Should You Dedicate a Baby Whose Parents Are Living Together Unmarried?

The vast majority of churches offer a baby dedication for the families in their congregation.

How that looks varies from church to church.  Some churches offer it during a service time, while others offer it as a separate event.

There is a big question that often makes its way into the conversation when I am talking with churches about their dedication service.

Should you dedicate a baby whose parents are living together unmarried?

The answer varies from church to church and depends on their philosophy about this. Personally, I believe you shouldn't.  Here's why.

I believe the dedication is not just about the child, but it is just as much about the parents dedicating themselves to raising their child to love and follow Jesus.  That is why I call it "Parent" and Child Dedication. 

If a couple is living together unmarried, they are directly violating God's plan to raise their child as a married couple.  I find that I cannot put hands of parental blessing on a couple living in this situation.  Scriptures like these pull me away from it.

"Let marriage be held in honor among them all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God, who will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."  Hebrews 13:4

"But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Mark 10:6-9.  

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  Ephesians 5:31

If you are going to take this position, then it is crucial that you remember these things:

#1 - It's not about calling couples out - it's about calling them up.  Most couples know they should be married.  This is an opportunity to call them up to God's plan for the home.  It should be done with love and compassion.  They need to know that you want God's best for their home and this is done through aligning their home with God's Word.  

#2 - Ask couples what their marital status is when they first indicate they want to dedicate their child. This can be done as part of your registration process or personal conversation.  How will you know if they are married or not? If they put down two different last names or you are unsure about their marital status, follow up with them and find out what their situation is. 

#3 - Speaking of personal conversations...if you have an unmarried couple that wants to dedicate their child, see it as a great opportunity to minister to them.

#4 - A key part of this is having a conversation with the couple. It should not be done by phone.  It should not be done by email.  It should not be done with a letter.  It should be a face-to-face conversation in a private setting.  It should be a time of pastoral care and encouragement.  Share with the couple not in a condescending manner, but rather from a heart of love. 

#5 - This is a great opportunity to help the parents walk into the blessings and obedience of marriage.  Over the years, I have seen God use this approach to help many couples obey the teachings of Jesus and get married. God will honor and bless those who follow the teachings of His Word about this.

#6 - Have a parent and child dedication class that parents go through before the dedication.  This is a great opportunity to teach parents what the dedication is about and how they can teach their children God's ways as they grow up.  

I have available for you the class I have used for parent and child dedication in churches. At my last church, I saw hundreds of parents go through this class before dedicating their child. You can get it at this link. 


Will some unmarried couples get upset and back out of the dedication?  Possibly. When this happens continue to love them and show pastoral care. 

What about a single parent?  This is a different situation and, yes, I would do the dedication.

What about same sex couples who are married?  Jesus clearly defined marriage as between a man and woman and I believe that is what we should follow.  God's Word must be the source of our decision making in this matter, not current culture.

How do I shift the focus of the dedication from not just being about the child, but about the parents as well?  It starts by including the word "parents" in the title and then making sure that everyone goes through your child dedication class where this is explained.

Who should make the final decision about dedicating children whose parents are living together unmarried?  The pastor should make this decision since it affects entire families and is a ministry philosophy matter. If you are not currently including parents in your dedication approach, set down with your pastor and share why you think it is vital to include the parents. 

Your turn. Share your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.

When you dedicate children, is your focus on the parents as well?  Why or why not?

Do you dedicate children whose parents are living together unmarried?  Why or why not?

If you do not dedicate the children of a couple living together, what is your follow up and pastoral care process?