Friday, July 27, 2007

Awaiting Confirmation

We are in the process of re-thinking how we do confirmation here at our church. What we've done isn't all that bad, but not anything to write home about either. So my questions for you all are:

What are you doing in this area that you think is really exciting and replicatable for other congregations?

What age(s) do you include?

Are you using a particular curriculum? So far, we've found that we like parts of several curricula but aren't sold on the whole package of any.

What are the assumptions going in about the end goal? I ask this because there has been discussion here that if you state the "end goal" as joining the church, the youth who choose not to join,(and their parents), end up feeling that there is some stigma attached to that decision--and the adults who lead the classes are set up to have folks wonder what they did "wrong" with the class that it couldn't make Christianity and church membership seem like a compelling choice for these kids. Is there a different way to frame the whole process?


ppb said...

I wonder what it would be like (says she with no confirmation age kids in her congregation) if we stopped calling it confirmation. What if we called it pilgrimage or credo or some such spiritual name,and made the course a necessary but not sufficient requirement for confirmation---sort of like the MDiv is for ordination? Then celebrate in church all the kids who completed the program. After that, those that want to be confirmed, meet with session and pastor or whatever is your custom, and a few weeks later, quietly join the church, mixed in with other adults?
Because it seems to me that so long as we call it confirmation, the goal is always going to be confirmation. But really, isn't our goal that kids think about what it is that htey believe? And shouldn't THAT be celebrated--and not just as an "also ran" to confirmation?

Of course, this is all very easy for me to say.

ellbee said...

I like that concept PPB. Seems it's not unlike an "explorer's course" that we use for potential new members who happen to be adults. We talk about that course in terms of people who are interested in joining or just learning more about what makes our part of the catholic church unique.

Have you seen the Presbyterian Handbook? The ISBN is 9780664502881 if you want to look it up. It's written like a survival guide, and it's got a great overview of all the sorts of things that one would teach folks exploring the Presbyterian universe. Very subversive humor is the added bonus. There's a section on what to do if you are accused of heresy (including diagrams on why being burnt at the stake is not a preferred outcome). It's funny, but a great starting point for discussion about why one would want to understand heresy and how to identify it.

If I were to do confirmation (or explorer) course, I'd build my course outline from there.

Mark Smith said...

Our church just changed from 8th grade to 9th grade. Last year was the "missing" year - the 8th graders were too young and the 9th graders had done it in 8th grade. I believe maturity had a lot to do with the change.

When I was a 9th grader I was in a double-year as that church switched from 9th to 8th. Ironic.

A Youth Ministry website that I use ( had a discussion on "what happens if the kid doesn't join". One thought was to have a celebration of completing the confirmation class, separate from the confirmation itself. Everybody graduates - some join. This is more or less the same thing that ppb said.

Personally I believe the kid who says he/she is not ready to join is more mature than the kid who doesn't believe but goes through the motions to join.

And here is another vote for the Presbyterian Handbook.

"PS" said...

We used a one-on-one approach, which worked great. We had a range of maturity and paired them up with an elder. Each of them had a workbook to work with and each of them answered the same questions. The mentors book contained additional ideas for them to explore. Both the adults and the young people thought it was a great way to do it. We did a special segment just on membership for the entire group. Our whole emphasis was doing this as a faith journey and if, at the end they wished to join, they could. We ended up with some joining the church and some that did not. I re-wrote the liturgy so that both the faith journey, baptism, and joining the church were all integrated and celebrated together. The name of the curriculem escapes me, but I will write it down when I am at the church on Sunday.

Teri said...

We are using a combination of Crossings (from Logos) and the book Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens. The class is for 8th graders and up...for some reason we have a few stragglers each time.

The stated purpose of confirmation (though I love PPBs idea and might try to steal it!) is not joining the church but rather "to help youth grow into thinking Christians who are part of a Presbyterian faith community." That got us through a huge class that survived a culture change in the requirements and feel...this year, we'll see what happens.

You always ask questions here that invite excellent conversation and end with me getting loads of ideas--thanks!

cheesehead said...

Here's my snarky answer to all this: If we don't call it "confirmation", how will parents know what to have the bakery put on the cake?

Kids in my context are *pressured* by the parents to finish the class and join. No confirmation = no party = no presents.

I really wish I was kidding, but in a place where there is so much Lutheran and RCC influence, a Presbyterian kid doesn't have a chance. It is unthinkable that a kid would not finish.

von Gunten said...

Sorry to be a bit late to the post, but I have been cross-pollenating in the blogosphere and just landed in your pew (or lack thereof, so to speak).

In Casper, Wyoming where there are 4 ELCA congregations and at one point 3 vacancies. I, with the help of others, created Casper Lutheran Youth Ministry.

It's first big mission was to have confirmation together under one roof. Eighty kids showed up and we were overwhelmed (using Faith Ink at the time).

A year or so went by, and pastors were called. We broke two hours into 4-5 segments each taught by a different pastor (using a variety of materials). Kids learned that pastors are different, and if they ever left their home congregation, they would survive.

Another tweak came when a new colleague said, "I always have a parent attend with the child/ren." At first there was great resistance to this by a few saying, "I've already done confirmation!" (read: now my child must suffer like I did!)

But after being clear about the process, parents found that we were creating space for parents to converse with their kids, kids talking with kids, and parents talking with parents.

Some parents even said that now after confirmation, instead of asking, "How was confirmation?" And getting the grunted, "Fine..." end of conversation. Now parent and child would converse all the way home.

Oh yeah, parents even said they were learning. Mostly due to the fact that when they were in confirmation they, like the lot of us, were "hormonally challenged."

Relationship was the key - subject matter caused us to run 6-8 grades with 9th grade starting HS youth.

I am of the opinion that you can affirm your baptism (confirmation) as often as you like when deemed necessary/appropriate. Besides, u get more cake!