Godparents are an important part of a Baptism. They have an important role in the service, they may be in lots of the photographs, and they often want to bring a lovely present. But does it finish there?
A godparent isn't just for the day of the Baptism, or even just for the early years of a child's life: we hope that a godparent will have a special relationship with their godchild for many years to come. Ideally godparents have been carefully chosen by the parents to help them bring up their child in the Christian faith. Being a godparent is a great privilege and a great responsibility. This page will help parents and godparents to understand more about what being a Godparent is all about.
Can anyone be a Godparent?
Godparents must have been baptised themselves, and should preferably have been confirmed. As this role involves significant responsibility, we do not consider it appropriate for anyone under the age of 16 to be asked to be a godparent.
The practice is that a child should have at least 3 godparents, of whom 2 shall be the same gender as the child. It is possible to have just 2 godparents, but in this situation, there should be one godmother and one godfather.
Parents can be godparents for their own children as long as the child has at least one other godparent.
A Godparent's role in the Baptism Service
At the Baptism service, godparents, along with the parents, promise to support and encourage the child to grow up in the Christian faith, and to be an example to the child of Christian living. Godparents are asked to make these promises, along with the parents:
Will you pray for [name of child], draw him/her by your example into the
community of faith and walk with him/her in the way of Christ?
In Baptism [name of child] begins his/her journey in faith.
You speak for him/her today. Will you care for him/her, and help
him/her to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?
Parents and Godparents respond together:
With the help of God, we will.
It is very difficult for parents and godparents to make these promises if they have not already accepted something of the Christian Faith for themselves, and so they will also be asked to make these declarations in response the questions asked by the minister:
Do you turn to Christ?
I turn to Christ.
Do you repent of your sins?
I repent of my sins.
Do you renounce evil?
I renounce evil.
Following the way of Jesus is a journey. Having questions and doubts does not stop anyone from being on the journey, nor does the feeling that they are not good enough, but these declarations do indicate a commitment to try and live by these statements. If prospective godparents could not, in good conscience, make these promises and declarations, they should think carefully about whether to accept the invitation to be a godparent.
A Suitable Present
What children need most from their godparents is their love, their support and their prayers, but godparents often want to choose a special present for their godchild. This need not be lavish or expensive, and it could be something to be used now or kept for later.
Here are a few ideas:
A children’s Bible or a book of Bible stories. Choose one that will encourage day to day use.
A child’s book of prayers.
A small wooden cross or a gold or silver cross on a chain.
A Nativity set - not all families have these and they are a very good reminder of the Christmas story that can be used year after year.
An indoor water feature
A suitable picture for the child’s bedroom.
After the Baptism
The special role of godparents on the day of the Baptism is just the beginning. Being a godparent is about a growing relationship with a growing child, and godparents will want to take an interest in all of their godchild’s life. As a child grows, they could find ways of marking special occasions—baptism anniversaries, birthdays, the arrival of siblings, the first day of nursery or school and so on. Marking these moments doesn’t always have to be with gifts—taking time to talk on the phone, send a card, or, when they are older, send an email or text message.
Later, suitable gifts could include books, dvds, cds that would encourage their godchildren to learn more about Jesus. Godparents could also think about presents that provide an opportunity to do things with their godchild, such as a game to play, a model to build, seeds to plant, a kite to fly.
Many godparents find it helpful to place a recent photograph in a visible place at home. This can also give them a stimulus to pray for their godchild, even if that is just a daily pause for thought, thanking God for their godchild, asking God to take care of them, remembering particular matters of concern or celebration, and especially praying that the child will grow in their relationship with God.
Taking time and effort to develop a close relationship with godchildren in their early years makes it more likely that the relationship will continue into teenage and even adult years, when having other trusted adults to turn to - in addition to parents - can be really important.