Four times a year, our church partners with parents to dedicate their children to the Lord before the congregation. At the heart of this important practice are five promises made by both the parents and the congregation. Notice the words spoken over every child:
“Together with your parents who love you dearly and this congregation that cares about the outcome of your faith, I dedicate you to God, surrendering together with them all worldly claim upon your life in the hope that you will belong wholly to Jesus Christ forever.”
These words emphasize that parents have two “partners” supporting them as they raise their children in the faith. The first is God, who is committed to (1) declaring his glory from one generation to the next and (2) fulfilling his unstoppable purposes to raise up worshippers in every generation. The second partner is the church, whose members are committing to support, encourage, and pray for parents in the hope that their children “will belong wholly to Jesus Christ forever.”
Since we share responsibility for the faith of “our” children at College Park Church, it is important that we understand the promises and their implications:
1. We recognize these children as gifts of God and give heartfelt thanks for God’s blessing.
Children are a gift, regardless of the timing and circumstances of their arrival. They are not an accident. They are a gift even when they are not what we expect—when they come with infantile seizures, chromosomal irregularities, heart problems, deformities, blindness, tumors, brain damage, respiratory issues, etc. They are a gift when they are vomiting in the middle of the night and throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. It is an honor to be entrusted by God with these gifts.
2. We dedicate our children to the Lord who gave them to us, surrendering all worldly claims upon their lives in the hope that they will belong wholly to Jesus Christ.
Though children are a gift, God retains “ownership.” His sovereignty over children includes the right to give and take on his timetable; to bring children to faith in his way, on his schedule and according to his purpose; and to lead children wherever he pleases. We submit to God’s will and purpose for our children, hoping that our children will belong wholly to Jesus Christ.
3. We pledge as parents that, with God’s fatherly help, we will bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, making every effort, with faithfulness, patience and love, to build the Word of God, the character of Christ, and the joy of the Lord into their lives.
We are committed to faithfully carry out our Deuteronomy 6:4 and Ephesians 6:7 responsibilities for our children while acknowledging our limitations and ultimate dependence on God for the grace to fulfill them.
4. We promise to provide, through God’s blessing, for the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of our children, looking to our own heavenly Father for the wisdom, love, and strength to serve them and not use them.
The promise to provide for our children in every way would be impossible without the qualifiers “through God’s blessing” and “looking to our own heavenly Father”. We are also committing to Christ-like, servant-hearted, parenting that recognizes children exist for God and his glory, not for our personal satisfaction and pleasure.
5. We promise, God helping us, to make it our regular prayer that by God’s grace our children will come to trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and for the fulfillment of all his promises to them, even eternal life; and in this faith follow Jesus as Lord and obey his teachings.
Our greatest desire and hope is that God will save our children and that they will passionately follow Jesus. Ultimately, we have no control over the hearts of our children, but we resolve to earnestly pray to the One who does.
As God raises up one generation after another, we identify with the Apostle John who had “no greater joy than to hear that [his] children [were] walking in the truth” (3 John 1:3).