This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the National Lutheran Youth Workers Conference in New Orleans. Along with being in an amazing city with great friends and colleagues, I had the opportunity to attend a break-out session led by DCE Jeffrey Meinz. The subject: Confirmation.
I have something of a love-hate relationship with confirmation. I think it’s a great opportunity to teach what we believe and to spend time with our students. It’s one of the only (or maybe THE only) time when parents come out of the woodwork and send their children to church with some regularity. But it also can be a time of boredom for students. It can be seen not as an opportunity to learn about what “this means,” but as something that Mom and Dad are making them do. It can be seen as a goal to be accomplished en route to an escape from the church.
One of the questions that Jeffrey asked during his session was whether we were approaching confirmation from a grace-based or law-based perspective. That got me to thinking about the current model of confirmation that we have here at Messiah. So I began asking myself some questions:
Do we want students to participate in confirmation instruction because it’s always been that way and because we feel they “have” to?
Do we want students to participate in confirmation instruction because they see it as an important step in their faith journey?
Do we have all the answers and no room for questions or do we allow students to ask the questions and find the answers for themselves?
What are the components of confirmation that we do simply because we’ve always done them?
If we took them out of the program all together, would they be missed?
Am I teaching confirmation from a grace-based perspective or am I teaching from a law-based perspective?
I realize there aren’t many black and white answers to these questions and that I’m presenting two opposite sides of a pendulum. However, there is value in evaluating and challenging what we know about the “tried and true” methods for confirmation, and for myself it proved to bring a lot of good changes for confirmation here.
For example: this year, for the first year out of the 5 years I’ve taught, I’m not doing memory work. Instead, at the end of each class time, the 6th graders are practicing lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-oh di-vee-nah). They read a Bible verse several times and then answer three or four questions about how this verse applies to them and to their lives. If they feel like sharing what they wrote, they can. So far, it seems to have more of an impact that reciting from memory the 20 some Bible verses I asked them to memorize in years past.
We’re also looking at our lessons differently. Instead of walking through the Old Testament and New Testament chronologically (which we NEVER finished in the 9 months of the school year), I’m trying to break it up thematically so that students view the Bible as a complete story, not just bits and pieces of well-known stories. We’ve looked at how the Bible is set-up, how to use it, how it was put together. Next is the “Big Picture” — how the Bible comes together to show us the love that God has for us, fallen sinners, and how he provided a Savior in Jesus. After that, and the part I’m most excited for — how the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus — Jesus the priest, the prophet, the King, the light of the world, etc. I’m also excited that this new set-up allows time for more questions from the kids, more honest discussion, instead of being lesson and time driven.
I’m always excited for the start of the school year, but this year, it feels like I’ve been given something good — a present and an opportunity to share the Gospel with these students in a new way. I’m pumped!
How about you? What are some things you’ve done to modify or change your confirmation program? What’s your favorite part?