We recently began calling our first milestone in our family discipleship pathway “Baby Celebration and Parent Commissioning” as opposed to what it was formerly and more traditionally referred to as “Baby Dedication.” Why is that and what does that mean?

You may be thinking that it’s just a longer and harder name to say, but aren’t we doing the same thing by having parents stand on stage and praying over them and promising to support them in the task of discipling their kids? Well, yes and no.

One of the things we want to emphasize and instill is that this milestone is more about the parents than about the children. This milestone, especially for first time parents, is a chance for us to introduce our vision for family discipleship and our pathway that we’ve created for the sake of forming a church and home partnership. Just like in any relationship, by establishing roles and goals at the beginning of a relationship we are hoping to create long term success over the 18 years that any child is part of our family ministry at Providence.

If parents are the primary disciple makers of their kids, and we believe that they are based on passages like Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78, then we need to create milestones and markers that elevate parents towards that task which is why we want to commission parents, rather than dedicate babies. And just like we train mission teams before being sent on mission trips, we train and equip parents through our Gospel Shaped Parenting Class to equip them to be sent into their homes as disciple-making disciples to their kids.

Another subtle difference in elevating parents above babies, is that our celebrating and commissioning moments in the service are for the entire family, it’s not just about the babies, but for every kid in the family because what we’re really doing is commissioning the parents. So even for families that may be repeating the process with a 2nd, 4th, or 6th kid the purpose is the same in having parents acknowledge their need for help and for committing and covenanting with the church for that help.

It’s important to remember that any partnership is a two-way relationship. While baby dedication is a one time event, what we’re really attempting to do is create an ongoing relationship between church and home. Discipleship takes time. And this milestone is the beginning of that ongoing relationship, but it requires participation and commitment and responsibility from both church and home to accomplish the desired results. This is a chance for families to lean on the church and it’s a chance for us as a church to say “We’re promising to be there to supply the help that you need because we know you can’t do it on your own!”

One of the weaknesses with the use of Baby Dedication is the implied assumption that our children are something that need to be dedicated to the Lord. But the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1), correct? God knew us when he made us (Psalm 139:13-16). Historically, the baptist church has created a special ceremony to do something that is already true and it can sometimes lead to a false assurance of salvation much like infant baptism can. One of the realities in commissioning parents is that we are acknowledging that our children need Jesus and they need saving rescue from the hell-bound race they are on apart from divine intervention and church and home participation. Our kids need Jesus and apart from church and home working together to give them Jesus as they grow up they will very much not be the Lord’s in the sense of having saving faith.

However, we do want to celebrate babies and acknowledge to our church family a pivotal moment in the life of young families at Providence. For we know the church ain’t dyin if the babies are cryin’. So new babies being born is an indicator of life and an opportunity for more disciples to be made which are both wonderful things that we want to celebrate. Everytime a baby is born into our church family is an opportunity for us to remind our entire church what God has called us to in passing on the gospel to the next generation, in our need for more gospel voices in the lives of the next generation, and in the reality that God has called church and home to partner together in introduce the next generation to Jesus Christ and grow them up to love and worship Him.

You can visit pray.org/kids for upcoming dates for both our Gospel Shaped Home Parenting Class and for our next Baby Celebration and Parent Commissioning moment in our worship services.