I got an email last week from a pastor who asked about the origins of Confirm not Conform. So consider this the prequel, if you will, to the curriculum you have today.
Lo, in the mists of time, the new priest and the youth minister at an Episcopal Church in the wilds of California were tasked with leading a youth confirmation program. And, as so many clergy discover, they could not find a curriculum to their liking.
At the same time, they were unhappy to discover how many youth were getting confirmed simply because it was expected of them, whether or not they wanted to. Whether it was due to family pressure or simply because there seemed no other reasonable option, youth confirmation seemed to be a rite with little meaning for the youth participants.
Meanwhile, the youth were regularly attending their friends’ bar and bat mitzvahs, and returning to St. John’s saying they wished they had a service – and a party – like that. Something that really expected something of the youth, and spent some time and effort honoring that achievement.
So the church had an epiphany: they would create a new confirmation curriculum – one that empowered youth to claim their authority and speak with their own voice. One that respected the choices that youth made about their own faith journey. One that ended with a great party. And they called it…Confirmitzvah. And it was…pretty darn good.
Nearby churches began hearing about the Confirmitzvah program and asking how they could use it themselves. And as other churches began to ask about it, St. John’s started to say to themselves, “Hold on a second. Maybe we have something to share.” They pulled all the pieces together into a coherent curriculum and changed the name to Confirm not Conform, and the Confirmitzvah to the iConfirm service.
Then, in 2006, they put out a call for churches to test this strange program, and say what worked and what was too Californian. And 16 courageous churches throughout the United States gave it a try, providing their feedback for how it could be improved. And it was…pretty darn good. To our surprise, the things we thought were crazy and out of left field worked in all sizes of churches all over the place. And that still hold true today.
We’ve gone through a lot of changes since then, revising and improving the programs in ways large and small. But I think one of the things that makes this program great is that it was created by the people leading the confirmation program. I know full well that, despairing of finding a curriculum that works, many clergy would rather write their own. Well, that’s what we did. And I think that’s one reason people like it – it’s the curriculum you wanted to write.
If you haven’t done so yet, we invite you to download the sample session and Table of Contents we’ve posted: