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Honor and responsibility


A lot is required of godparents: They should accompany their godchild, pray for them and search for God together with the child. The reward: godchild and godfather are often linked for a lifetime.

“Would you be the godmother of our son?” People who are asked this are rightly happy and proud. Because the question is a great vote of confidence. Parents trust their future godparents to be there for their child; they want the godparent - usually a family member or a good friend - to play a role in their son's life.

Nevertheless, many also have respect for this office. Those who take on a sponsorship also take responsibility for a little person: for their well-being, for their religious upbringing, for their future path. Baptism lays the foundation for a human relationship that - at best - lasts a lifetime.

Duties of the godparents

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, at least one sponsor is required for every baby baptism. There is a good reason for this: Godparents are witnesses to the promise that God makes to every person in baptism: “You are my dear son, you are my beloved daughter”. You can tell your sponsored child about this when it gets bigger. That is why it is necessary for the sponsorship that the sponsor is present at the baptism. Together with the parents, the godparents (abbreviation for Latin “pater spiritualis” = “spiritual father”) ensure that the child learns something about the Christian faith: They take their religious questions seriously and search for God together with them. Not doggedly, but in a fun way that has plenty of space for laughter, games, gifts and joint activities.

The Protestant Church is happy about everyone who takes on a sponsorship. On the one hand, because, out of Christian conviction, she welcomes it when people take responsibility for one another, build relationships, and support one another in their upbringing. On the other hand, sponsors are like ambassadors for the community. You keep in contact with the church with the sponsored child and pray for the child. So it is only natural that only church members can assume the sponsorship office.

Prerequisite: Church membership

It is desirable, but not necessary, for a godparent to belong to the Evangelical Church. Formally, it is sufficient if the sponsors are members of a church of the working group of Christian churches (e.g. Catholic church or free churches such as Baptists, Methodists - see list of Christian churches.

It is now taken for granted that a Protestant child has Catholic godparents. However, if the parents have left the church, the sponsor must be a Protestant so that contact with the Evangelical Church does not break off. From the time of confirmation, a Protestant Christian is entitled to assume the sponsorship office.

What does a sponsor have to bring?

Not much, above all: the joy of the child, the desire to accompany the godson or goddaughter and an interest in rediscovering the faith together with the godchild. If the sponsor is not a member of the local congregation, he must prove his church membership with a sponsorship certificate before the baptism. He can have this certificate of sponsorship issued to himself in the rectory of his own parish - a purely formal act. (If you are unsure which parish of the Bavarian regional church you belong to, use our parish search!).

Catholic sponsors receive a certificate of church affiliation in their parish office. In order to avoid unnecessary stress, it is advisable to apply for the patent certificate in good time.
The family often wants the godparents to take part in the service with a reading or an intercession for the godchild. This is a great occasion to show in church: We stand up for our sponsored child with prayer and good thoughts. You can get suggestions for intercessions from the pastor.

And the present? There are different traditions here. In some families, the sponsor gives the first children's Bible or a Christian symbol. In other families, the godparents pick up on old customs and give their first investments: the basis for a coin collection, a savings account ... Christening chains with name and date or the first cutlery are popular godparent gifts. The personally designed christening candle is a very individual gift. She will accompany the child in many other baptisms and remind them of their own baptism. Consultation with the parents is certainly useful here, but it should also be a gift that the godparents themselves enjoy.

End of the sponsorship office

The sponsorship in the narrow sense ends with the confirmation and the independent, mature “yes” of the young person to his baptism. Often, however, there is a special relationship of trust between the sponsored child and the sponsor throughout life.

If a sponsor leaves the church, the sponsorship office is suspended. A premature termination of the sponsorship office is possible if the sponsor asks for release from the office of his own accord and for reasonable reasons. If this was the only godmother, a new godmother can be named and her name entered in the church register. On the other hand, it is impossible to delete a sponsor from the church register against his or her will.

Complications like these are very rare. Often sponsors and sponsored children experience sponsorship as a special enrichment in their lives. Especially during puberty, the godfather becomes an important contact next to the parents.

March 12, 2014 / Anne Lüters
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