Stop Graduating From Confirmation
In some ways, Confirmation is the culmination of a journey of faith, as students confirm the vows taken for them in baptism and claim responsibility for their own Christian faith. Yet, Confirmation is also very much a beginning of their faith journey, as they take a big step in their Christian lives and are invited to become adult members of Christ’s body and church. The goal of this experience should be teach students the basics of Christianity and allow them the opportunity to discover and express what they truly believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. We want students to own their Christian faith and make the decision about whether or not they want to commit to this lifelong faith journey. They should be responsible for writing a personal statement of faith that expresses who they are in Christ and why they choose to follow him in every area of life.
One of the biggest challenges in this Confirmation process is keeping students involved in their faith journey once they “graduate” from Confirmation. Oftentimes, Confirmation is considered a milestone event that parents simply check off the list and force their students to complete before allowing them to “check-out” of the church and stop their faith growth completely.
For me this is something that I witnessed every year as we would host a big celebration for Confirmation weekend in May with a special ceremony and “graduation-like” parties. Afterwards, these new members of the church would slowly disappear over the summer and the eventual busyness of high school life only to return again four years later for our Senior Celebration as they received a special gift on their way to college.
So how do we begin the process of changing this system and seeing our students continue their spiritual transformation and leadership in ministry once Confirmation ends? One way that I found has been very helpful is by creating a Confirmation model that bridges this gap between eighth and ninth grade as they transition from middle school into high school.
Here is what this has looked like for us in our ministry:
- We begin with clear communication to parents, leaders, and students about the vision and goal of Confirmation and our desire to see our students own their faith and continue the process of a lifetime spiritual growth and desire to follow Jesus Christ.
- We start this Confirmation class in January with a group of eighth-grade students who meet weekly with leaders to learn and discuss the basic questions of Christianity.
- We require students to participate in various retreats/special events where students experience fellowship and grow more intimately with the God who loves them and desires a relationship with them.
- We also invite these eighth-grade students to participate in a specific retreat/special event with the high school ministry that begins to bridge that transition and plants seeds with the leaders and students in high school.
- Over the summer, students are given several opportunities to connect with their Confirmation groups through fellowship events and fun activities.
- We pick up the Confirmation class again with a special overnight retreat as students begin their first semester of high school. This has been a very valuable experience as students are able to bond and connect over the shared experiences (both positive and negative) of starting a new chapter in life at high school.
- Weekly Confirmation classes continue throughout that first semester and students begin the process of writing their personal statements of faith from the notes and conversations they have experienced up to this point of the class.
- Students are encouraged to participate in the regular high school youth ministry and build relationships with the adults and students who are involved in that ministry.
- Students finish Confirmation with a special celebration and then are encouraged to jump right into the Sunday-morning options for high school students the following week. The high school youth pastor has already been a part of their lives throughout the Confirmation process and is able to invite them to be an active part of this ministry as they continue their faith journey together with fellow Confirmation students.
There are still some challenges in keeping students active in their faith journey after Confirmation, but I have truly been amazed by how God has transformed our students’ lives and connected them together on a deeper level through this new Confirmation process. I have seen a decline in the number of students who disappear and simply check this milestone off the list and I’ve been very encouraged that these students are given an opportunity to share in an experience that brings them out of middle school and into high school together.
They are able to share this common life transition together and are encouraged as they learn to balance an active church life in the midst of new challenges and priorities that are demanded of them in the busyness of high school life. They feel connected and welcomed by both leaders and students in the high school ministry over the course of both semesters and they have the opportunity to jump right into the regular routine of the high school ministry the very next week after Confirmation ends which eliminates the ease of disappearing over the summer months.
My hope and prayer is that you can take some of these thoughts and ideas into your Confirmation evaluations and find ways to create an impactful bridge for your students between Confirmation and entering into a lifelong faith journey.
Andy Juvinall is the Director of Junior High Ministry at Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, IL. He is the husband to Melissa, Father to a baby girl named Magdalene, and has been working in Middle School Youth Ministry for twelve years.
Title photo by Bill McChesney.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.