After I mentioned that my congregation dedicates infants in a special service, a brother in Western Tennessee wrote to ask, “Where is your authority for this dedication? Is it not nearly the same as ‘christening’ babies? Why this special ceremony? What actually takes place during such a service?”
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Those are reasonable questions which deserve serious, biblical answers. The custom of parents dedicating their babies to God is at least as ancient as Hannah (1 Sam. 1:27-28), and parents ever since the patriarchs have “blessed” their children in the name of the Lord (Gen. 49; see also Luke 1 and 2 involving the infants John and Jesus). Surely Christian parents ought to do no less, as one expression of their commitment to train their little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
The child dedication ceremony varies from congregation to congregation. Most select or arrange their own choice of hymns, Scripture readings and prayers. Sometimes the elders gather around the assembled parents and infants at the front of the building and lay hands on them as they pray. Sometimes there is a responsive reading by which the church affirms the parents and pledges to assist in bringing up their children in the Lord.
Whatever the precise details, this is a time of shared faith and nurturing, of caring and praying for one another, of encouraging and affirming parents in their godly duties. No one binds it on anyone else, and parents are free either to receive these blessings or to forego them. Those who have participated in it have been deeply moved, and many say it is an experience they will not soon forget.