What we think about when we think about confirmation programs

4 different doors, photo from FreeImages.com/Toomas Jarvet

Now that we’ve made it through Holy Week and Easter, I’m seeing an uptick in questions and searches about confirmation programs. If you’re one of those people in the market for confirmation programs, I have a few questions and thoughts for you to consider. I know my biases will be showing, but even so, I hope these will help you as you think about how you want to proceed and decide what you want to do.

  1. What assumptions do you currently hold about preparing people for confirmation?  Explore this! I can tell you that my original, unexamined assumption about confirmation preparation was, “I know a lot of stuff about the church. I should transmit that information to others.” What was unexamined in this was: What information should be transmitted? And why that information? And because I didn’t examine this, I shared a lot of useless trivia about Henry VIII, lecture-style. (Sorry!) Here’s another assumption I held: “Youth don’t know stuff. Adults know stuff. Therefore, I don’t need to explain things to adult groups.” Oh how wrong I was. What assumptions do you have?
  2. What are some of the assumptions your current congregation holds about preparing people for confirmation? There are probably some sacred cows around confirmation in your church, such as: how long a program should take, what age the participants should be, what they need to know or do, etc. Where do those assumptions come from? What do you think it’s important to keep? What might be good to re-examine? And, of course, why do you think that?
  3. What are your learning objectives? What do you want confirmands to learn about their faith, their church, and themselves? Before the how, take some time to think about the what – and not just the factual information, but also objectives such as, “youth will take an active role in the life and ministry of the church,” to name one example. Going back to my earlier example of teaching on Henry VIII, it’s good to examine closely why we feel some learning objectives are important. Are they really? Or do we just find them cool/interesting? We need to get outside our own predilections to establish what are the most important things to learn.
  4. What is the greater church’s role in the confirmation process? I have learned it’s a mistake to leave the greater church out of the equation when thinking about confirmation. We lose out on a lot of potential support, and we also set ourselves up for a less satisfying experience for all. For example, if one of your objectives is for youth to take an active role in the life of the church, does the church know that? Does it agree? How will the church support that? How will you communicate that?
  5. What is the best methodology for the confirmation program you want to have, based on your exploration of the previous questions? This is the last question for a reason. Before you get to methodology or any specific program, I think it’s important for you to understand what you want people to learn and what you want the confirmation program to do. It can be the best program in the world, but if it’s teaching accounting practices and you want people to learn art history, it’s not going to be the right program for you.

When the pressure is on and you’re being told to “do a confirmation program,” it’s hard to take the time to do this thinking.  It’s so much easier to just start Googling “confirmation programs.” But even if you’re staring down a deadline, I think it’s worth it to take even 30 minutes to think through these questions. If you have more time than that, or can include others in your thought process, all to the good.

Our primary assumption at Confirm not Conform is that everyone – leaders, parents, and participants – wants confirmation to be a meaningful experience.  They don’t want to just go through the motions and get confirmed; they want the process to have something they can carry with them beyond the confirmation itself. We encourage you to think about what kind of impact you want to have. Exploring that now will increase your chances of making that impact.

Good luck!