What is confirmation?
Confirmation is when an individual, without any coercion or outside pressure, affirms the promises made on his or her behalf, by his or her parents, and becomes an adult member of the congregation.
I don’t see “traditional” confirmation classes at Rejoice. Why is that?
There are lots of reasons. Here are the top four:
- Historically and theologically speaking, confirmation has a strange pedigree, going back to the unavailability of the local bishop to “complete” (confirm) the baptismal rite. There is no compelling biblical or theological reason to continue this tradition.
- Research shows that for most adolescents in most churches, aged-based classes send the wrong signal about Christian discipleship. Instead of a lifelong growth in following Christ, we inevitably signal that confirmation is about jumping hoops and “graduating.” It often functions for adolescents as the quickest ticket out of ongoing discipleship.
- Adolescents are different from one another spiritually. They’re at different places at different times in their spiritual development. Grouping them by age and then educating them to supposedly own and express their faith according to a set schedule ignores their individual faith development. Some are ready earlier, some later. Not tying the public act of confirmation to a specific age or school grade respects the integrity of individual faith development.
- We often find that the push for confirmation is more about making the parents feel good than actually helping kids grow in their faith.
So what’s the alternative? Just forget the whole thing?
Not at all. Creating space for a young (or older) person to personally express his or her faith in a public setting can be a powerful and blessed experience. That’s why the church at large has been shifting the language away from talk about “confirmation” and towards “affirmation of baptism,” which suggests something that any of us might be led to do as a follower of Jesus Christ.
What would that involve in terms of preparation, then?
We’ve been experimenting with a process that consists of five “projects” that are personalized. Think of it as a similar to the Scout system of accumulating merit badges, with youth building on a series of faith experiences.
Personalized – so that each young person can proceed at their own pace and follow their own interests and style of learning.
ActionReflection – because some things are best learned by doing something first, and then reflecting on the experience afterwards.
Mentor-based – Each project will be done with an adult mentor in order to connect the young person with a range of faith mentors and to build intergenerational relationships.
Purpose-driven projects – so that each young person can experience firsthand the different dimensions of our shared life Christian life. This means completing a different project in each of our five main purposes as a church (Evangelism, Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Service). The confirmation director and the confirmand will work together to create an individualized plan for their projects. All projects must be pre-approved by the confirmation director. Once a project has been completed, the person will meet privately with one of the commissioned youth group leaders to “debrief” and review project summary.
We will meet every two months individually to briefly report on the progress of the confirmand. We will also reflect on how completed projects have impacted that person’s thinking and life.
Who and what triggers the process?
For this process to have real integrity and effectiveness, this needs to be something that the young person truly desires. The timing is probably an expansive one, ranging anywhere from early adolescence to young adulthood. If parents are driving things thinking “It’s about time you get confirmed!” then it undercuts the whole experience. Youth, of course, need to know about the opportunity and need encouragement, but any sort of coercion is bound to be counterproductive in the long run.
So what’s the relationship between the weekly youth ministry programs on the one hand, and “confirmation preparation” on the other?
Maybe it can help to think of it in the following way: The weekly youth ministry experiences are part of the ongoing group process of growing in discipleship. Confirmation preparation is an additional, individual step for those who are interested in going deeper and who feel led by the Holy Spirit.
By the way, there are no strings attached. Taking the step to go through the preparation for confirmation doesn’t necessarily mean that the young person should then take the immediate step of publicly affirming his or her faith. He or she (in consultation with the pastor or youth minister) may decide to postpone or forego the public rite for a variety of reasons.
Sample project ideas
- Work with the Evangelism Team on the next postcard mailing
- Put together and deliver new visitor packets
- Be a greeter on Sunday morning and make it a point to meet anyone whom you do not know
- Invite 3 friends and/or neighbors to a church event and then follow up with them
- Help plan a worship service
- Be a worship leader and reflect on that experience
- Organize a youth skit to perform during worship
- Plan a “Youth Sunday” in which the youth lead the service
- Host coffee hour
- Plan a fun “fellowship” event for the youth
- Help plan a Sport’s Sunday
- Organize a Parent’s Night Out
- Help lead Sunday School
- Help lead a Matrix or Summit evening
- Go out for coffee with an adult in the congregation and ask them about their faith story
- Do spiritual coaching with a leader in the congregation
- Plan a service project
- Be involved with one of the many service opportunities at Rejoice (i.e Hesed House, Feed My Starving Children, etc.)
- Help plan a mission trip
Contact Sue Garrison or for more information.