family at church?”
Who knew that almost 16 years ago, a short conversation before leaving for church would ignite a passion to fully reinvent Baby Dedication, making it an event that everyone LOVED! If I’m 100% honest, Baby Dedication is now one of the things I love doing most as a Kids Pastor.
I would bring a new approach to Baby Dedication to three more churches where I served and each one got a brand new version of Baby Dedication. Every time I’d do another dedication, I’d tweak 2-3 things. The event literally got better every time we did it. What I have come to learn is that it may only take a few changes to revolutionize the experience. If you don’t love what you’re doing now, it may not take much to make it significantly better.
To summarize, I never hated Baby Dedication. I just hated the way we did Baby Dedication. Unfortunately, the way we did Baby Dedication is the way that MOST churches did Baby Dedication. Once we found a new way, it became something that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE! I just believed that Baby Dedication needed to be personal for every family. I believed that it needed to be highly relational. I also believed that it has the potential to connect parents (at the start of their parenting journey) to the larger mission of the parenting journey in a very meaningful way. If you can do all of those things, then Baby Dedication could become one of the most important things your ministry does!
To stay true to the titles of this post, let me unpack exactly what I didn’t love about the way we all used (and some still do) to do Baby Dedication:
- Baby Dedication is highly impersonal. Your church may dedicate multiple families in just 3-4 minutes of a weekend service.
- The person praying over the families likely doesn’t know the full story of each family. They don’t know the unique situation or challenges facing each family.
- A 3-4 minute baby dedication moment during the service isn’t a highly invitational event. Most parents might invite immediate family, but it doesn’t feel like something worth inviting a lot of people.
- Parents are often marginally invested in this type of event. The only skin they had in the game was the time it took to RSVP a few days before the event. Some parents can’t even remember to do that and hope they can simply show up to participate.
- Baby Dedications can easily become a glorified “dog and pony” show where more emphasis is placed on cute pictures and adorable outfits.
- Baby Dedications can easily become a spiritual checklist, some things parents feel they need to do to be good parents who care about their family’s spiritual life.
- Lastly, younger parents have no desire to dedicate their kids as they don’t see the value.
Yeah, we really should do this better. Check out all of our Baby Dedication resources to build a Baby Dedication experience your church and families NEED to experience!
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