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Child Dedication
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A Legacy of Hope
By Ivan L. Williams, Sr.
 
I still remember it like it was yesterday.  I was serving as a pastor right out of college in my first church as a single twenty-one year old.  I had never conducted a child dedication before.  I was nervous and anxious about the service, but particularly about holding the baby girl up before the family and praying over her.  I had never experienced a parent extending their arms to give me their child to hold in front of a congregation, and my knowledge from book reading couldn’t fully prepare me for this real life, real ministry experience.
 
While conducting my first child dedication service it struck me; this was a deeply meaningful service that would be remembered and cherished by the parents, grandparents, godparents[1], extended family and friends for the rest of their lives.  Before this experience, however, I hadn’t really given it real depth of thought; after all, I was young and single with no children. But after conducting the service and spending time in fellowship with the family of the baby, I was left with a deep impression or conviction about the service in my first year of ministry. My conviction was simply a realization that this service was a legacy of hope for the parents and supporting participants. 
 
As a pastor, I have come to believe this legacy of hope is born out of the simple faith of the parents who bring their child to the Lord in a public way, and who involve family and friends in their commitment to give their child a strong spiritual foundation.  It is also born out of following the biblical tradition of godly parents in scripture bringing their children to the Lord, (1 Sam. 1:11, 27, 28 and Luke 2:22-24), and also from a real hopeful expectancy that the child will grow up to have an amazing impact on the world in which they have been birthed.
           
I have never dedicated a child where parent(s) haven’t had real hope and optimism about their child’s future.  Many desire and project through the child’s dedication service the fulfillment of Solomon’s wise words so their children won’t ultimately depart from their parental and Godly teaching.  Other parents even place all hope for the future of the family in this dedication of the child. Whatever the nuances, purposes, or intents of the parents may be, children are to be dedicated to God.  
 
Foundations in Biblical Principles
  1. God is the Creator of all children.  Psalm 139:13, 14
  2. Jesus died for all children. John 3:16
  3. Jesus blessed all children brought to Him and rebuked those who tried to hinder Him from blessing them.  Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16
  4. Jesus admonished adults to become like children to enter heaven, and condemned those who mistreated or caused children to stumble.  Matthew 18:1-6
Since all children are precious to God, our practice should reflect this principle.


Sprit of Prophecy References
    
Let ministers take little children in their arms and bless them.--The mothers that brought their children to Jesus, did well. Remember the text, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." Let mothers now lead their children to Christ. Let ministers of the gospel take the little children in their arms, and bless them in the name of Jesus. Let words of tenderest love be spoken to the little ones; for Jesus took the lambs of the flock in His arms, and blessed them.
Review and Herald March 24, 1896. {Pastoral Ministry p. 167.1
    
Baby Jesus was dedicated at the temple.--The priest went through the ceremony of his official work. He took the child in his arms, and held it up before the altar. After handing it back to its mother, he inscribed the name "Jesus" on the roll of the firstborn.
                                                       Desire of Ages p. 52, Pastoral Ministry p. 167
 
Hannah dedicated her child to God from birth.--The burden which she could share with no earthly friend she cast upon God. Earnestly she pleaded that He would take away her reproach and grants her the precious gift of a son to nurture and train for Him. And she made a solemn vow that if her request were granted; she would dedicate her child to God, even from its birth. 
                Patriarchs & Prophets p. 570.  Pastoral Ministry p. 167
 
Hannah and her husband, in an act of worship, confirmed the dedication of their child.--In her prayer, Hannah had made a vow that if her request were granted, she would dedicate her child to the service of God. This vow she made known to her husband, and he confirmed it in a solemn act of worship, before leaving Shiloh.
    
Parents should give their children to the Lord.--Parents, give your children to the Lord, and ever keep it before their minds that they belong to Him, that they are lambs of Christ's flock, watched over by the true Shepherd. Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord; and it is said of him, "Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words [the Lord's words through Samuel] fall to the ground."
    
…The father is responsible for the dedication of every member of his home.--The father was to act as the priest of the household, and if the father was dead, the eldest son living was to perform this solemn act of sprinkling the door-post with blood. This is a symbol of the work to be done in every family. Parents are to gather their children into the home and to present Christ before them as their Passover. The father is to dedicate every inmate of his home to God, and to do a work that is represented by the feast of the passover. It is perilous to leave this solemn duty in the hands of others.
    Signs of the Times Oct. 27, 1881, Pastoral Ministry p. 167, 168
 
Finally, in the journey of ministry some questions have arisen regarding the dedication of children not born into an Edenic type family (father and mother who are married to each other.) This may include questions about the dedication of children:
  • Born out of wedlock
  • Born through the process of artificial insemination to a single parent
  • Adopted by extended family (such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.)
  • Or Foster children
 
These questions usually arise out of adult issues like parental lifestyle, modern complex family issues, and congregational or leadership preferences. However, neither the Bible, nor the Spirit of Prophecy stipulates a different dedication for children born out of wedlock. Children born out of wedlock can be a sensitive issue for the church, and it should be handled with the care of Jesus so as to win the parent(s).
 
The child’s dedication should not be used as a means to address the adult/parental choices, and the preparation for the dedication can be a teaching moment for the parent(s). The service is a God-given opportunity to build bridges, foster relationships, and possibly even rekindle a waning love for God. The service also provides an opportunity for the congregation to witness and participate in the bestowing of God’s grace. Erring in grace, spiritual judgment, and the lack of relational intentionality has caused many to only have a view of the church through the eyes of bitterness and misunderstanding. The more complex and broken the family becomes, the more prayer and family relationship intentionality is needed in this service.
 
Another principle that guides our practice is implied in the following statement from the SDA Minister’s Handbook regarding the request of non-members to have their child(ren) dedicated:
 
 At times some who are not members of the church may be moved to seek this service of dedication for their children. Because of this request and perhaps through this service, they may be brought into fellowship with the congregation.
SDA Minister’s Handbook p. 186
 
We can conclude that child dedication services can be a way of reaching families in and outside of the church as they seek to dedicate themselves to raising their child(ren) according to the values of God’s kingdom. Surely we should desire to support them on this spiritual journey to give them a legacy of hope.
 
For more information please refer to:
The Seventh-day Adventist Minister’s Handbook p.185-188.
The Seventh-day Adventist Elder’s Handbook p.162-164.
 
[1] Godparents are spiritual guardians chosen by the parents to take an interest in the child's upbringing, personal and spiritual development.