Confirmation: A Lifelong Opportunity
By Melissa Groe
"Why are you here in confirmation?" I ask.
"I’m here because my parents want me here," one youth mumbles with eyes half-open looking toward the floor.
"I’m here because my brother had to do it, and my parents are making me, too," another shares matter-of-factly.
"I’m here because . . . I guess it’s just what I’m supposed to do," another youth says, shrugging his shoulders.
"I’m here because my parents dropped me off here!" one youth quips, anticipating the laughter and high-fives from his friends.
"I have no idea why I’m here," one youth shares while doodling on a notebook.
These comments are pretty standard for the first night of confirmation in our church. The students are even more bewildered when I suggest that they are in confirmation class because God has called them to the church. And that this call is lifelong–extending far beyond the confirmation experience. Although that’s the standard answer, do we–pastors, youth workers, and lay ministers–truly believe it?
Assumption #1: Confirmation as a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
One way to be involved in the lives of families at all different stages is to celebrate re-affirmations of faith. Youth confirmation can be the beginning of a lifetime of spiritual discovery, spiritual formation, and re-affirmations or confirmations in the church. "Unlike baptism, which is a once-made covenant and can only be reaffirmed, not repeated, confirmation is a dynamic action of the Holy Spirit that can be repeated."2
Confirmation can be started with youth at the junior high level, continued at the senior high level, offered again as young adults, again before marriage, at the emergence of parenthood, at retirement, or at any time of life a person chooses. That yearly ritual of confirmation in our churches could include all persons who wish to confirm their faith, not just our youth. Picture some of the people below, all standing together before the congregation to confirm or reconfirm their faith:
- Mentors who have worked alongside youth confirmands
- Senior high youth who have completed a Youth Disciple class or other Bible study class
- Members of adult Bible study groups (like Koinonia, Disciple, or Covenant Discipleship)
- UMW or UMM members who have completed study units
- Teachers of children and youth who have learned about their faith by teaching and showing others. The possibilities are endless!
Assumption #2: Confirmation Is Only for Youth
Changing our assumption that confirmation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience also means changing our assumption that confirmation is only for youth. "There are many occasions as persons mature in the faith when the Holy Spirit’s confirming action may be celebrated, such as in the reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant or other services related to life passages."3
If confirmation is open to all persons and is repeatable, then what’s so special about youth confirmation?
That question has more to do with our well-held, almost sacred, traditions surrounding youth confirmation than it has to do with the act of confirmation. Many of us who cherish those traditions surrounding youth confirmation (like a special dinner or banquet, gifts, or other memory-making events) may feel that the meaning of youth confirmation will be diminished if confirmation is "suddenly opened" to include everyone.
Assumption #3: Other Church Programs Will Offer the "Continuing Education" Needed for Continued Spiritual Growth
While this assumption may be true in some churches, ask yourself:
- Does my church offer alternatives for youth who cannot participate in confirmation?
- Do we see a large percentage of our confirmed youth (and their families) involved in the church after confirmation?
- Does my church offer more "in-depth" classes for those who may want to know more than what is presented in membership classes?
- Do (or could) our other youth or adult Christian education classes lead to confirmation or reconfirmation?
If your answer to one or more of those questions is no, then you may be in the same boat I am in. My church currently doesn’t offer an alternative to our one-year confirmation program. It does have a lot of Christian education classes and opportunities that are well attended. You may feel that you can’t change how your congregation feels about confirmation. But you can change how you view confirmation. I may not change things overnight at my church, but I may reach a few more people who are seeking a deeper understanding of faith and spiritual growth.
From YouthNet ©2002 by Cokesbury Used by permission All rights reserved.