I absolutely love baby dedication — except when it’s my baby being dedicated. Then I sweat through my fancy clothes.

When we dedicated our first child, I fed her a steady stream of goldfish crackers the entire time. It was not discreet. I was so terrified of her acting up on stage that I packed the crackers in case of emergency. I planned to deliver them with the stealth of a super-spy. No sooner did she begin wiggling, than I whipped out the crackers from a neatly concealed pocket in my dress. Unfortunately, my baby wasn’t nearly as stealthy. At one point she actually slapped the pastor’s hand off her head so she could reach for another cracker.

I remember thinking, “I promise I will raise her in the fear and admonition of the Lord as soon as this moment is over. I will switch to organic goldfish. I will enforce boundaries. Never again will I rely on food to console.” (If you’ve met my youngest child, you’re laughing right now.)

What Baby Dedication Is Not
If the thought of dedicating your baby makes you itch with anxiety, let me tell you what baby dedication is not. It is not a time to impress others. We are going to ooh and aah over your baby whether he’s dressed in a smocked suit or the emergency clothes you dug out of the car because of a last-minute diaper disaster. Our hearts are going to delight in your little girl whether she’s smiling or screaming. You’re not on stage to impress us; we’re in the audience to support you.

One of our core values at Grace is Genuine Family. We like to say that “grace frees us from performance and lets us live unafraid.” When you become part of the genuine family of Grace, you don’t need to perform in order to be approved of as a Christian, co-worker, spouse, or parent. You don’t need to hinge your identity on your child’s performance either. Around here, you are accepted before you even say hello.

Just as baby dedication isn’t about impressing others, neither is it something that saves you. Years ago, a relative off-handedly told me, “Of course you’re a Christian. You were dedicated as a baby.” This is a common misconception. The Bible teaches that the only way to the Father is through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8). We don’t dedicate babies to “save” them, but rather to demonstrate a commitment to raising them in the knowledge of the gospel, so that one day, by God’s grace, they may be compelled to receive the gospel themselves.

What Baby Dedication Is
Thus, baby dedication is a powerful opportunity for the church to affirm and encourage families in the faith. Parents are not the only ones making a commitment to raise their children in the knowledge of Christ. The church also publicly commits to support each family on stage. As these babies grow, we put feet to our promise. We show up for milestones — birthday parties and baptisms, graduations and weddings. We practice extraordinary servanthood behind the scenes in graceKIDS! and graceSTUDENTS. We normalize the struggle of parenthood with our own stories of brokenness. Step by step, we spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

In a day and age when we are more isolated than ever, it’s an incredible thing — borderline miraculous — to have the support of an entire body of believers. When one of our daughters was rushed to the burn unit because of a life-threatening staph infection, I remember sitting in the ambulance unable to pray. I had no words nor hope; just fear. I glanced at my phone and found it flooded with text messages. There were hundreds of people praying for our family. In that moment I understood the value of community like never before. I remember thinking, “It’s okay that I can’t pray. I have an entire army praying for me.” They were fighting for me when I had no faith to fight for myself.

This is what it means to be genuine family. To live a life of extraordinary servanthood. To practice radical hospitality that goes the extra mile for one another because people’s stories matter.

Baby dedication is just the beginning. It’s a chance for us to rally together with a common goal, “to train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). It’s a day to celebrate the goodness of God. Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” A child is a living, breathing manifestation of the generosity of God. And together, it is our joy and privilege to praise Him for each little one.