A new kind of dedication

Andy Rohrback   -  

On Nov. 6 and 13, Christ Community Church will host Family Dedications. We are overjoyed to invite the families of our church into this holy moment. Wondering whether Family Dedication is for you? Read on to find out. — Andy & Amy

When Protestant churches broke from the Catholic Church, parents wanted a way to commit their children to the Lord in a similar way to the Catholic ceremony of “christening.” But they were leery of anything that looked like a ceremony that effected salvation for the child. Out of that holy desire came the tradition of “baby dedication,” something we have done in our church for generations. My twins had a baby dedication here in the Classic service in March 2017 — Karen led it and Hezekiah spit up on the floor in the middle of it.

At that time, I asked the question many of you may have asked, “how can you dedicate a baby?” You can dedicate a building, a stadium, or an organization by saying “This thing will be used for purposes that glorify God.” But a child is a human being, created in God’s image, with his own free will. Who am I even as his parent to say “this child will do holy things”? I have influence on that, obviously, but the outcome is up to the child.

But that influence is incredibly important. In many ways, the influence of parents is all a child has to go on in life, as all the other voices they take in come through the filter of what parents expose them to — sometimes intentionally, sometimes less so. Kids come to Orbit because their parents or primary caregivers bring them, or allow them to come. Kids go to a particular school — home, public or private — because parents enable that. Parents give cues to their kids on which voices are worth listening to and how much. My influence as a parent is powerful, meaningful and very much in my locus of control, even though I don’t always wield it well.

That’s what “family dedication” is about. I can’t promise anybody that my kids will come out a certain way. But I can make a promise — to them, to God, and to a church family who will support me and hold me accountable — that I will learn to wield my influence well. I will take those choices seriously that have an effect on my children’s growth toward or away from Christ. I will sacrifice my own comfort, time, and ego to intercede in their lives and in prayer. I will let things matter to me, like my kids’ love of God, that aren’t as firmly in my control.

Why, then, isn’t this a “parent dedication”? There are a few reasons, but the simplest one is, we already have a way for you, the parent, to make a public declaration of your dedication to Christ — it’s called baptism. That dedication is already life-encompassing, which is why we don’t have “student dedications,” “employee dedications,” “management dedications,” “grandparent dedications” and the like. You’re already personally dedicated and baptism expresses that.

Still, God has given you this family now, an entity that was not the participant in your personal baptism, maybe didn’t exist until recently, or if it did, it wasn’t really dedicated to anything. As a parent, your primary responsibility from here is to guide, support and care for this entity. This is a great undertaking and will need accountability, encouragement and equipping from this church. You will be tempted to go it alone, or to hide the struggles of your family out of fear of being judged. You may yourself be tempted to pass judgment on people whose way of doing family doesn’t line up with yours. By publicly dedicating your family you are saying, “I’m going to disciple my kids and I need your help, church.”

On Nov. 6, during the 10:45 hour, we’re going to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of relentless discipleship together. The following Sunday, Nov. 13, we’re going to present all the families involved before the church body to affirm this dedication. The church and each family will publicly commit to this lifelong work.

Caring for your kids’ souls is a job with no finish line. It doesn’t begin or end at the door of the church building, and it’s not complete when a child prays the sinner’s prayer. It is an exhausting commitment that consumes more than any parent has to give. It can be overwhelming and discouraging, which is why we all need each other. We’re going to spell this out: moms, dads, primary caregivers for kids, we support you, we love you and the Children’s Ministry exists to connect you to resources and relationships that will draw you and your kids to Christ, whose love never runs out.

But beyond that, a Family Dedication recognizes all the web of relationships involved in discipling a child at home. Parents are No. 1, by a long shot, and they will be the primary focus of this event. But we don’t want to miss the value and influence of siblings. A lot of kids do some kind of “Big Brother/Sister Training” when a new child comes into the family. They learn how to hold a baby, how to keep the baby safe, maybe even how to change a diaper. It’s a valuable affirmation of their important role in the family that counterbalances the diminished attention they’ll receive with a new baby around. It also gives them some voice in the family when probably nobody asked them if this “new baby” thing was OK with them at all.

Family Dedication is meant to be like that training in a spiritual sense. For young kids, it will focus on the shift from a world that’s all about them, to a world that’s much bigger. They will need to show love and care for a person who isn’t themselves, and learn to live in peace with that person (Titus 3:2). For older kids, it’s also about watchful care (1 Peter 5) and about being a role model (1 Cor. 11:1). And it’s to stress that God has put you in this role, in this family, at this moment, for a reason (Ephesians 2:10). We also want kids to understand that their family has a mission (Joshua 24:15) and they play a part in that.

Family Dedication is for a family unit — an organism with many parts that thrives together. Some family entities have a Mom and a Dad. Not all do. Grandparents can dedicate the family forged around them and their grandkids. A single parent can dedicate his or her family. Foster parents qualify. This is also for families whose kids have long aged out of “baby dedications,” but who are awakened and inspired by the idea of being dedicated together to discipling one another and bringing glory and honor to Christ. All families are invited to publicly affirm their commitment to follow and honor God in how they relate to each other, how they influence each other and how they live in the human community. And all families are worthy of investment by the church body in the discipling of each member and of the whole.

And that’s the whole other side of this: the church is making a commitment to your family, too. Not just the Children’s Ministry workers, not just the church staff and organization, but the body, corporately. That doesn’t mean that each individual in each chair out there in Gather 1 and 2 needs to personally interact with your family somewhere along the way. That would take forever! But it does mean that each individual in this body commits to care. Each of us will play whatever part God calls us to over the span of time that your family’s life overlaps with ours. We are investing in the future of your family as disciples of Jesus, whether that investment comes out in an intentional, structured way like being a small-group leader for your kids, or in a random, ad-hoc way like getting on our knees on your behalf when life-disrupting events shake your faith. We are saying, “Whatever your family needs, to point you toward our one true hope in Christ, we are here for that.”

This is a big deal because families are a big deal to God. We want to honor and prepare you for the challenge of raising Christ-following kids who are geared to keep on following when they’re on their own. That challenge is beyond what any of us can even imagine right now, but by publicly dedicating ourselves to the task, we commit to keep praying, keep hoping, and keep plugging away together at the impossibly glorious work of parenting.

We can’t wait to enter into this with you!