I get asked questions at least once a month about Confirmation. What program should I use? What videos are the best? How can I keep the kids interested? How long should it be? How long does it have to be? Can we do a confirmation class with adults and youth together? How big or small should the class be? How old should the person be to be confirmed? How do we help people decide if they are ready to be confirmed? How do we honor what the youth decide? How do we involve mentors? How do we involve the parents?
These are all valid and telling questions. People have mixed feelings about confirmation, what it should be, and how to have an effective confirmation program.
The truth is, however, all the questions above are details. We need to back up and begin where it matters – with relationship. We could have the best program, that is the perfect size, with a group of youth that are ready to learn and delve into the big questions, with dedicated mentors, volunteers, and parents, and still not have it mean much to the youth that are engaged in confirmation. The key is be begin confirmation class with building relationships.
Why? We can learn all the right things and attend each class and want to be confirmed, but if we do not have a community to walk with before, during, and after we make an adult affirmation of faith, youth (or any of us) run into doubt, confusion, and difficult times and feel lost. Youth need to know that they have other people to talk to when big things come up and when they are struggling. They need to know whom they can tell about their great day. They need people who will listen to their dreams about the future. They need a group of peers who are willing to talk about things on a deeper level than they usually do. If confirmation is supposed to be our adult affirmation of faith, then let’s welcome them and help them create and become a part of a supportive community of peers and adult mentors who truly know one another.
Jesus chose the disciples and they followed him for three years, each day getting to know one another more and more, each day learning more about Jesus and his message. I’m not saying that confirmation class needs to be three years long, but we also can’t expect it to be effective and meaningful if it is only a few weeks long, because the group will not have enough time to really get to know one another, share their faith and doubt, and wonder about God’s presence in their lives together. Start with relationship. Teach. Grapple with questions. Pray. Learn from one another. Walk with each other and God on this new path of the faith journey.
- Concentrate on relationship building in the first few classes. This does not have to just be games that we have played before, but think about new ways we can engage the youth in learning about each other and their faith at the same time.
- There needs to be an element of learning about each other and what the other youth and adults believe within each class so you can continue to build on the foundations you have created.
- Some of the relational aspect could even come into play online if your group (and mentors) has a Facebook group or other online meeting place to discuss things.
- Try to find creative ways of staying connected between classes and after your classes end. Reunions? Monthly gatherings? Bible Study? Online discussion group?
Bottom line is, create community and with love, teaching, honesty, and prayer the rest will come together.
Written by The Rev. Shannon Kelly
Originally posted at the Faith Formation Learning Exchange December 2013