Published at Youthworker Online (A part of Youthworker Journal)
Read the online article here
The Problem with Confirmation
Confirmation is one of those interesting programs we seem to struggle both to discuss and implement well in our churches. Most mainline traditions still have some form of confirmation at least in Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Catholic traditions. The spectrum of its importance ranges from the symbolic to the required. As a Lutheran pastor, most churches in my tradition hold confirmation in rather high esteem. The makeup of the program varies from one church to another, both in length (1, 2 or 3 years) and content.
While confirmation is seen as important, rarely is it done well, consistently, with passion, or with the youth participating in mind. While we see it as important, there is a part of it that feels forced or dated to many people, and so it is often assigned a rather low priority.
Here is the problem: if it is important, it should be a priority. It should be done well, with thoughtfulness and theological reflection and should be meaningful. I am not suggesting that I have all the answers or even know the best way to do confirmation. One thing I am certain of is that if your church has confirmation, and it is important, then how you do it can make or break your youth ministry. More students are lost after confirmation than are retained in our churches and youth ministries. This means that whatever we are doing is causing youth to leave the church rather than connect with it in a deeper and more meaningful way. The answer is not to get rid of confirmation; rather the answer is to find a way to do it well. Doing confirmation well is not as much about the curriculum or entertainment value as much as it is about the structure and focus of confirmation. Confirmation does not have to be fun or entertaining, but it should be meaningful and effective. Youth workers are notorious for re-thinking things. We are known for our ability to think outside of the box and yet we have failed to use these gifts and ignored this critical ministry opportunity. Confirmation is that rare opportunity where you have a more committed audience of both parents and youth and it should not be wasted. The word confirmation means ‘to strengthen.’ What would our youth ministries and churches look like if we were to take confirmation and reform it in a way that strengthened our students and parents relationships with both Jesus and his church?
Rev. Marcus J Carlson has worked with children and youth for over 14 years and is a spiritual director. He current serves as Associate Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. (marcusjcarlson.com).