Child Dedication or Baptism? What’s the Difference

A few times a year, you may notice a group of families on the stage with their babies or young children at the beginning of service for what we call a child dedication. And while you likely can’t help but smile as you see these adorable babies and their families being prayed over, you may also have some questions, like . . .

  • What is a child dedication and why does Calvary do it?
  • What is the difference between this and a baptism?
  • Why doesn’t Calvary baptize babies instead of dedicating them?

What is a child dedication?

Baby or child dedication is a wonderful symbolic moment for parents and the church. It’s an opportunity for Christian parents to publicly commit themselves to raise their children in the ways of the Lord and for the whole church family to commit themselves to pray for and help the parents as they do so—the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” really is true!

For a parent, baby dedication is a beautiful moment. It’s a milestone to remember, a time to celebrate with family and friends and, above all, a promise they make before the Lord.

Now, while it’s true that baby or child dedication isn’t a biblical mandate or command from Jesus like, say, making disciples, baptism, or communion, it is a practice we see modeled in Scripture. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV) tells us to raise our children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” In 1 Samuel 1:21–28, we read how Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, brought him to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord. “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27–28 NIV). We even see this in the life of Jesus as “Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22 NIV).

Why not baptize the baby or child? 

To understand this, we must understand what baptism is.

Baptism is a picture of God’s inner work of washing away sin (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 3:21) and giving us new life. When we receive Jesus, we’re born again spiritually (John 3). We die to the old life and are born again into a new life as children of God. This is why Paul says in Romans 6:3–4 (NIV), “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

So, baptism is an outward expression of what has happened inside of us! Baptism doesn’t save us; it’s a symbolic act that represents how Jesus has saved us, and it always occurs after a person has been saved. Thus, when we baptize someone here at Calvary Chapel, they must be a believer in Jesus Christ (Acts 8) and understand what baptism means and represents (Romans 6).

As you read through the New Testament, you’ll not find any examples of infants or small children being baptized. Why? Because babies and small children aren’t yet able to make the decision to repent of their sins, believe the gospel, and give their own lives to follow Jesus. This is why we believe baby or child dedication is the biblical model, because it’s the parents and the church together committing to help the child grow to understand the gospel and receive it.

I was baptized as a baby/I baptized my baby. Is that bad?

Friend, please rest assured that you have not committed a sin by being baptized as an infant or by having your baby baptized! That’s not what this is article is about—it’s not condemnation, simply information. If you were baptized as a baby or had your baby baptized, please do not feel bad about it.

What should I do if I was baptized as a baby/baptized my baby?

That’s a great question. And in both scenarios, we’re here for you!

If you were baptized as a baby or child, and later opened your heart to a relationship with Jesus, then we highly encourage you to be baptized again—this time with the understanding of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what it means for you! If you’d like to take this step, visit our baptism page for upcoming dates!

If you had your child baptized and their still in that young child stage and you want to dedicate them to the Lord at Calvary, we’d love to be part of that moment with you! Check out this page for more info.

If your child has repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus for salvation and they have yet to be baptized, we invite you to be part of an upcoming kids salvation and baptism class. Find out more here.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.