In the new book A Church Leader's Guide to Child Dedication and Youth Baptism, I explain how these two milestones provide significant opportunities in the life of a church to reinforce a biblical vision for the discipleship of the next generation. Congregations may adopt various traditions to make these milestones special. For example, churches often mark the occasion of child dedication by presenting parents with certificates, gifts, or symbols.
When I served at Bethlehem Baptist Church, the tradition was to give a rose and certificate to the parents after their child was dedicated. This practice had special significance for the congregation. When I joined the staff at College Park Church, there was an established tradition of giving batons to dedicating parents. The baton is a great image because it reinforces Psalm 78, serving as a reminder that we've been entrusted with the testimony of God’s Word and instructed to pass it to the next generation. College Park put a letter inside the baton from the pastor expressing his heart for that child to be opened and read on the child’s 18th birthday. You can imagine the impact that the letter could have, expressing “here’s what we were hoping and praying for you,” even for those who may not be in a good place at age 18.
During my time as Pastor for the Next Generations, our team added other documents to the baton in addition to the letter: the dedication promises, a prayer of dedication, a copy of the certificate that included a blessing, and a list of the other children that were dedicated on the same day. It served as a time capsule that a child could open as they stepped out of the home and into the adult world. I wholeheartedly commend this symbol to church leaders for two reasons:
- to remind parents of the privilege and responsibility they have to raise their children in the fear and joy of the Lord, and
- to communicate to the children the heart and vision their pastors and parents have for their lives.
For those interested in adopting this tradition, I want to offer some practical guidance based on the trial and error we went through trying to adapt a regular relay baton for this purpose. These are the steps I recommend:
Order standard aluminum relay batons (with an inside diameter of approximately 1-1/4”). Companies such as Relay Batons (relaybatons.com/shop/relay-batons/ministry-baton/) offer a range of colors and also provide the opportunity to engrave a meaningful phrase (e.g., That the next generation should set their hope in God—Psalm 78:6-7). At College Park, we engraved the phrase "Igniting a passion for the next generation to follow Jesus," which was our mission statement. Additionally, we added a label with the child's name and dedication date.
Add caps and a plastic sleeve for the contents
After inheriting this tradition, I heard feedback from families that had trouble getting the letter out due to the paper expanding under the lip of the baton. They were taking tweezers and often ended up shredding the document before it came out. We wanted to fix that.
Our first strategy was to roll the documents tight and use rubber bands but the smaller roll would fall out of the open baton. So then we put tape on the ends of the tube, but this wasn't a great solution. One child managed to loosen the tape, open the documents, and drop them on the floor during the dedication service.
Through much trial and error, we came up with a system of using a plastic sleeve for the documents and caps for the ends of the baton. To save you the trouble we went through for that solution, Truth78 has assembled a Baton Accessory Kit. The kit includes end caps and plastic sleeving for assembling 5 batons, along with detailed instructions for assembling the batons.
The contents to go into the plastic sleeve may include the following documents (most of which are available here):
- a pastoral letter
- the promises the parents made
- the prayer of dedication that was prayed
- a certificate with a text based on the benediction/blessing used in the service
- a list of the other children who were dedicated on the same day
It's also helpful to give parents copies of everything in a separate folder or envelope so they can see the material while leaving the baton sealed.
It's my hope that by sharing this idea, many congregations would be encouraged to adopt this same tradition as a symbol for passing the faith to the next generation.