As expecting parents, you have most likely begun considering how you want to raise your little one and the kind of support and guidance you wish to provide through the course of their life. While all these considerations are of utmost importance, it is also necessary to think about who your child can look up to as an advisor, a role model or a guide and who will take care of your child in your absence. This is where the question of choosing a godparent comes up.
What Is a Godparent?
The term godparent is often used in a religious context and it refers to someone who is chosen by the parents to give the child a rite of admission into Christianity through the sacrament of Baptism. It is usually a member of a Church community, supporting the faith of the person being baptized, and endowed with the responsibilities that the Church and the faith entail. Different churches define a godparent and their role differently. However, being part of a particular religious order is not mandatory for you to be able to appoint a godparent. A godparent, in essence, is someone who can be a role model to your child and guide them throughout.
How Many Godparents Can Your Child Have?
The number of godparents a child may have depends on the rules of the concerned Church. The Catholic Church allows up to two godparents, where one is a man and the other a woman. One godparent is usually mandatory. However, some churches require one or three or an unspecified number of godparents. If you wish to name non-religious godparents, you may name as many as you wish.
Who Defines Godparents’ Responsibilities
Where non-religious godparents are concerned, the role and responsibilities of the Godparent will be determined by:
Parents can determine what they expect from the godparent of their child and lay it out in clear terms before they ask someone to be the godparent.
The Potential Godparents
The potential godparents must discuss their role and responsibilities with the parents before assuming the position of godparents. They must clarify what they are capable of and willing to do.
There are numerous religious roles that are attached to the role of a godparent.
Role and Responsibilities of Godparents
The role of a godparent in a child’s life is to serve as a strong role model and provide guidance. The modern role of godparents is determined by the parents and the people they would like as godparents to their child. Godparents have numerous religious, non-religious, legal and financial responsibilities towards the child.
Religious Responsibilities of Godparents
A Godparent’s religious responsibility begins from the role of godparents in catholic baptism. In religious families, the godparent duties are largely religious. They may depend on the particular faith and Church of the parents. Godparents are responsible for guiding the spiritual life of their godchild and be mentors to them in all spheres of life.
During Catholic baptisms, godparents are usually referred to as sponsors and they read the Profession of Faith on behalf of the baby and undertake to help lead the child’s faith in the course of their lifetime. In order to be a Godparent, one must be at least 16 years old, a confirmed Catholic who attends mass regularly and practices the faith. There must be at least one Godparent and not more than two.
Christening Godparent Promises
In the course of the Christening ceremony of the godchild, godparents are required to make some promises in response to certain questions like whether they will pray for the child, care for them, turn away from things that are against God on behalf of the child and turn towards Jesus on their behalf.
Greek Orthodox Godparent Responsibilities
If the parents of the child are Greek Orthodox and wish to perform a Greek baptism, the godparents are required to pay for the items required for the ceremony. Once the child has received Holy Unction, the godparents are to bathe the child and clean off the oil. Greek Orthodox godparents must also take the child to Holy Communion three times, teach the child about the Orthodox faith and select a Greek and Christian name for the child.
Non-religious Responsibilities of Godparents
Godparents who have been named so by non-religious parents, as well as religious godparents, have certain non-religious roles and responsibilities towards their godchild. These include:
Being a Positive Role Model
Godparents are like the extended family of their godchild. The role of a godmother and the role of a godfather includes setting a good example for the child and being a positive and strong role model for them. They should also try to spend more time with them so that they can be a positive influence on them.
Celebrate Special Occasions
As practically members of extended family, godparents must celebrate special occasions with their godchild and celebrate their life’s achievements and milestones. If they can’t be present with their godchild, they must send personalized notes or cards to show that they are always there for their godchild.
Care for the Physical Health of the Godchild
Parents must be there for their godchild in sickness. In Mexico, godparents are required to take care of their godchild when they are sick and the parents are unable to tend to their child. It is also their customary practice to have the godparents prepare the grave for the deceased godchild. In the event of the death of both the parents, the godparents are expected to take custody of the godchild if no other close family member is capable of doing so.
Law-related Responsibilities of Godparents
Legally, godparents don’t have law-related responsibilities unless they have been appointed as legal guardians.
While godparents are not the legal guardians of their godchild, they may be named so. However, parents can also choose different legal guardians for their child by following the requisite legal procedures.
The purpose of godparents on being named legal guardians will be to provide for their godchild in the event of the parent’s inability to do so. If you wish to make your child’s godparents their legal guardians as well, you must consider their financial capabilities to provide for your child.
Financial Responsibilities of Godparents
Godparents don’t usually have financial responsibilities that are mandatory.
It is up to the discretion of the godparent to provide financial assistance towards the education of the child. It will be greatly appreciated and in some cultures, even appropriate.
Godparents may start a college fund for their godchild, send money in the cards they send for special occasions, pay for the item required while performing religious ceremonies, purchase gifts for religious ceremonies or purchase Easter baskets every year.
Tips for Choosing Godparents
Choosing the right godparents is an important and challenging decision. Here are some tips on who you could name as godparents:
Family members make great godparents as they can play a major role in your child’s life. You can see if there is any particular family member who has a special relationship with you or your child and the impact it would have if you named them as a godparent.
Close friends of both parents can set a good example for your child if they share the same values as you. You should also consider whether your friendship is one that will last long and if you need to ask their spouse to be a godparent as well.
If you are religious and want faith to play a pivotal role in your child’s life, you can name spiritual faith leaders as your child’s godparents. They often have strong values which can be great, so long as you are sure that they won’t force their beliefs upon the child.
Many parents prefer to name couples as godparents if they know both the people and their family well and are sure that they are in a committed relationship.
What Factors Should Be Considered While Choosing Godparents
While making a decision about whom to name as a godparent for your child, here are some factors you should consider:
1. Role of Religion and Faith
Godparents traditionally play a faith-based and religious role in the life of the godchild, starting from baptism and christening. It is important to consider whether you want the godparent to play a religious role and to what extent. If yes, then you must consider whether they have sufficient knowledge about your religion and whether they can participate in religious holidays and ceremonies with their godchild and encourage positive spiritual growth.
2. Role and Responsibilities of a Godparent
It is vital that you identify your expectations from the godparents of your child so that both of you are clear on what their duties are. There may be a need to differentiate between the duties of a godmother and godfather and you have to consider whether they are capable of fulfilling all their duties. You must also consider the impact on your child’s life if a godparent fails to fulfil their duty. You should consider the financial capabilities of the godparents if you wish to assign any financial roles and responsibilities to them.
3. Godparents’ Lifestyle
A huge aspect of choosing godparents is evaluating their lifestyle because they are responsible for setting a positive example for your child. You must be comfortable with all the aspects of their lifestyle and you must consider whether they embody the characteristics of a good role model for a child. Most importantly, you have to consider whether there are any aspects of their lifestyle that could be detrimental to your child’s well-being.
4. Location of Godparents
The godparents are usually a huge part of the godchild’s life as they have to be around to set a positive example for the child, celebrate holidays, perform their religious and spiritual responsibilities and their proximity to your place of residence might be a vital factor to consider. If they do not reside close by, you will have to consider whether they can make time for their godchild and effectively communicate with them. You should also look at the extent to which you want them to be a physical presence in yours and your child’s life.
Choosing godparents is one of the most important decisions that expecting parents have to make. A godparent plays a huge role in the child’s life and making the right decision can be made easy with these tips.