What We’re Doing When We Dedicate Children

On Sunday we dedicated eight children. It was a fun, memorable morning, but what exactly is child dedication? Why do we do it?

What is Child Dedication?

The practice of baby dedication is based on a precedent in the Old Testament, followed by Jesus when he was presented to the Lord in the Temple (Luk 2:22-35). At City Life, child dedication is an opportunity for parents to celebrate God’s gift of life (Gen 33:5; Psa 127:3-5) , invite the church to be a greater family to our child, and to dedicate ourselves to raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). I recall J.D. Greer saying it’s really less of a child dedication and more of a parent commissioning. Certainly, but commissioning for what? To raise our kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Discipline & Instruction of the Lord

If we teach our kids “the instruction of the Lord,” (the gospel) but don’t discipline them, we teach them they are king not Jesus. But we also help them to see Jesus “only as a Savior.” This weakens the gospel and distorts their vision of Jesus. However, if we discipline our kids but don’t teach them the gospel of grace, we train them to see him only as King, inadvertently teaching them they can save themselves by working hard to please mom and dad, and King Jesus. But if we raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, we raise our children to find salvation, not in impressing or ignoring God, but in trusting a Jesus who is both Savior and King. We nurture a vision of Jesus that is whole and liberating.

Each parent has a leaning towards one or the other–discipline or gospel instruction. It’s important we recognize this, repent of our own distortions of Jesus, and work with our spouses to rear our kids in the whole gospel–Jesus as Savior and Jesus as King. This lays a marvellous foundation in their hearts for the Spirit to move, save, and sanctify.

Actual Dedication

Our parents make three promises, which we adapted from another source:

  1. Do you recognize these children as gifts from God, and in celebration, give thanks for His blessing?
  1. Do you pledge as parents that, by God’s grace, you will raise your children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”, that they might bring glory to God and blessing to others?
  1. Do you now dedicate your children to God, making it your regular prayer that your children will trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and the promise of new life?

Then a City Group leader or elder says these words of dedication words over the baby: Child’s name, together with your parents, who love you dearly, and with this community who cares about your faith, I dedicate you to God in the hope that you will belong fully to the Lord. And the people said, AMEN.

Lord, grant our children faith in grand and tender Jesus, simultaneously a tender Savior and a glorious King.