As noted in a previous post about results of The Confirmation Project and the Confirmation Collaborative, curricular resources are not the key to a good confirmation “program.” However, many churches still depend on written materials, programs, and “lessons” to form the basis of their confirmation program with youth. When the press release of the Confirmation Collaborative came out, many got in touch with me about what new resources (aka curriculum) we were going to develop, including The Living Church. Somehow I feel that the whole point of the Collaborative was missed. Sadly, the Church automatically goes to default when formation and confirmation are discussed.
While the Living Church initially requested information from me about what new materials are in the works to be published, I was glad to see that their article did focus on the process in “Raising Confirmands in the Way They Should Go.” I think I would have appreciated the title “Raising Confirmands in the Way WE Should Go, but it takes awhile to move that needle. In the article, Lisa Kimball states:
“They don’t want the teacher in the front of the room lecturing about those things,” Kimball said. “They want to be learning pedagogically and be more engaged in participatory ways.”
Yes, part of confirmation preparation is digging deeper into our Baptismal Covenant and understanding what it means to continue in the Apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. So it means we have to understand what those things are by opening our Bibles and BCPs to talk about resisting evil, repentance, and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It means fully owning the name Christian and making a commitment to live that out in one’s daily life. We have many resources to tap into – including those disciples who live among us in the form of mentors, bishops, and co-journeyers.
“The Confirmation Project data has shown that the Episcopal Church does not utilize all the resources effectively that we already have,” said Sharon Ely Pearson, editor and Christian formation specialist at Church Publishing, via email. She noted that bishops number among the Episcopal Church’s neglected resources. “Resources may be created at some time in the future,” Pearson said. “But at the moment, new curricula are not an answer to the issue of how our churches are intentionally forming disciples.”
This weekend I (with a clergy colleague) will be presenting a workshop at the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s annual Spring Training day. Entitled Best Practices in Confirmation Ministry, our hope is to engage in a conversation about what are the best practices for preparing young (and older) people to reaffirm their baptism – not what the best curriculum is.
Questions we will be posing are:
- What impact does a healthy confirmation process have on a congregation?
- What does the adolescent practice of reaffirmation of baptism really look like?
- How does the Episcopal Church (or really any denomination) need to fully live into confirmation in our congregations in today’s world and reality?
And we will be sharing some best practices, while hoping to hear what IS happening on the local level that could be considered a “best practice” such as:
- a ministry where young people are not separated, but integrated into the life and mission of the whole congregation
- cultivates relationships within an environment that is trustworthy, enjoyable, and spiritually enriching
- leadership is not dependent on a curriculum or prescribed program
- leaders connect more with the confirmands than the content
- the congregation is developing discipleship across all age levels
- connections between confirmands and adults in the congregation and the wider church (aka cross-parish and diocese) are being made
- each congregation has a champion (not necessarily an ordained person) about the connection between baptism, confirmation, and lifelong discipleship
And yes, we will share what we feel are great resources for tapping into during confirmation preparation. This might be considered the “head” stuff – but should be open to discussion. The use of mentors (carefully chosen, prepared and equipped) plus experiential learning and opportunities in the community are essential. Yes, knowing our salvation story and our Episcopal beliefs and traditions is important. And the below slide show of a sampling of resources can help you do that.
Katherine Douglass, co-director of the Confirmation Project and assistant professor of educational ministry at Seattle Pacific University shares:
“Confirmation is not the point. Following Jesus is the point. If we keep that the focus, there will not be a ‘graduation.’”