Posted by Megan Shitama Weston ● Tue, Jan 08, 2013 @ 10:01 AM
Beyond "Confirmation Class"
What do you think of when you hear the phrase "Confirmation Class"? If you went through Confirmation as a youth, what comes to mind about that process? I’ll admit, I hear plenty of people talk about how boring it was.
And I’ll never forget the first day of confirmation class when I had to explain to a student that we were not talking about conforming them.
Of course I also remember how empowering it was to me as a student, being asked to make my own decision and my own commitment to God and to the church. I know that many people share that experience. (And I’m actually really glad they made me memorize the Apostle’s Creed).
And if you’ve taught confirmation, you’re probably remembering the wonderful ways that you experienced God through and with youth…
...and you may also vaguely remember that feeling of Oh my gosh how am I supposed to fit all of this information into few enough classes that I can get all of the kids to come and also include some worship and service and missions and teach about the sacraments and grace and the Trinity and have everyone sit still long enough and understand it all and not be too bored???
Or is that just me? When I am teaching confirmation it is sometimes challenging for me to let go of the logistics and content and really be present with my students and with God.
Moving beyond just the Confirmation Class
But I’ll gladly confess that I love teaching confirmation. It is a chance for us to show our young people the best of what God and the Church have to offer them.
It is a season when we encourage our students to reflect on their own experiences of God, as we give them the tools to discern how God is inviting them to live out their faith.
Including a variety of those tools is the blessing and the challenge of confirmation. Providing lots of different ways for students to engage their faith helps to make sure that each kid has formative faith experiences during their confirmation process.
I loved sitting for an hour each week and learning theological concepts. But I'm a weirdo, and a lot of kids are not like that.
Some kids will struggle to understand (or care about) the theological concepts we present in class. On the other hand, revisiting those concepts through worship, activities, field trips, and spiritual practices can make those concepts come alive for our students.
I also know that Confirmation is going to look different in every church. But here are a few elements to consider including in your confirmation process (pick and choose the ones that are appropriate and do-able for your church):
- Confirmation Class: This one is usually a given, but the challenge here is to squeeze in all the important information in a way that keeps kids engaged. Try to pick the topics that are most important, and cover one topic per class. Keep the teaching time short in each class session, and include response activities that let the students answer the question "What the information/concept mean to me?" As students respond and discuss you can flesh out the topic further.
- Service Projects: In Confirmation we not just showing our students what it means to be the church, we are inviting them to actively be the church. Have your students participate in mission or service in some way - and it's a bonus if they are doing that side-by-side with adults in the church!
- Worship: ask students to commit to being present in worship. Invite students to be involved as lay readers, ushers, greeters, musicians, etc.
- Confirmation Retreat: give students a chance to get away from their busy lives so that they can reflect on theological concepts they’ve learned, spend time with God in community, and consider whether they are ready to be confirmed. (We can help with this one!)
- Barratt’s Chapel: this important historical site in Methodist history is right here in our conference! Organize your own trip, or attend the Bishop’s Day with Confirmands on March 16, 2013.
- Mentoring: pair students with adult mentors from the church family, who can support them through the process. Forming multi-generational relationships has been found to be a key aspect in keeping young people connected to the church as they reach young adulthood!
You're telling me to squeeze more in? Are you crazy?
I'm not saying it's not a challenge. Right now I can practically hear some of you saying "Move beyond the class? I have enough trouble just getting kids to show up for the class!"
Trust me, I hear you.
Our students are ridiculously busy these days, and even finding a regular time to meet is tough in a world where even Sunday has become fair game for sports and other extra curriculars.
Plus, confirmation is a lot of work. It's hard enough to just prepare and execute the basics of a confirmation process. Some of us have great adult volunteers, pastors, and parents who can help coordinate activities, but in other churches it's just one pastor or lay person leading confirmation.
The key is to figure out what we can add in to make the experience great for the students. It takes creativity, some planning, and lots of prayer that God will speak to the kids through the process in expected and unexpected ways.
One of the most liberating moments in my ministry so far was when I realized that God would touch my students' hearts even if I did not plan the perfect confirmation process.
I'm embarassed to admit how recent that was, actually.
There's one thing we can help with...
I know all of the prayer and planning that go into a confirmation process, and how it can be especially challenging for smaller churches. And yet our churches are doing what they can to make sure we are living out the Baptismal vows we made to those kids:
“With God’s help we will proclaim the good news
and live according to the example of Christ.
We will surround these persons
with a community of love and forgiveness,
that they may grow in their service to others.
We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples
who walk in the way that leads to life.”
-The United Methodist Hymnal, Baptismal Covenant I
That’s why I am so excited to invite small confirmation classes to participate in the Re:View Confirmation Retreat. You bring your class and adult leaders, and we'll supply the programming.
A confirmation retreat is a great opportunity for students to revisit the concepts they've learned, spend time with God, and reflect on how their own faith is being formed. But it requires time, money, and logistics that are tough for a lot of our churches.
I hope that confirmation leaders will be blessed by the chance to leave the logistics to us so that they can spend the weekend focused on their confirmands.
Together we will re:view some of the ways that God is at work in the world.
We’re going to learn, climb, share, star-gaze, pray, hayride, shoot arrows, worship, listen, and lots more.
And there will be Peeps Smores.
For more information and to register, visit the Re:View Retreat Page. If you have specific questions or just want to talk about your church's confirmation process, shoot me an email. I love to talk about confirmation.