Child dedication is a meaningful ceremony practiced in many Christian churches around the world. As a parent, you may be wondering what child dedication is, why it’s done, and most importantly – what does the Bible actually say about dedicating children to the Lord?
In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the Scriptural foundations for child dedication, walk through key Bible passages, address common questions and misconceptions, and share key takeaways to guide you as you consider dedicating your child.
Child dedication is a public commitment you make before God, your church, and your community to raise your child in the Christian faith. The ceremony is a special time to present your child before the Lord and ask for His blessing and guidance in parenting.
Many churches hold child dedication services several times a year. Parents bring their baby or young child forward to stand with them before the congregation. The parents make vows to spiritually nurture the child in Christ and the church body promises to support the parents in this responsibility.
While child dedication is not required or commanded in Scripture, it can be a meaningful way for Christian parents to publicly commit to raising their children in the faith. The ceremony recalls Hannah’s dedication of Samuel in the Old Testament and emphasizes God’s desire for children to be brought up in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
Here are some key takeaways about what the Bible teaches on child dedication:
- Child dedication recognizes that children are a gift from God and places the responsibility on parents to raise them in the faith.
- The ceremony is not a sacrament or required ritual, but a voluntary act of commitment before God.
- Parents present their child to God and the church asks for God’s blessing and support.
- It does not indicate the child is saved or guaranteed salvation, since that is a personal decision as they grow older.
- Child dedication emphasizes God’s desire for children to be brought up in the Christian faith and the responsibility this entails.
- While not required, child dedication can be a meaningful way for parents to publicly commit to raising their child to know, love and serve Christ.
In the rest of this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into the key Scripture passages about child dedication and training children spiritually. We’ll also address some common questions that come up about what the Bible says on this topic.
Hannah Dedicates Samuel to the Lord
One of the most prominent stories of child dedication in the Bible appears in 1 Samuel 1-2. Here, a devout woman named Hannah struggles with infertility for years. She desperately wants a child and goes before the Lord in prayer, vowing to dedicate any son she has to the service of God.
“And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11 NKJV)
The Lord answers Hannah’s prayer and she gives birth to a son, whom she names Samuel. Once Samuel is weaned, Hannah honors her vow and brings him to the temple to serve under the priest Eli. This account shows how seriously Hannah took her promise to dedicate her long-awaited child back to the Lord.
Then she took him up with her when she had weaned him, along with three bulls, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli.” (1 Samuel 1:24-25 NKJV)
Hannah entrusts her beloved son completely to God’s purposes with a prayer of praise:
“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 NKJV)
Samuel grows up to be a great prophet, priest, and judge over Israel. Hannah’s example illustrates the dedication and sacrifice of parenting a child for God’s glory, not just one’s own fulfillment. It’s a model that influences Christian parents today.
Jesus Welcomes the Children
The Gospels contain several stories that reveal Jesus’ compassion and love for little children. He uses their trusting innocence as an example for others to follow.
In Matthew 19, Jesus’ disciples try to prevent parents from bringing their young children to see Jesus, thinking they aren’t important enough to bother him:
Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14 NKJV)
Jesus takes time to minister to the children and blesses them, despite the disciple’s objections. He upholds children as examples of the humble, receptive faith necessary to enter God’s kingdom.
Similarly, in Mark 10 a group of parents brings their children to Jesus for him to touch and bless them:
And they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NKJV)
Again, Jesus is indignant at his disciples’ attempt to brush the parents aside. He upholds the children as models of simple, humble faith.
These accounts reveal Jesus’ tenderness towards children and their special place in His kingdom. Jesus desires children to come to Him and does not consider them an unimportant distraction. Though Jesus does not discuss child dedication directly in these passages, His actions certainly affirm the value of bringing children to Jesus.
Parents Instructed to Train Children in the Faith
A key passage about child dedication is Ephesians 6:4, where the Apostle Paul instructs fathers to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord:
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NKJV)
Though directed specifically to fathers, this command implies a joint responsibility for both parents to nurture their children spiritually.
This verse is at the heart of the purpose of child dedication – for Christian parents to commit before God to raise up the next generation in the faith. Dedicating a child can be a public way to affirm this biblical responsibility.
