by Gerry Draper
What does it mean to be a sponsor or godparent at a child’s baptism?
When I became a godparent, I asked myself this question. Inquiring around, I learned that some people think it just means helping with the child’s spiritual development if the child should lose his or her parents. Others told me they give their godchildren birthday and confirmation presents. I thought, surely there were additional ways to fulfill my responsibility to nurture my goddaughter in the Christian faith.
By taking an in-depth look at the baptismal service itself, I thought more about the promises that godparents make(see sidebar). Through further research, I also found many helpful resources available through our LCMS publications.
Here are a few of my discoveries:
Remember your godchildren in prayer:
– Pray that they will abide in “baptismal grace and in communion with the Church [and] grow up to lead a godly life to the praise and honor of Jesus Christ.”
– Pray for their friends, for Christian teachers, and for their parents who abide in God’s Word, and pray that their future spouses are, or become, Christian partners.
Remind them of their Baptism:
– Present them with age-appropriate baptismal cards and gifts, such as a picture of Jesus, a glow-in-the-dark cross, a Bible storybook, or Bible activity book, a Christian music CD or an appropriate video.
– Host a baptismal birthday party. Light the baptismal candle as the Creed is recited. Tell the child of your memories of his or her baptismal day.
– Send a baptismal birth card. Suitable cards are available through the LWML Catalog (1-800-252-5965).
– Write a yearly personal letter encouraging the child (and the parents) to hold fast to the baptismal vows.
– Connect your encouragement to things in the child’s life, such as sports, music, school.
Bring them up in the true knowledge and worship of God:
– Talk openly and boldly about your own faith—what it means and why it is important.
– Talk about God’s grace. Remind your godchild that through Christ, his or her sins have been forgiven.
– Model forgiveness. Spend time together in activities that will give opportunity for these faith conversations.
– Read to your godchild and talk about what you are reading. For young children, reading board books, such as the Things I See in Church series opens up a way to talk about worship. Godparents, as well as their godchildren, will enjoy listening to the delightful stories in Mouse Prints: Through the Church Year, available to Thrivent Financial members. When the child learns to read, encourage him to read to you from the Hear Me Read series. Children from ages three to nine always enjoy the Arch Book Bible story series.
– Present the parents with devotional books suitable for the child’s age, such as the “Little Visits” series that begins with a book for families with toddlers and continues through one titled, Little Visits: Building Faith for a Lifetime.
– Present your teenage godchild with one of the books focused on helping teens work through their problems. A teen may also enjoy using the devotional book by Eldon Weisheit, 150 Psalms for Teens. These are not the Psalms found in the Bible but rather psalms to reflect the emotions and concerns for today’s teens. Many other Bible storybooks and suitable resources are available through our own LCMS Concordia Publishing House.
Teach them the Ten Commandments, the creeds, and the Lord’s Prayer:
– Encourage them to memorize these teachings. As they mature, explain the meanings in age-appropriate terms. Children learning the Lord’s Prayer may enjoy having a poster of the Lord’s Prayer to hang in their room.
– Encourage them to pray the Lord’s Prayer and recite the Creed during worship services.
Place the Holy Scriptures in their hands:
– Begin with a child’s illustrated Bible for the very young and as the child matures, move on to other appropriate versions, such as a student Bible for a teen.
– Give them a books-of-the-Bible bookmark, when children learn the books, they can find passages quickly and with little frustration.
– Start a Bible characters collection. The LWML Catalog features Bible character trading cards. A picture of a biblical character appears on the front of the card and facts about that character on the back.
– Give a book about Bible life and times or share with them information from a similar book you are reading.
Bring them to the services of God’s house:
– If you attend the same church, or live close enough to visit occasionally, offer to let your godchild sit with you. Such an offer may be especially appreciated if the parents have their hands full with other young children.
– Offer to take the child to Sunday school and worship services if the parents are not attending.
– Help the child participate by encouraging him to pray, recite the Creed, learn the liturgy, and sing the hymns. Teach and explain parts of the liturgy as needed.
Provide instruction leading to receiving the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood:
– Give a pre-confirmation age child My First Catechism, a beautifully illustrated version of the Small Catechism.
– Encourage children to learn more about their faith by participating in confirmation classes, perhaps presenting them with their own copy of Luther’s Small Catechism just before beginning catechesis study. Show an interest in what they are learning in confirmation class and volunteer to help with memory work.
What a humbling experience for me to delve into the baptismal service and realize the responsibility I had undertaken in agreeing to become a godmother, and what a privilege to share in the faith-walk of a new Christian! As I sought out books and resources to share with my goddaughter, I came across a wonderfully helpful book for myself: A Word to My Sponsor: Celebrating the Life of Your Godchild by Richard and Hazel Bimler. The Bimlers ask us to reflect on our own Baptisms and sponsors. They also offer suggestions for encouraging our godchildren at various ages and throughout the church year, as well as ways an entire congregation can remember and support the Baptisms of its members.
What does it mean to be a godparent? It means traveling a lifelong faith journey with your godchild. For me, I anticipate an exciting and joyful walk together with my goddaughter. All the resources mentioned are available through Concordia Publishing House (CPH) unless otherwise noted. CPH may be reached by calling 1-800-325-3040.