Reviewing A Godparent’s Handbook by Alice Warren (Youthworks Media)

I have a plethora of children of my own, I’ve fostered more than 10 extras so far and been involved in a variety of different ministries, here and overseas, but perhaps the space I feel most unsure about, most untrained in, most like I’m stepping forwards in a fog – albeit a happy and privileged one – is as godparent to my three godchildren.

I have 2 boys and 1 girl as my godchildren, aged 23 and 14 and 7. Two are children of close friends and one is my nephew. There was no contract to sign, my name isn’t on the birth certificate, I pay no annual fees and the general vibe I’ve been rolling with is to keep in touch, pray for them, give the younger ones lollies, take the older one out for burgers and stick their photos on my wardrobe door so I don’t forget them. Done. Right?

Until this little book. And indeed, it begins with the chapter heading: “So many questions!”. What do we bring to godparenting in terms of theology and practice, and how do we stop the slide down to mere tokenism? 

When I was a child, my godmother used to squeeze five bucks into my hand annually and then have nothing more to do with me. I think we can strive for more than that. In this book, Warren articulates her hopes. “The ideal was clear: having other mature Christians invested in our children’s faith for the long term”. 

And then the book heads into the gospel of grace, reminding us that rather than being weighed down by guilt or indecision, we can instead rejoice in God’s love for us and be set free from “a list of shoulds”. A great way to start – redirecting our false worshipping tendencies and looking to Jesus! Redemption is God’s own work.

Warren spends a few chapters writing about what a godparent is, and what baptism is, particularly from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s perspective. We then dive into some liturgy – thankfully with accompanying explanation – and some Bible. Some things I had long forgotten about, other things I did not know. I so appreciated the reminder that it is God who first stretches out towards us.

But, as the author writes, being a godparent begins with a good relationship. There’s no checklist for that – only you know you and your godchild. Part of good relating, she says, is setting expectations with the parents, as well as working out practicalities. I was delighted to then read the pages spent on prayer ideas, presents, even presence!

These were all good, sensible, joyful ideas and I closed the book feeling energised and equipped. 

I’m aware that some godparents may not know or understand children. My husband had never held a child before we had our own, let alone contemplated their ever-growing capacity for belief in God. The chapter on how a child’s faith develops will help you significantly. There is an awkward typo in the first sentence (page 44), but apart from that you will enjoy, and most certainly learn from, what it says.

It was good to be handed this little book to read. May we who have been received and welcomed by God himself also receive and welcome our godchildren – encouraging them to fight bravely under his banner and to shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God the Father, in whatever way we work out best to do it. This may even involve lollies and burgers!