(Adapted from an article in Parish Teacher, copyright Augsburg Fortress)
As a sponsor, also referred to as godparent, you have a central role in the baptism experience of your godchild, the child you are sponsoring. This role includes not only actions by you during the baptism itself, but a commitment of involvement and action throughout the lifetime of your godchild.
During the Baptism
During the baptism ritual, sponsors bring the child to the font or pool with his or her parents during a worship service of the congregation. After the minister reads a brief statement about baptism, the sponsors present the child for the sacrament of baptism.
Then, the sponsors and the parents promise to raise the child in the Christian faith and the Christian community. Your promise will be a response to a promise read from the Gospel. (God’s promise always precedes our promises.)
In the Lutheran Book of Worship, your promises are to:
– Bring your godchild to the services of God’s house
– Teach your godchild the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments
– Place in your godchild’s hands the Holy Scriptures
– Provide for your godchild’s instruction in the Christian faith
Having the courage and love for your godchild to make these promises before the congregation is an important public commitment during the baptism ceremony. Keeping these promises after the initial joyfulness and celebration of the baptism day, is in many ways the even more important commitment. Faith doesn’t just happen; it needs to be nurtured.
After the Baptism
The on-going teaching that a child receives from godparents and other people outside of his or her immediate family can play a major role in forming the child’s Christian faith as they develop.
Romans 10:17 says “so faith comes from hearing the message and the message comes from through preaching Christ.” It is your job to assist the parents in keeping the message in front of the child – through talk, actions, and deeds.
This teaching role of a godparent can and should evolve, as the child grows through several stages of development in their faith.
The first stages involve development of their early childhood faith and a sense of belonging in the Christian church. Later, there is a searching stage, during which they test the beliefs of their parents and themselves. The final stage is the development of a mature personal faith.
There are many places for sponsors to be involved through these stages. At each stage, show how God intervenes in their lives. From the simple experiences of God in nature to the more complicated experiences of forgiveness.
Often, the most difficult problems arise for parents in the third stage, when they don’t recognize the developmental changes with their child.
Inevitably, the child rebels against their parent’s faith system, either quietly or loudly. Thus, one of a sponsor’s most important roles can be staying close to the child and mentoring them as they go through this period of questioning and testing.
The sponsor can be of huge assistance to the parent as well as the child, helping the child – who is usually a teen or young adult at this stage — move to a more mature stage of faith.
Most importantly, revel in this wonderful opportunity as a sponsor to help another human being grow in their understanding and embrace of God, and at the same time experience growth in your own faith.