What should godparents buy for a baptism?

Sponsorship: What is important for a good sponsor

When choosing a sponsor, parents should carefully consider the role that the sponsor should play in the child's life. Whether a good relationship develops between godfather or godmother and child depends on many things.

© dpa

More than just a helping hand: godparents accompany their protégés on their way to adulthood and are contact persons for them in all situations. Photo: Silvia Marks

With the birth of their first child at the latest, many parents who have hardly any connection to the church will remember Christian traditions. Regardless of whether you want to secure a place in a denominational daycare center or pave the child's way to church: Baptisms still have a permanent place for many families - as do the godparents.

Godparents stand for acceptance into the religious community

“Baptism is not only important for individuals. It means acceptance into the community of believers ”, says Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German Bishops' Conference in Bonn. "This is what the godparents stand for."

Godfather as a reference person

According to Kopp, many parents associate the sponsorship office with the desire to put people at the side of the child who will accompany them on their path through life. "Regardless of whether the sponsors are friends of their parents or family members, a very special relationship usually develops between sponsors and sponsored children," says Pastor Sven Waske from the Evangelical Church in Germany. Often it lasts into adulthood.

Sponsors should broaden the perspective

The psychologist Prof. Gisela Steins sees sponsorships as an opportunity for the child to get to know further perspectives, to get suggestions and experiences that expand the parents' repertoire. This would encourage them to think, compare and reflect. "In a sponsorship this can happen again in a particularly intensive way," explains the professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Sponsorship opportunities

Steins also refers to completely different sponsorships - beyond the religious idea - such as those of older students for younger ones or of people who sponsor children in need. "Sponsorships can bring happiness, self-confidence and open-mindedness to the children." Because ideally, the sponsored children are also something special for the sponsors.

Clarify the sponsor's tasks beforehand

Regardless of the motivation, parents should carefully choose the godparents for their children: "I always advise families to discuss exactly what they expect with potential godparents," says Sven Waske. What is initially a very personal sign of friendship and trust can also become a burden and obligation. "Sending a present just for Christmas or a birthday is not enough," says the Catholic theologian Jochen Jülicher from Cologne. He broke with the church in the mid-1990s and has been offering non-denominational weddings and funerals ever since.

Most importantly, godparents have moral obligations

Jülicher advises the godparents to think about the moral responsibility of this office. Because contrary to the widespread assumption that godparents are automatically assigned guardianship or even custody in the event of their parents' death, sponsorship is a purely moral or ecclesiastical obligation.

Ideas of sponsorship should be defined

"Most parents choose their godparents based on their reliability and their own intensity of relationship," says Jülicher. And because relationships have changed over the years, he lets godparents and parents define very precisely how they imagine the sponsorship office to be.

Sponsors should be open about the office

“For some people, sponsorship is too big as a proposed position, be it for personal reasons, or because you change your job and move away,” says the Protestant pastor Waske. Then the possible godparents should have the courage to tell the parents. "In times of Skype and Facebook, spatial distances are certainly put into perspective," says Kopp. Then godparents and parents could consider how they can be present in the child's life despite the distance.

Requirements for becoming a godfather or godmother

Often it is two sponsors who choose the parents, sometimes more. Formally, they must be at least 16 years old in the Catholic Church, baptized and confirmed as a Catholic and be a church member. "Non-Catholic Christians can take on the role of baptismal witness in addition to a Catholic godparent," explains Kopp. Sometimes this is handled a little more laxly by some pastors.
With the Protestants, baptized and confirmed youth from the age of 14 can become sponsors, and at least one of the sponsors must be Protestant, but both must be in church.

A sponsorship is usually very enriching

But regardless of whether you are Protestant, Catholic or non-denominational, sponsorship is a great responsibility and, for many, great happiness. And despite all the formal requirements, a sponsorship is what you make of it. For some children, friends or relatives of their parents develop into confidants. With others, the relationship is reversed at some point, and the sponsored children become companions of the sponsors in old age.

Source: dpa

| Updated January 11, 2013

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