There are few things that congregations love more than a Family Dedication, the time in a worship service when a family presents their children to the church. Congregants smile and murmur oohs and ahhs as the minister carries the child around the sanctuary, sharing about their name, family, and how children are a blessing to all of us. And in most churches, there is a litany that is said by the parents, the family, and the congregation as a whole. Everyone loves a Family Dedication because it shows life in the church.

And I have to admit that I love them too. I served in a church where in one year we had 40. And I served in a church where in one year we had zero. It does make a difference to the mood of the church!

Over the last couple of years, I have been dwelling on the words we say at my current church during a family dedication. We ask the parents if they will raise their child with the help of the church. We ask the congregation if they with covenant to stand with the parents… to do all to make this church a true spiritual home for them. And then we all say a closing piece that affirms that we will nurture them in the faith. I love these words! I love the way we do Family Dedication. I love that this is a sacred piece of worship for us.

Yet I have begun to realize that these are more than words. These are actions. We are covenanting with parents – that’s not a light word. That is a big action. And we are covenanting to nurture their child’s faith; to walk with parents when life is easy and challenging; to surround the entire family with steadfast love. When I think about these words I have to ask, “How do we move from these words to the actions within the words?”

The simple answer is the Ministry to Children. Yet it’s not always simple. Children’s Ministry is the place to move from words to actions. And it’s the responsibility of all those who covenant with families at Family Dedication.

Children’s Ministry is more than just rocking babies and teaching Bible stories. These are important, but in 2019, Children’s Ministry is about providing safe space for children who are bullied, who are ignored, and who are struggling with life. To nurture a child’s faith is more than just making sure they know the books of the Bible. It’s about creating space for those who will one day lead in the world and the church;  teaching them how to lead with integrity, honesty, and kindness. Children’s Ministry is the place where our words and actions meet head on. If a promise is made to a family before God to follow Christ, then how will that following look?

Whether you are congregant, a minister, or a parent, you have probably made a promise in a Family Dedication. So, I challenge you to ask yourself how you are putting that promise into action.  

Carrie Veal is Minister of Children and Community Life at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.