Is it ok to choose a godparent for your child if you know that they won’t be able to attend the baptism? Maybe they live a long way away and travelling just for the baptism is not really an option. Does a godparent really have to be at the baptism?
A godparent should be at the baptism if at all possible. However, if it’s not possible for the godparent to attend the baptism then most churches will allow a proxy godparent to witness the baptism on behalf of the godparent who can’t make it. The original godparent will still be the official godparent on the baptism certificate.
I’ve been to a catholic baptism where the catholic godparent lived overseas and couldn’t make it to the baptism. In this case there was another christian witness who stood up the front on their behalf and was also the second godparent.
Let’s look at the role of the proxy godparent and some other reasons why a godparent may not be able to make it to the baptism.
Why Choose A Godparent Who Can’t Be Present at the Baptism?
The most common reason that parents might choose a godparent who they know probably won’t be able to make it to the baptism is that the parents have just moved somewhere away from close family and friends.
In this case they still want to choose a godparent who they know well and they know will be a part of their child’s life for the long-haul.
In this case it makes sense to choose someone from back home.
Another reason that the godparent can’t attend the baptism may be the because of the godparents career/job. Maybe you booked the baptism when they were available and now suddenly they’ve been called away for work. Maybe they work in the army and got called away suddenly, or maybe another emergency type job. The baptism could be rebooked to another date, or you could choose a proxy godparent to stand in on their behalf at the baptism.
Most churches require the godparent to be at least 16 years of age, but maybe you know a really mature 14 or 15 year old who you think would make a fantastic godparent. Maybe in this case you might also need to use a proxy godparent at the baptism to officially witness the baptism and serve as the godparent until the actual godparent reaches 16 years.
Choosing a godparent it a big deal. It’s important to choose someone who can fulfil this important role in your child’s life. Someone who has a strong faith in God and can help point your child to God.
To help people choose someone with a strong faith most churches require that the godparent is a baptised christian. The Catholic church also require the godparent to be baptised and confirmed into the Catholic church. I’ve written more about godparents with a different denomination here and what is expected by different denominations.
Finding someone who fulfils these measures and also someone who you trust will do a good job and be there long term for your child can sometimes be a tough find.
Most churches realise this and won’t add the extra criteria of close physical distance to your child, and will allow your chosen godparent to be godparent even if they can’t attend the baptism.
Many years ago this wasn’t really an issue, but now people travel so much and it’s not uncommon for close family and friends to live far away.
What Does A Stand-In/Proxy Godparent Do?
A proxy godparent is someone who will represent your chosen godparent at the baptism. They will witness the baptism on behalf of your godparent and also make confessions of faith on behalf of your child.
First the proxy godparent will have to answer questions with the parents about their intentions to help raise the child in faith, something like:
“Parents and Sponsors, Since you have brought _______ to be baptised, you are responsible for her upbringing in the church.
- Remember her in your prayers.
- Bring her to the services in God’s house and
- Teach her the Lord’s prayer, the Creed and the Ten Commandments
- Remind her of her baptism,
- Set her a good example, and
- Provide for her instruction in the faith.
Do you intend to do this? (If so, say ‘Yes, I do’.)”
Then the parents and godparents together say aloud “Yes, I do.”
Then they will need to renounce the devil and confess their christian faith (by saying the Apostles Creed) on behalf of the child along with the parents and sometimes the whole congregation joins in this part.
Choosing a Proxy Godparent
You can choose another person you know to be a proxy godparent, but they should be a baptised christian. If the godparent is away temporarily at the time of the baptism then maybe you could choose the godparent’s sister or spouse or mother to act as proxy godparent.
However if you’ve moved somewhere new and don’t know many christians in the area then it could be difficult to find someone that you trust to fill the role of proxy godparent. In this case the church will likely have someone that could fill the role for you.
The church may also give you the option of adding the proxy godparent to the baptism certificate to act as an extra godparent for your child. This is something that is totally up to you, depending on how close you are to the proxy godparent and how you and the proxy godparent feel about this.
Another option if you have older children or twins is to choose the same godparent for both children. I hadn’t even considered this option when my children were baptised, but it appears to be acceptable. Double check with your church first. See this article I’ve written about the pros and cons of choosing the same godparent for siblings.
The Role of Godparent
It’s a good idea to make sure the original godparent knows what was said and promised on their behalf at their godchild’s baptism. Often the church will provide a copy of the words spoken at the baptism. It would be a good idea to send this to the godparent.
Many churches will also give out a pamphlet to help the godparents know what their role is in their godchild’s life. Send this on to the godparent so they can understand what’s expected of them. Even if your expectations of the godparent are a little different from what the pamphlet says it’s still good to send it on – maybe include a photo of their godchild from the baptism day to make it a bit more personal/special.
I know I felt a little uncomfortable about giving the Godparent pamphlet to the godparents for our children. I was just happy that they agreed to be godparents and didn’t want to impose anything else on them. I also didn’t want them to feel like I thought they didn’t know what they were doing.
However, as godparent to others I was grateful for a pamphlet to remind me of my responsibilities and the role that I had agreed to. I think most godparents will feel the same way. It’s an important role that they have agreed to and having the promises and responsibilities written down is important.
The main role of the godparent is to help the parents in teaching the child about faith in God. This can involve being a good role model, giving a gift on their baptism birthday to help remind them about the importance of the day but also teach them something about God and his nature and how he thinks about your godchild. The role of godparent always involves talking with God about your godchild: thanking God for your godchild, asking him to protect and guide your godchild and then trusting him to do this.
Can a Physically Distant Godparent Still Do a Good Job?
I believe a physically distant godparent can absolutely do a good job as godparent. Growing up I had a godparent who I rarely saw as they lived in another state. They were at my baptism but I didn’t see them a lot. However, they always remembered me with cards and messages.
These days technology has made it even easier for physically distant godparents to still do a great job as godparent. There are so many ways that you can be face-to-face with your godchild through a screen. Video messages can be a great way to send a quick message to your godchild, or face-time/video calls.
Of course all the normal responsibilities of being a godparent can be done from anywhere – prayer and sending gifts/messages. So don’t worry that the godparent you’ve chosen won’t do a good job because they live too far away. They may even feel bad that they live so far away and end up doing a better job than a godparent who lives close.
Also remember that as parents the main responsibility of raising your child with faith in God falls on you as parents. No one can influence a child quite like his/her parents. You are with your child every day. Your child looks up to you and will copy what you do without even realising they are doing it.
Children learn by example way more than they learn by being told. Be honest and open with God and with your child. Learn more about him by reading his Word. Trust him and everything else will fall into place.