Question Submitted: My sister and brother-in-law just welcomed their first child and our first niece into the world. They called us two days ago and asked if we would be her godparents. We welcome any and all godparent advice.
Oh, goodie! This is one of my all-time favorite topics. Please, forgive me if I go overboard in my response. While I have not been blessed with any children of my own, God has seen fit to fill my quiver full with precious godchildren – and I delight in this role! In fact, I probably fall more into the category of god”smother” than godmother.
Here are a few tricks of the trade I have picked up over the years:
1. I grew up with a baptismal banner hanging in my bedroom. Every morning, noon, and night, I could look on my wall and be reminded of the day I was baptized into Christ. Because of this, I think it is important to make a baptismal banner (or some kind of commemorative item) for each godchild. Sometimes, churches already have committees that make banners for their baptismal candidates. In these cases, you can make different things. I once made a candelabra to hold my godson’s baptismal candle, and on another occasion I made a mirror with a cross painted on it for my goddaughter to look in and see her cross-marked reflection.
2. Of course, if you can, it is important to be present to witness the baptism. This is not always possible, but it helps in the years ahead to be able to give first-hand memories from that day. We (my husband and I) hang a picture of our godchildren’s baptisms on our wall at home, so that we can remember them in prayer whenever we see their pictures.
3. We buy them each their own nativity and give a new figurine from the set as a gift every Christmas (starting with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus the first Christmas). A lovely lady I met at seminary taught me this one. (Thank you, Elizabeth!)
4. On their first baptismal birthday, we make them a homemade baptismal scrapbook that has pictures and anecdotes from their baptism. It tells the story of their baptismal day and instructs them on what exactly happened when they were baptized. We like the idea of them looking at it throughout the years and growing up with the proper language of God’s free gift of salvation in their head and in their heart. It is also a great way to teach them the meanings of their white clothing, the candle, the sign of the cross, etc.
5. We bribe them silly. We give them a quarter for every commandment they memorize. We take them out for ice cream when they memorize The Lord’s Prayer. We let them pick out three kinds of candy (one for each person in the Trinity) when they memorize The Apostles Creed. We also give them a quarter for every hymn stanza they learn, though we like to focus on The Ten Commandments, first. (Skype is a great tool for long distance catechismal questioning.)
6. We also talk with the parents and figure out what kinds of books/resources the church provides for our godchildren over the years. Then, we try to supplement whatever they don’t have. If the family doesn’t already have a catechism or Bible, then we like to get them CPH’s The Story Bible and My First Catechism. We plan on giving our godchildren their own Lutheran Study Bible upon confirmation.
7. We encourage the families of our godchildren to have daily family devotions, especially during Advent and Lent. Kids love Advent wreaths and calendars if you are looking for more baptismal birthday gift ideas down the road.
From one god”smother” to another, the most important thing is to faithfully pray for your godchildren and to play an active part in their Christian education. If you toss in a little ice cream, a few books, and some games of tag every now and then, it doesn’t hurt one bit.