Proverbs 22:6 also relates:
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV)
Though not a guarantee, properly training a child in their youth increases the likelihood they will continue in the Christian faith into adulthood. Child dedication marks the start of this life-long process.
Timothy’s Sincere Faith Passed Down From His Mother and Grandmother
Both of Timothy’s parents were Greek and not believers (Acts 16:1). But his mother and grandmother were devout Jewish Christians who passed on their sincere faith to Timothy from childhood:
when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5 NKJV)
This verse shows the powerful impact a mother and grandmother’s dedication can have on a child’s spiritual development. Timothy goes on to become a key disciple and leader in the early church under Paul’s mentorship.
Common Questions About Child Dedication
Now that we’ve surveyed some of the key biblical foundations about child dedication, let’s look at some common questions that arise about what the Bible does and does not say about this tradition.
Is child dedication commanded in Scripture?
No, the Bible does not explicitly command or require that parents dedicate their children to the Lord. Child dedication is not prescribed as an essential religious ritual or practice. It is a voluntary choice for Christian parents today.
However, passages like Ephesians 6:4 and Proverbs 22:6 underscore that God does desire children to be raised in the training and instruction of the Lord. While optional, child dedication can be a meaningful way for parents to affirm that God-given responsibility before their church community.
Does child dedication guarantee my child’s salvation?
No, child dedication does not automatically or irrevocably save a child. Salvation only comes through a personal profession of faith in Jesus Christ later in life (Romans 10:9-10).
At a child dedication, parents are making vows before God about their intentions to raise the child spiritually. The child themselves is too young to profess genuine faith. They must eventually confirm those spiritual commitments on their own.
However, dedicating a child can lay a foundation of faith that makes it easier for them to accept Christ when they are older. Timothy is a biblical example of genuine faith being passed down from mother to child (2 Timothy 1:5).
Is child dedication the same as infant baptism?
No. Child dedication and infant baptism are different religious ceremonies:
- Child dedication is a ceremony for infants or young children of Christian parents. The parents make commitments to raise the child in the Christian faith.
- Infant baptism is a sacrament practiced in some Christian denominations where the child is baptized as an infant, often with promises to raise them in the church. It indicates membership in the church.
- Believer’s baptism is only administered when a person is old enough to profess personal faith in Christ, after which they are baptized as a public testimony.
Child dedication does not bring the child into church membership. The child’s own later baptism and confirmation of faith accomplishes that after they have embraced the faith for themselves.
What if we dedicate our child but he eventually rejects Christianity?
Child dedication ceremonies always recognize the child’s future freedom to confirm or reject the Christian faith for themselves. The parents’ vows are conditional on the child’s eventual personal choices.
Just as God does not force His love on anyone, parents cannot force faith upon their children. Child dedication is ultimately an act of faith and hope in God’s future work in the child’s life, but does not override individual free will.
If a dedicated child rejects Christianity later in life, it does not mean the child dedication vows were meaningless. The parents still fulfilled their responsibility to lay a spiritual foundation and raise the child in the faith to the best of their ability. The rest depends on God’s grace and the child’s individual response.
Key Takeaways on Child Dedication
In summary, here are key biblical truths to understand about child dedication:
- Child dedication is not required or commanded, but can be a meaningful way for parents to publicly commit to raising their children in the Christian faith.
- The ceremony places responsibility on the parents to spiritually nurture the child, while asking God’s blessing and the church’s support.
- Child dedication does not automatically save a child or guarantee future salvation. The child must eventually confirm faith in Christ on their own.
- While not a guarantee, raising a child in the faith from early on can help them more easily accept Christ later in life.
- Parents like Hannah in the Old Testament, Lois and Eunice in the New Testament, provide good examples of dedication to bringing children up in the ways of God.
- Jesus welcomed children and used them as examples of the kind of faith and humility required to enter God’s Kingdom.
- Child dedication aligns with God’s desire for children to be raised in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4, Prov 22:6).
As Christian parents, I hope these Scriptural insights provide a helpful foundation for understanding the biblical basis for child dedication. While optional, child dedication can be a precious milestone in a parent’s journey of faith and stewardship. As Hannah declared, children are a gift from God entrusted into our care for a time (1 Samuel 1:27-28). May God give you wisdom, grace and perseverance as you raise your child in the way they should go.