In 1982, and again in 1985, Sally and I stood before our brothers and sisters in Christ, a new baby in our arms, and made five promises in a special service of dedication. Then in 2005, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, and again in 2008 and 2011, I was standing before my eldest daughter, her husband, and their brothers and sisters in Christ, with each of our grandchildren in their arms, making the same five promises in similar services of dedication.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of standing before hundreds of parents as the words of the same five promises have taken root in my own heart, the hearts of those parents, and the hearts of the people in the two congregations that I have served. These promises have been a consistent reminder to Sally and me of the high and holy calling upon our lives as parents, while serving as a foundation for our ministry to parents and children in those churches. Countless times, I have reminded parents of these promises for their encouragement in various seasons of their lives. The promises have also served as a regular reminder to both congregations of our corporate responsibility as God’s people to support and participate in the efforts of the church to invest in the faith and the discipleship of the next generation.
The book Dedicated to the Lord: Five Parental Promises for the Faithful Discipleship of Children is an attempt to unpack the significance, meaning, and implication of each of the five promises. As helpful as I hope it will be to parents who are preparing to make these promises, the benefit is not limited to using them in a church’s child dedication service. I am hoping this resource will also serve those parents who are not part of a church tradition that practices child dedication or a church that does not use these specific promises as part of its dedication services.
Though the five promises have been at the center of a precious tradition in the churches that I served, they represent the biblical calling and responsibility that rests on all Christian parents who have been entrusted with children to raise for the glory of their Creator. Whether we stand before our brothers and sisters in Christ and make these promises or not, we will all one day stand before our King of kings and Lord of lords. On that great day, may God find us to be faithful servants and stewards of the precious gifts that He has entrusted to us.
The dedication of children is an act of faith in the presence of God and His people in which we solemnly and earnestly offer our children up to God for His wise and sovereign purposes in their lives, and offer ourselves up to God for the holy responsibility of being biblical parents and raising our children in the fear, knowledge, and joy of the Lord.
Promise 1: To acknowledge our children as gifts of God.
Do you recognize this child as a gift of God and give heartfelt thanks for God’s blessing?
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD...” (Psalm 127:3 NASB) for “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). In this first promise, we recognize and honor God as the One who has given us our children. Though it is not always easy, this first promise is a commitment to recognize children as blessings from God and give heartfelt thanks for the privilege of being entrusted by their Creator with the responsibility to raise them in the fear, discipline, and joy of the Lord.
Promise 2: To surrender worldly claims on our children.
Do you dedicate this child to the Lord who gave him/her to you, surrendering all worldly claims upon his/her life in the hope that he/she will belong wholly to Jesus Christ?
Because our children need what we ultimately cannot provide, we dedicate them, we surrender worldly claim, and we entrust them to the only One who can, in hope that they will belong wholly to Jesus Christ, forever.
Promise 3: To bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Do you pledge, with God’s fatherly help, to bring up your child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, making every reasonable effort, with faithfulness, patience, and love, to build the Word of God, the character of Christ, and the joy of the Lord into his/her life?
Promise 3 is a commitment to be a faithful watchman over the souls of our children. Our job is to make every effort to instruct and discipline our children in an atmosphere of faithfulness, patience, and love. Then we trust in the “fatherly help” and faithfulness of the One who gave us our children, rules over their hearts, and is able to lead them to saving faith and everlasting life.
Promise 4: To provide for our children.
Do you promise to provide, through God’s blessing, for the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of your child, looking to your own heavenly Father for the wisdom, love, and strength to serve and not use him/her?
This promise affirms parental responsibility to care for our children completely and in every way—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Like Promise 3, this promise would also be impossible to keep without these two qualifying statements: “through God’s blessing” and “looking to your own heavenly Father for the wisdom.” Relying on God’s grace and the storehouse of His infinite blessings, we can confidently promise to provide for their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs.
Promise 5: To pray for the salvation of our children.
Do you promise, God helping you, to make it your regular prayer that by God’s grace your child will come to trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of his/her sins and for the fulfillment of all His promises to him/her, even eternal life, and in this faith follow Jesus as Lord and obey His teachings?
There is nothing Christian parents should want more for their children than eternal life and everlasting joy in the presence of Jesus Christ. Even if, tragically, that were not our greatest desire for our children, we cannot escape our God-given responsibility as parents to faithfully raise our children in the hope of the gospel. Nor can we escape the reality that our children will only be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8).
This article is excerpted from the new booklet Dedicated to the Lord: Five Parental Promises for the Faithful Discipleship of Children.