Hey all…I am doing some rethinking of confirmation and would welcome your thoughts and feedback. Last month I started a series of articles for our church newsletter to help people think about what confirmation is; why we do it, etc. A number of questions have been running around in my head. And this is a good time since I won’t have a confirmand for a couple years.
Below is the article that I wrote and turned in today that will be coming out in the August newsletter.
What is confirmation and why do we do it?
Those were the two questions I challenged you to consider last month. How many of you did your “homework”? Now let’s be honest…did you really consider those questions or did you just blow them off as something that isn’t all that important or figured Pastor Eric would write about it so why bother think about them? I hope you did think about them because I would venture to say that a good number of you have either confirmation students, kids that will be in confirmation, grandchildren in confirmation or know of someone in confirmation. And I am not even mentioning the fact that most of you have gone through confirmation yourselves. So let’s start with that category ~ those who have gone through confirmation.
Those of you who have gone through confirmation answer this question: Why confirmation? My guess is that your answer will be “because mom and dad said so”. And I would also venture a guess that is the reason for many students today. Don’t get me wrong…I have had students who actually wanted to be in confirmation and enjoyed it. But the fact that many attend because of mom and dad is not all that bad. It actually shows mom and dad are following through with promises they made when their children were baptized.
You see…when children are baptized they generally have no clue what is going on; they generally have no memory of the event (I am assuming infant baptism here of course). So during the service the parents and sponsors confess the faith for their child and then promise to raise them in the faith. They promise to place in their hands the Holy Scriptures, bring them to the services of God’s house, teach them the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the 10 Commandment, to bring them to Sunday school…and confirmation. Basically…parents promise to ensure that their children learn about God, so much so, that they can someday make their own confession of faith. Confirmation helps students down this road. So it is not bad that kids are in confirmation because mom and dad say so.
I have described briefly the “What” and “Why” of confirmation but there is still another issue that needs to be addressed. As I mentioned, parents are responsible to teach their children the faith. This happens so that their children “…may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.” (Service of Holy Baptism, ELW pg. 228) No where in that description does it say that they need to make sure their children make a confession of faith but yet I fear that we, as a church, are doing that very thing. Students are brought to a confirmation service at a particular time of the year at a certain point in their lives. They are brought to the service and expected to make a confession of faith ~ ready or not. Students are to stand up front as the pastor asks them questions. They are told to respond “Yes, by the help of God”. But what if their answer is “No”? What if they say that they do not believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit? What if we are forcing students to confess a faith they don’t believe in? What if they need more time? What if?
I can’t help but to wonder if we have turned confirmation into a rite of passage in the church rather than a celebration of faith. As a church and as parents we are doing the very thing we need to do but are we taking it too far? Are we driving kids away from the church by forcing them into a service and confession of faith that cheapens the Gospel? Are we making ourselves out as hypocrites by turning the Good News of the Gospel into something that is “forced”? So with that I am lead to a couple more questions; questions I would like you to consider for next month: (1) When should it (confirmation) happen and (2) Who should it (really) involve? Don’t cheat this time…actually do your homework and answer these questions. Let me know what you think ~ I really want to hear from you.
Next month I will dive into confirmation a little more deeply and challenge you. Stay tuned and let’s talk…