A New Approach to Confirmation
No two years have ever been alike in Confirmation ministry. Kids change, leaders change, the world changes. This year, however, we have been experimenting with the most significant changes since I’ve taught Confirmation.
First, let me share what we do. Then, I’ll give you the why behind the what.
On a typical Wednesday evening, we gather at 6:30pm by collecting student’s vital organs…I mean, cell phones…and also collecting their donations to support our class’ Compassion International child, Twambazimana J’Pierre of Rwanda. We will sing a song or two, and perhaps have a brief mixer game. Then, before kids take a seat on the floor, we give our neighbor a high five and say “you belong here!”, wag a finger at our neighbor and say “you behave here!” and raise a hand in the air and say “believe it!” The main portion of the evening is a combination of 10-15 minutes of teaching time and 30-40 minutes of small group time. We often reverse the order of teaching and small groups to keep variety or if I sense the teaching will be better heard after small groups.
Each week is either a “belong week,” “behave week,” or “believe week.” On “belong weeks” we study a portion of the Lord’s Prayer or Worship & Sacraments. On “behave weeks” we study one or more of the 10 Commandments. On “believe weeks” we study a portion of the Apostle’s Creed. These three types of weeks are rotated one after the other.
Each week focuses on a relevant topic or life issue that kids can comfortably discuss in small group time. This topic is connected to the Bible and Catechism through our teaching time. For example, groups might discuss “friendship” and how to build a strong friendship. Then, our teaching time connects this “belong” topic to the Lord’s Prayer petition on “give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” We will teach how a close friend is someone with whom we share daily life/bread and with whom we learn how to forgive. The best of friends have usually worked through misunderstandings or conflict in their friendship and grown stronger through it. You can imagine that the same petition or commandment can yield discussions on several different topics throughout the year.
Small groups conclude with everyone sharing any highlights or lowlights of the week and by praying for one another’s requests. We all gather back in the main room for debriefing and perhaps the teaching time. Finally, we share any prayer requests we’d like the entire group to hear and close with open prayer. Several kids and leaders each week will lift up the requests made by other kids and leaders. It is a wonderful moment.
Why have we made these changes? To provide consistent large and small communities for kids to learn the faith through relationships with peers and leaders, sharing life experiences, and with teaching that directly connects Christian faith to the practical experiences of adolescent life. I am enjoying seeing leaders empowered in a new way to build trusting relationships with their small group and consistently minister to them. This is church!
In years past we taught the Bible and Luther’s Small Catechism through multi-week units. For example, 5 weeks on the Lord’s Prayer or 4 weeks on Worship & Sacraments. If you happened to join Confirmation midway through middle school or missed most of a unit due to a sports season, that was your one and only chance to learn that particular part of the Bible or Catechism. With the Belong-Behave-Believe rotation, we are constantly reinforcing the core aspects of our faith, and in such a way that hopefully comes across less as “stuff to learn” and more as “actually living out and thinking about Jesus in my life.” A pastor can hope, right?
Just this week, a seventh grade boy who has never worshipped at Bethesda and does not have a home church, asked me if I could baptism him sometime. Absolutely! You belong to Christ, you are learning the behaviors of discipleship, and your belief in Jesus will guide you throughout your life.