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Your baby is finally here. You spent nine anxious months worrying over him, thinking about every little kick and turn, wondering what he would look like and how it’d feel to hold him—but you’re not wondering anymore. Life is so different now. You’ve gone from planning to doing at all hours of the day. If you’re not feeding your baby, you’re changing him, comforting him while he cries, or making sure his diaper rash isn’t getting worse. You’re making appointments with his doctor to check his growthso you know he’s developing on time. In four short weeks, you’ve forgotten all about sleep. A restful night is nothing but a memory. But in the midst of all your doings, late one night as you cradle your infant in the dark in front of a muted television, a thought strikes you: his christening is a month from now and you haven’t chosen godparents yet.

To quote Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian church and therefore godparents as well, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Hopefully, you’re reading this a little earlier than a month before your baby’s baptism, and hopefully you’ve already given some thought as to who you’ll want to name as godparents in the baptismal registry for your child. Either way, whether you’re completely prepared for everything months in advance (like my wife), or you0 wake up every day in a panic because you’re having to wing something you forgot about (like me), this article should help ease the process of selecting the man and woman who’ll be helping to raise your child spiritually.

What Is A Godparent?

On the slim chance you arrived here without knowing this, I’ll quickly define the term for you. Godparents, in many Christian denominations, are a man and woman who present a child at his or her baptism and vow to take on the responsibility of aiding in the child’s spiritual education. In times past, the role of godparent also carried other obligations, such as physically raising the child if their parents should die. Nowadays, you can’t claim such an honor simply by being named a godparent at your friend’s christening ceremony (that’ll need to be in the family’s will.) But a godparent will and should be regularly involved in your child’s life, especially when it comes to matters of the Christian faith. According to Bible, life on earth is but a single step toward an eternity in Heaven or Hell, having the right spiritual mentor for your child is no small thing. The definition of a who can be a godparent varies between denominations, but it’s generally a practicing member of the faith in good standing with the church who has also been baptized.

Do I Choose Friend or Family?

Family seems like the obvious choice for most people, but like I said earlier, you want the right spiritual mentor for your child. If no one in your family is very spiritual, a close friend might be the better option. Assuming that you’re reading this as a practicing Catholic (or any of the other denominations that baptize infants), I’d recommend you pray on the matter first and foremost. Ask God to help you choose the right godparent for your child. If anyone’s interested in you finding the right godparent, it’d be Him, right? If you are a Christian, ask God for guidance in choosing the right person. If you’re not a Christian and are doing this for the sake of a religious spouse . . . good for you. It takes an incredible person to be that gracious, so kudos.

Regardless of your faith, you’ll really want to know the person you end up choosing. I mean really know them. If they’re god parenting right, they’ll be spending a lot of time with your child. They’ll be shaping and influencing them as they journey through life. You want to make sure you share the values they’re imparting to your child in his or her formative years. A close family member makes this easy. You would’ve seen their spiritual habits growing up and had many years to learn about what kind of person they truly are.

However, I wouldn’t go with family just because they’re family. If Uncle Joe thinks he was born to be your baby’s godparent but you know he has serious problems with drinking and pornography,it’s better to give him a dose of painful truth rather than let your child have a spiritual mentor who might teach them to condone bad behavior. A close friend might be the better option in that case. Somebody you grew up with, or even just a good friend you’ve known for a few years can make an ideal godparent. But I must again stress the importance of knowing the person. Knowing their heart. Knowing how they react when life isn’t going their way. If you’re not planning to have a child for a few years and have no one selected, go ahead and start looking now. Spend a lot of time with the people you’re considering as godparents and check in regularly.

If you have no friends or family to choose from, maybe because you’re brand spanking new to the Christian to scene, you could ask the priest or pastor of your church. They usually know the members of their congregation inside and out and should be able to guide you in the right direction.

Good Godparent Qualities

The required qualities of a godparent depend on the denomination of your church, but as I said above, to officially be listed as a godparent in the baptismal registry of most churches, the person must be a practicing member of the church in good standing who has been baptized themselves. Keep in mind, those are the required qualities. But you never go to the supermarket and just grab the first carton of milk you see, right? You check the expiration first. You want to make sure you’re getting good milk. It’s the same with church people. There are many people who have the appearance of clean outward lives but have hearts as black as coal dust. So don’t stop at what’s required. Your child deserves better than the bare minimum.

Since the idea is to pick the best person to act as the co-spiritual mentor of your child (Along with you! You should be mentoring them as well!), let’s think about the qualities that exemplify the ideal godparent from a Christian perspective. Since it’s easier to know a person outwardly than inwardly, we’ll start there. A good godparent should be, um, well, good, living most of their life on the lighter side of the moral spectrum, a Jedi rather than a Sith Lord. I’m not trying to start a philosophical debate about goodness of humankind.

I know nobody’s perfect, but the ideal godparent should do their best to live above reproach. They shouldn’t be hanging out in bars or evading taxes or doing anything you wouldn’t want your LO doing. If they’re talking the Christian talk, they should be walking the Christian walk. Everyone knows children see and hear more than we think they do. They’ll grow up watching the person you choose, and the first lesson they’ll learn is how that person lives their outward lives. If your child’s godparent spends every night at a bar even though he’s in church every Sunday, your baby might end up doing the same thing.

However, the ideal Christian life is not just what we see. The inner life, things like prayer, bible reading, and scripture meditation are just as important. A person that practices these disciplines regularly will usually live a clean outward life as a byproduct of their clean inner life. That’s where getting to know your future godparent comes into play. You need to spend enough time with the person to see their lives from every angle, see how they react in times of success and tragedy. Do they pray regularly and not just when things are going bad? Do they bring up scripture whenever you ask for advice? Do they turn the other cheek when they’re insulted and wish good things for those that offend them? Jesus did, and the ideal godparent should do their best to as well.

Don’t Forget To Ask!

I think this goes without saying for most people, but since I’d totally be the one to name someone a godparent without asking them, I’ll conclude with it. Ask the person you’re considering as a godparent about it in advance.They might not want the responsibility! Like I said earlier, it’s no small thing to be a child’s spiritual mentor. You may have thought a lot about your ideal godparent, but their feelings are equally important. You don’t want to force them into a situation where they say yes because they fear disappointing you when it’s not something they really want to do. At the same time, I wouldn’t mention it until you really get to know the person. You don’t want them pretending to be something they’re not just to please you.

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