If you've been asked to become a godparent or are thinking of designating godparents you might be wondering, "What are my responsibilities as a godparent?" There is no singularly accepted set of rules for godparents, but there are many common duties for godparents today.
Who Determines Godparent Responsibilities?
The modern role of godparents is largely determined by each individual set of parents and the people they want to ask to be godparents to their child.
- Parents should have a solid explanation of what they expect from a godparent before asking anyone to take on the role.
- Potential godparents should talk with the parents to determine what responsibilities they are comfortable with and capable of agreeing to.
- Both parties should agree on the specific godparent duties and if they don't the parents should be free to choose new godparent candidates.
Religious Responsibilities of Godparents
Godparents' responsibilities started from their role in baptisms. Because of where godparents got their start, most of the duties associated with this role are religious in nature.
Catholic Baptism Godparent Duties
In Catholic baptisms, godparents are typically called sponsors. Their role is to read the Profession of Faith on behalf of an infant and help lead the child's faith throughout their life. For this specific ceremony, godparents must meet a few requirements:
- Has to be older than 16
- Must be a confirmed Catholic
- Should attend Mass regularly and practice the faith
- At least one sponsor is required, but you can't have more than two
Christening Godparent Promises
During the Christening ceremony for a godchild, the godparents are asked to answer several questions and make a few promises. Typical Christening questions include:
- Will you pray for the child?
- Will you care for the child?
- On behalf of the child will you turn away from all things that are against God?
- On behalf of the child will you turn toward Jesus?
Greek Orthodox Godparent Responsibilities
The godparents selected for a child who will receive a Greek baptism is expected to pay for all the items needed for the ceremony. After the child receives Holy Unction, the godparents typically bathe the child to clean off some of the oil. Greek Orthodox godparents may also be expected to:
- Take the child to Holy Communion three times
- Participate in teaching the child about the Orthodox faith
- Select a Greek, Christian name for the child
Nonreligious Responsibilities of Godparents
Even those who are not religious appreciate the meaning behind godparents' roles. The main nonreligious duties of godparents involve being a positive and present support system for the child.
Be a Positive Role Model
Godparents are basically an extension of family for the child. Godmothers and godfathers should do their best to serve as positive role models for the child. The more time a godparent and godchild spend together, the more influence the godparent can have.
Send Cards on Important Dates
Just as a close family member would, godparents should commemorate special days in their godchild's life. Sending a card with a personalized note on the child's Baptism day, Confirmation day, birthday, or other significant days in his life shows you are there for him.
Physically Care for the Child
In some countries, like Mexico, godparents are expected to take care of a sick godchild if the parents cannot. Mexican godparents also typically prepare the grave for a deceased godchild. Because parents choose godparents they trust and respect, it is often assumed godparents would take custody of a godchild if the child's parents both died and other family members couldn't care for the child.
Legal Responsibilities of Godparents
Godparents are not legal guardians for their godchildren. Parents can choose to complete legal procedures that name guardians for their children if both parents are unable to care for the children and these guardians could be godparents, but this is separate from naming a godparent.
Financial Responsibilities of Godparents
Financial contributions by godparents are almost never required, but are appreciated and appropriate. Some ways godparents contribute financially to a child's life include:
- Starting a college fund
- Sending money in cards for special occasions and holidays
- Purchasing items needed for religious ceremonies
- Purchasing gifts for religious ceremonies like a christening
- Purchasing an Easter basket each year
Godparents Are an Extension of Family
While each parent and godparent ultimately decides what the godparent's responsibilities are, this role is always viewed as an extension of family. Godparents can be family members or close friends, but they are expected to act as family would and be treated by the child as family would.