Caitlin Orr is a graduate of Moore College and works as an assistant minister at Watsons Bay Anglican. She is the proud official godmother to four children, and here she shares some of her experience and wisdom in the world of godparenting.
Caitlin, you are a godparent to quite a lot of children—but do you have godparents yourself?
I sadly don’t have godparents and I often tease my parents that they’ve robbed me! Although I was baptised as a baby, my parents were part of a denomination where children traditionally didn’t have godparents so that’s why they didn’t choose any for me.
I heard of someone who chose godparents for herself when she got confirmed as an adult. I wish I’d known about this before I got confirmed—if I’d known it was an option, I would have chosen some. It would have been a great to formalise some relationships with older Christians who had been pivotal in my own spiritual growth, and to ask them to be part of my life for the long term.
As your experience shows us, Christian parents don’t have to choose godparents for their children. Godparents aren’t a biblical requirement. But why can it still be really helpful thing in someone’s life?
I love being a godparent. It’s a great privilege and responsibility.
In most Sydney Anglican churches, parents and godparents promise at the child’s baptism to be “willing to teach and encourage [the child] in the Christian faith, answering for him now, and accepting responsibility for his Christian upbringing”.
The grandmother of one of my godchildren reminded me of the seriousness of this responsibility when she said that they’d chosen godparents because they wanted those people to pray for their children every day. I do try to pray for my godchildren every day, although sometimes it’s just an arrow prayer. Some days I do forget. Because it’s a serious responsibility, it’s worth asking the question: “How many godchildren is too many godchildren?” Of course, the answer will be different from person to person, but to do the role justice there probably needs to be a cap on the number of children you can invest in on that level.
I never thought I’d get married and have children, so being a godparent allowed me to be involved in the Christian upbringing of children in a way I may not have been otherwise. When I visit my godchildren, I get to do the bedtime routine which includes their daily Bible reading. This is a wonderful way to have spiritual input in their lives, as well as spend time with them generally.
This is something that I think a lot of single people are particularly grateful for, and it’s why one couple I know have only chosen single people to be godparents for their children. I think being godparent means being invited into a family and having that relationship formalised.
For the kids themselves, as well as having someone pray for them often, it also means they have a go-to person for spiritual matters who isn’t their parent, which I think is especially useful as kids get older. But in my own experience, I think the adults get more out of it than kids!
So what is the criteria for a parent choosing godparents?
If the role of godparent is to help raise godly children, then a godparent has to be a Christian.
As part of the official promises I’ve made at my godchildren’s baptisms, I confirmed that I am a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of his church, that I sincerely believe the promises of God, that I repent of my sinfulness and trust Christ as my saviour, and that I renounce the evil and empty and false values of this world.
Also, by asking someone to be a godparent, parents are saying they want you as part of their life for the long term. So you have to like the people you choose! You have to want them to be around your home.
How can parents encourage godparents?
It’s important for parents to make space for godparents’ involvement in their kids’ lives, in both the practical and the spiritual stuff (as much as distance allows). Have godparents over regularly, or call them. If your kid is having a party, invite the godparents. Trust godparents to instruct your child spiritually by allowing them to do Bible reading and prayer with them.
What’s your biggest encouragement to godparents?
Pray for your godchildren, since it’s God’s Spirit who will grow them spiritually. But it’s hard to know what to pray for if you don’t see or speak to them, so make time to get to know your godchildren as much as possible. I don’t want to burden anyone but for me, this has been a good investment of time for the sake of the promises I’ve made.
I’d also encourage you to savour the privilege. I am so thankful for the huge privilege and fun it’s been to help raise godly children, even if my husband and I never have children of our own.