An Age Old Question

You must be this tall

One of the questions we get asked all the time is about the age of the students who take Confirm not Conform: What’s the best age for students to take this program? Behind that question, I hear some other issues around confirmation and youth that I think are worth addressing.

  • Issue #1: Our bishop wants all kids to be [insert age here] before they are confirmed.
  • Issue #2: The parents want their kids to be confirmed at [insert completely different age here].
  • Issue #3: Younger students won’t really understand what confirmation is; it will be a meaningless exercise unless they reach a certain level of cognitive development.
  • Issue #4: If we wait too long, teens won’t be in church any more.
  • Issue #5: High School students are overscheduled and there’s no time to fit a confirmation program in their week.

Do these sound familiar?

First of all, please know you’re not alone in threading your way through the competing constraints of diocesan guidelines, parental pressures, and realistically getting something done.

When we designed Confirm not Conform, the primary thing we had in mind was that confirmation is something to be chosen by the confirmand of whatever age, and not by anyone else, whether that’s the bishop or the parent. The important thing to us is whether a person can articulate for him- or herself the desire to be confirmed. It doesn’t matter if they are 11 years old or a high school senior, a college student or a parent of teenagers. Are they making a conscious and deliberate choice to stand in front of the church and affirm their faith? That’s the litmus test – not how old they are.

The point is that there isn’t an arbitrary age that is best for confirmation – or for Confirm not Conform. The program is roughly geared toward 8th or 9th graders, but people have used it with middle school students, high school students, adults, as well as classes with different age groups together. Adjustments can be made based on the temperaments and maturity levels of the class participants. Older kids can teach younger ones, or can be paired with a buddy. Younger kids may need lessons to be more active. The expected length of homework assignment reports may vary. We can work with you to come up with strategies that will make CnC effective for the
group you have.

In any class, the expectation is that CnC will allow students to articulate what they believe and give some reason for it. In confirmation, the goal for people of all ages is the same: to claim a faith of their own so that when they stand and say, “I will, with God’s help,” you – and they – will know that they mean it.

[This article was reprinted from Living In-Formation, a monthly Christian Formation newsletter sponsored by Church Publishing Incorporated. You can subscribe here.]