Confirmation Ministry

Confirmation in the Lutheran Church is a two or three-year process where seventh, eight and/or ninth graders spend time in conversation about their beliefs of the Old Testament, New Testament and Luther’s Small Catechism.

Confirmation has become the “rite of passage” for Lutheran fourteen year-olds.  For many is is the most important moment of their young faith life with the emphasis placed on their confirmation vow.  However, at this peak of their faith life many junior high youth consider confirmation their “graduation” from church and many newly confirmed members drift away soon after their vows because they believed they had “completed” their instruction. As a result, Lutheran churches most recently have been trying new and varied approaches to better teach children about Jesus.

In the Confirmation Ministry Task Force Report of the ELCA, Confirmation is defined at

Confirmation ministry is a pastoral and education ministry of the church that helps the baptized through Word and Sacrament to identify more deeply with the Christian community and participate more fully in its mission.

With this  in mind the church on 370 had evaluated and reevaluated our confirmation ministry program.  We first started our discussion about Confirmation Ministry with scripture we see confirmation as “equipping the saints for the works of ministry…” (Ephesians 4:11) We invite families to engage in a two-year program that enables youth to grow in faith, to ask probing questions and to become active members in the life of the church. In addition to addressing the question of content, “What do we (I) believe?”, we also seek to answer such questions as “What do Christians do?”, “How do Christians live?”, “What does it mean to be called a Christian?”, and “What difference does Jesus Christ make in my (our) life?”

There are five major components in our confirmation ministry

1.  The Crucial Role of Parents

Because parents are learning partners with their children, and play a critical role in their child’s faith journey, we therefore:

  • Strongly encourage each parent to participate in the faith life of the church
  • Encourage parents to discuss daily high’s and low’s with their children
  • Invite parents to pray at mealtime and bedtime with their children
  • Seek their participation in learner sheets given to the confirmands during the year which are designed for parents and confirmands
  • Request that parents attend a mid-year evaluation with their child’s guides
  • Ask parents to oversee completion of a sermon outlines each week
  • Expect parents to insure that their children arrive on time and prepared for classes with their Bible, folder, small Catechism and pen.

The rest of the confirmation requirements are for the confirmands themselves

2.   Worship

  • Regularly attend worship
  • Complete sermon outlines as they worship
  • Involvement in the worship leadership of the church (usher, lector, acolyte, choir member,  altar guild)
  • Visit different faith communities with the class during the year

3.          Devoted to Learning

  • Attend Confirmation Preparation time with Pastor (9th grade)
  • Participation in confirmation camp during the summer following 7th or 8th grade.
  • Study of Luther’s Small Catechism
  • Study of key Biblical themes, books and verses, including the following work due on May 1st of each year:
  • 7th Grade: Outline the Gospel of Luke (Chapters 1-9)
  • 8th Grade: Outline the Gospel of Luke (Chapters 10-24)
  • 9th Grade: Develop personal faith project

4. Fellowship

Events will be planned to help assimilate confirmands into the life of the congregation. These will include such elements as lock-ins, key congregational events, and getting to know other youth through fun, fellowship, and food. The Christian community plays an important role in the formation of its members. For this reason we seek to involve peers, parents, mentors, and guides, as well as the pastor, in the process of confirmation.

4. Mission

Jesus invited his followers to respond to the needs of others in a way that modeled his own behavior. As He said in the Gospel, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, so you have done it to me.” One basic element of Christian life is that of servanthood. We have been called to mission. Each year we participate in servant events that are designed to help us learn about Christian mission and to participate in that ministry. These events will allow our confirmands to meet people active in Christian mission and support their outreach endeavors with hands-on experience.

  • Participate in a minimum of four of the following eight annual servant events:                                          CROP Walk, Volleyball Marathon, Bowl-a-Thon, Vanderkamp Clean-up, Community Dinner, Block Party, Youth Garage Sale, or one that you propose
  • Develop a “Pay it forward” activity with members of their 9th grade confirmation class in conjunction with the Pastor.

As far as curriculum we are using Augsburg Fortress Here We Stand curriculum.  I have used it for the past three years and really enjoy how well it is laid out and how flexible it is to use.

Since we use three years of material and only have two years of program we have established a “pre-confimation” program.  I have been really excited about this program.  We have a large number of 5th and 6th graders who are eager to learn about the Bible and learn about their faith in God.  So we are using the 5th and 6th grade years to introduce the Old Testament to the group, to have opportunities to learn about the lighter side of church and to have opportunities to ask questions.  So far this has been very successful.

