WHAT do you do if you are asked to be a godparent to the child of your friends or family?

The first thing is to be pleased to be asked. It is a vote of confidence in your loyalty and sanity.

Recent research commissioned for the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council shows that the opportunity to have godparents is a big factor in parents’ decision to have their baby christened.

The second thing is to talk it through with the couple. See what their expectations are and check your expectations of yourself.

Godparenting is mostly a joy, but it does require genuine commitment and a willingness to be an extra pair of listening ears in times of crisis.

It isn’t all about remembering birthdays.

You also have a spiritual duty to your godchild.

Usually you will have been baptized yourself, as only a baptized Christian can make the solemn promises that parents and godparents make on behalf of their child.

If you haven’t been baptized you would normally be invited to take part as a sponsor, a friend who shares in the child’s upbringing but without making the faith commitment.

If you a Christian (of sorts) it would be a good thing to examine what you are taking on.

You don’t have to be a card-carrying once-a-week church goer to be a godparent but you do have to have some sense of God in your own life and respect for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

The promises that you make show that you are willing to help your godchild find their way towards a Christian life-style and Christian values.

This is really important.

The research of the Archbishops’ Council shows that parents today are very aware that the world can be a scary place for young people to grow up in. Drugs, the internet, bullying, issues with self-confidence and self-esteem can all be causes of real anxiety. Parents need support!

As a godparent on behalf of your godchild you are asked to declare that you turn away from evil in all its forms, and that you trust in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

You are to desire the best for your godchildren, and the best is always with God.

In the baptism services the promises you make precede the baptism itself.

The baby is given their name in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as water from the font is poured three times on their head. It is a solemn and beautiful moment.

There will nearly always be a party to welcome the baby into the community of family and friends.

A christening also brings the baby and the family into closer contact with the Church. You have a responsibility to help this, a responsibility which can reflected in birthday and Christmas presents.

It is good if godparents can give the child a Bible and a Prayer Book — books for reading, not just for sitting on the shelf.

Having a godchild can be a wonderful opportunity for growing in your own faith.

The fact that you were invited to be a godparent is proof that you are a responsible, caring adult.

But it is also an invitation to explore the Christian faith more deeply for yourself.

Spend time praying for your godchild and for your future life with him/her and their family.

Reflect on the promises of baptism and try to see where they make an impact on your everyday life.

Doing this faithfully and lovingly means that you will not only be a blessing to the child and its parents, but you will find your commitment a source of blessing for yourself.