The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Friday, March 02, 2007

Conflicted about Confirmation...

As I write this, the church I serve at is about 1/3 of the way through its annual Confirmation program. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Confirmation, it is a program designed to help students understand the faith and ultimately make the decision to become an adult member of the congregation. Some would say it is also to help students embrace the decision to be a follower of Christ, though I definitely have my doubts about that aspect.

So here are some of my most random thoughts in regards to Confirmation…

1. We do it too young. Most churches take on the task of Confirmation in early middle school. So, we are trying hard to teach 11 and 12 year olds some important things (baptism, sacraments, worship) and some less important things (denominational heritage). And I have to say that this approach seems incredibly backwards to me. As it stands now, in a couple weeks I will be teaching the students in Confirmation about the denominational heritage. It is an interesting, fascinating history and one worth knowing; just in my opinion it is worth knowing when you are older and care about these things.
This week, I also taught some high school students (mostly 11th and 12th graders). In the midst of our conversations, they are extremely confused about what we believe and even more importantly, what they believe as individuals. The juxtaposition of the two groups was pretty evident to me. Maybe Confirmation should answer questions when appropriate.

2. We treat Confirmation Sunday like graduation. In my current position there are two things we do banquets for: Confirmation Sunday and honoring high school graduates. That isn’t to say that these things aren’t important. But, we have seem to run the ship aground in having kids experience Confirmation as a rite of passage and less as an affirmation of faith.
For example, this week as I drove some of the students from the middle school to the church facilities, several of the regularly involved students were asking some of the less involved students “Why don’t you come to youth or Sunday School?” And the answer was generally “It isn’t important to me. I am doing this Confirmation thing and my mom said she would get off my back.” The structure of Confirmation makes it too easy for us to treat it like a thing to check off and less about a relationship (with Christ and His church) to be entered into.

3. We set the bar too low. Let’s keep it real here- we are asking students whether they want to enter into a relationship that will continue for their entire life, change the course of their life and ground them for the rest of their days. And we do it as a 10 week course. While I am all for the idea that admission into the kingdom of God has been made easy through the love and sacrifice of Jesus, I do think we are maybe giving it more than a little disservice when we place so little importance on it. The process of Confirmation ought to cost us something because following Jesus costs us everything!

4. We do it as an age based thing. Simply put, we treat it as something everyone is ready for when they are a certain age, which I can’t find contextualized anywhere in scripture. I went through Confirmation as a 16 year old with a bunch of sixth graders. And I am thankful that I did. Because Confirmation helped me answer and deal with some questions I had a young person investigating Christianity. Was it awkward for me? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. (And why aren’t there adult Confirmation classes? If we think the things we teach and share are important in the lives of young people aren’t they important in the lives of adults as well? Seems to me that there should be similar processes.)

5. We ramp up and create “special” items out of things that ought to happen well past Confirmation. For example, at the church I serve right now, there is a Confirmation “mentor” program. Essentially students are asked to find an adult that can mentor them, share with them and help them contextualize their experience. At the same time that this “mentoring” is happening, I am having a tremendously difficult time in finding adults that will do those same things with other students involved in the youth ministry. I feel like we are having a major failure to communicate because after confirmation, students need just as much shepherding, caring adults involved in their lives, if not more. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.

6. We don’t extend Confirmation involvement. If I have done one thing really well with this year’s confirmands, it is that I have used the class to expose them to and encourage them in some things that are happening in the life of the whole church and its youth ministry. In fact, it looks like around half the class will be going on our upcoming middle school retreat. But I have also had parents say things like “She won’t stay involved” or “Their family will go back into the woodwork.” Now, I am the king of the pessimists but can’t be work hard and assume that maybe the Holy Spirit can use something like Confirmation to change people’s hearts? Do we have to assume that the end of it is boys in men’s suits and young ladies in white dresses that return from whence they came? It is disappointing…

So again, my random, thinking out loud writing about what conflicts me about Confirmation.


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