As we move forward in our confirmation ministry at the church on 370 we hope to create disciples, to build relationships in and among the group and to enable the youth to see their confirmation not as the end of their time in church but the beginning.

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4 thoughts on “Confirmation Ministry

  1. I’m curious, Joe, if any discussion ever broached the idea that perhaps the traditional method of leading children of the 5-8th grade age through the confirmation process is perhaps the wrong age at which to do so.

    At the time I went through confirmation, I thought I was ready myself for what it entailed and the complexities of my religion, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized that I was horribly wrong about that opinion. I can also say with confidence that there were plenty of kids who were going through the motions for their parents, or like it was a class in school, not as a life-important event and study in fundamental beliefs and world-view.

    I wonder how many kids in how many classes were confirmed through simply because the pastor didn’t want to deal with trying to explain to the parents and others that the kids weren’t taking it seriously enough. (not that I suggest that you have that attitude, but there are a lot of pressures on the system to keep it rolling along smoothly).

    Life changes so much from age 14 to about 25, and what with not only progressing through three major schools (middle, high, and college), but with hormones raging, bodies changing, friends, and responsibilities changing, it seems ill-placed to say, “We’re going to explain what this church believes and in 3 years you can decide if you want to ascribe to that officially or not.”

    I dunno. I’m sure you want to make sure you hit th ekiddos up before they go off to college and other places, but…*shrugs* Does it ever strike you as, “too young”?

  2. Thanks for the thoughts Nathan!

    I think that many if not most of the youth coming into confirmation class are doing it because their parents make them. Even those active youth really don’t enjoy coming to confirmation. Now is that the fault of the program? Perhaps. Is that the program of the age of the kids? Perhaps – or perhaps it is a little bit of both.

    What is the answer? I am not sure- at this point I do not think you are going to change the age of confirmation to Senior High age — at that point they are into so many things you might not get them to come and participate in the program.

    I would love to see the mindset of confirmation change. That is to change it from kids “graduating” from church to kids finishing confirmation and continuing their faith journey to learn more about the church, learn more about their faith and learn more about themselves.

    The question I think we should be asking is perhaps not how do we change confirmation, but how do we create programs that reach out to those post confirmation to the time they start coming back to church (which is late 20’s early 30’s when they start having kids).

  3. Another thought would be to form a program to continue to engage the youth after confirmation in a continuing educational scenario, obviously less intense, but still involved, that they can be a part of on a weekly basis. I think one of the overriding things I noticed was that once we made it through confirmation, which at times could be fairly grueling what with memorization and so forth, the “workload” and involvement went down to nearly zero…or rather, zero insomuch as zero is normal church life (show up for service on Sunday and have some cookies, etc.).

    Naturally, we were invited to join into adult bible study, but that was “too old”, if you get my meaning; too above us and the content was for people between 30-60, not still in the teen years. Yeah, we had young adult Sunday School, but it wasn’t the same.

    Perhaps you have better programs at your church, but there wasn’t for mine growing up. So much of confirmation was theory and rules and regulations and we believe X and we preach Y and we do Z because of ABC. Something following up to that to say, “Ok, how do we apply these principles that you learned about for 3 years into politics, and economics, and history, and personal issues, and relationships…” and so forth. Moving on from the theoretical book learning to the real-life applicability aspects.

    Just a thought…maybe you’re light years beyond this. And you’re right when you say the emphasis probably has to shift from trying to keep the young, pre-graduation youth in the church, because they’re most likely to split upon entering college or what have you, and instead engaging those that have come to the town, settled down, had kids, and are looking for somewhere to call home.

  4. Nathan, you are right – there does need to be something that engages youth after confirmation. One of the thoughts during the confirmation class is to introduce the youth to all aspects of ministry so they get a “taste” of what happens in the life of the church. Then the hope is that they can find their “nitch” within the congregation that will keep them engaged until they leave for work or college.

    The hope I guess would be that they would want to stay involved and engaged even after they get confirmed — and that is not always the case. We do have programs set up and not everyone wants to take advantage of them. Just like any other “church ritual” — we have people getting their babies baptized here that never show up again, we have people getting married here that are real active until after the wedding day….people have this perception that there are “have to’s” with in the church and “use” the church to accomplish what they believe they have to accomplish. I am sure some churches put rules and regs on who is allowed to do what when…..but is that the right thing to do?

    This is just another one of those questions that I ask myself and I don’t know if I will ever have the perfect answer but that does not mean we stop trying!

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