The COVID-19 Pandemic: Change or Experience?

Adults perceive change differently than children. I saw this firsthand in my research with confirmation students during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I would be able to ask them questions like, “What types of changes did the pandemic cause in your confirmation classes?” However, I quickly learned this was not the case.

When I posed this question to youth leaders and parents, they readily answered. The only changes the confirmands saw to their classes were wearing masks and social distancing. Wearing masks and sitting six feet apart caused massive curriculum changes. However, they did not see the changes as pandemic-related. They did not realize the lack of interactive games or hands-on activities, like cooking projects, was because of required measures meant to keep them healthy.

Kids can be more resilient than adults. Some of this resiliency could be because they experience change constantly, much more often than adults. School is just one example. In elementary school, each year, they have a new teacher. With each teacher, teaching style and expectations change. By middle school and high school, this change involves multiple teachers multiple times a year.

So, did confirmation change for them because of the pandemic? No, not really, at least not in their eyes. At least not more than they already expect change. The confirmands I interviewed believed the lack of interaction and fun was due to “getting older” or “the teachers cannot think of anything else fun to do.” Was this reality? No, the teachers I observed lamented the loss of activities, showed me activities they could no longer do, and explained how the pandemic decreased learning opportunities.

While the kids I studied grew in their faith and knowledge of Christ, even through the pandemic, they could not verbalize many of the concepts they should have learned in confirmation, from basic Bible stories to doctrinal knowledge. The good news was that this was quickly made up when the kids had those hands-on and interactive opportunities. One of the confirmands I worked with attended a two-day confirmation “camp” designed to prepare students for their confirmation exam.

Many restrictions were lifted by this time, and the camp proceeded as usual, with interactive and hands-on activities. The confirmand who attended went from stumbling over answers to articulate answers that showed deep comprehension.

As youth workers, we need to remember that this cohort that experienced the pandemic during their younger years experienced it differently than adults. School systems and educational experts are trying to find ways to compensate for the losses children experienced during the pandemic while the kids themselves still proceed. It is important to remember that they do not get to go back and make up that time. They do not get to experience confirmation again.

Nevertheless, they still need those experiences. They still need those educational opportunities. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” For those who experienced confirmation during the pandemic, it was a “time to refrain from embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5). They may not look back on confirmation with fond memories of fun times with friends while they deepened their faith and explored their Lutheran beliefs. The pandemic is over, and we are in a different season with new matters to address.

So, how do we proceed?

  • Start by looking at the elements of your confirmation What are the Scriptural or doctrinal specifics that you expect your confirmands to learn? Did they form intergenerational and peer relationships within the church? What are the other goals of your confirmation program?
  • Observe the group who experienced all or part of confirmation during the pandemic. Talk to them. What did they miss? What are they lacking?
  • Make an organized effort to address those Confirmation programs are typically very organized and have been around for a long time. What organized efforts can your church make to ensure those who missed out because of the pandemic are not just left behind? How can these precious children of God be met, where they are at, to address those deficits left by the pandemic?

About the author

Tina is a Christian Life Coach, researcher, and educator who works with Christians and Christian families to integrate their faith into their lives so that it becomes their primary identity. She especially enjoys working with Christian families with children who are confused about their identity and how their Christian faith can be lived out in all areas of their lives. Tina has degrees from Liberty University and Concordia University, Wisconsin. She is a wife and mother of six who currently lives in Nebraska with her husband, Pastor Brent, and her two youngest children.
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