Confirmation Sucks

edited version published in the May 2009 edition of The Lutheran Magazine

Yep, I said it…Confirmation Sucks.

I apologize if you are offended by the use of that word, but I purposefully used it for two reasons: 1) I needed to get your attention, 2) It does.

The problem is that confirmation in the Lutheran church focuses on knowing “about” God instead of “knowing” God. We teach “about” the church instead of helping people become “a part” of it. We have this notion that implies that we need to “know” about a religion or a denomination before we can submit to it. Did Jesus give an autobiography to His disciples before commanding them to “come and follow”? Did Saul read up on the basics of Christianity while on the Road to Damascus? Do you recite the Apostle’s Creed before inviting friends to your church?

Of course not! Yet, when in comes to confirmation, we make 12 year olds go through a multi-year program of study, memorization, and service projects in order to become members of the church. When was the last time we made a 30 year old adult, new to Christianity, go through 3 years of study before becoming a member? (insert the Jeopardy theme music here…and wait)

Time’s up!!! Exactly…never. Jesus called His disciples to drop everything and follow. He taught them ‘about’ the message along the way. So I ask you, what is the reason for making kids do something that we do not require of adults? Why do we require something that Jesus didn’t even require of His disciples? Shouldn’t the requirements of church membership be the same as Jesus’ requirements of his disciples? “Come and follow”, not “Come and take classes”.

Confirmation for most Lutheran churches consists of education oriented programming that already assumes that the “students” or confirmands are already Christians; that they believe in Jesus and simply want to learn more. We assume that because they were baptized as infants and that their parents drag them to church every week, that they have already made a commitment to Jesus. Do we even ask them if they WANT to go through confirmation, if they WANT to learn? What if they do not believe in Jesus as God? What if they don’t care? What is our message then? “Do it anyway or else?!?!?”

Our goal and focus for confirmation needs to change. The ‘educational’ model may have worked in the past. In fact many Lutherans credit their Youth Ministry and Confirmation experience as essential in their faith journey. However, the numbers show that the majority of youth that go through Lutheran confirmation do not continue in the church, either in High School or later in life. Basically, our confirmation ministry misses the mark so badly, that we even lose an audience that we have captive for years.

So, I suggest that we all let go of the tight grip we have on confirmation and work together on some substantial changes that help the youth of our church get to KNOW Jesus…not just know ABOUT Him.

9 thoughts on “Confirmation Sucks

  1. Hmmm…Funny you write this. There is a reason we got put together for a short time in life. Let’s get together before Thursday. I thoroughly agree with this post! Radical change is going to occur.

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  2. I do believe that less religion and more faith needs to be placed on the opportunity that confirmation offers to its youth.
    I do not see 12-14 year old’s to be the most appropriate age group for confirming Gods presence in ones life, however, I do realize that any older age would minimize the amount of influence (or force) that parents have over their teens.
    My memory of being confirmed at CLC is all but positive. Mostly due to the fact that I accepted Jesus in my life not through confirmation classes, but through WSYG in Seattle in 1999.
    And also, my faith and walk was supported and planted in fertile ground by having the youth pastor that I still look up to and think of as one of the most used disciples of God.
    Confirmation is too religious. Jesus doesn’t want our faces in workbooks learning about him by filling-in-the-blank questionnaires. He wants out faces, hearts, hands, and souls directed towards heaven.
    I pray this discussion continues to the glory of HIS name…

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  3. I just saw this blog Rob…a bit late to the game….but I totally agree w/ your thoughts! I suppose this is why I never was confirmed. Regardless, my faith is very real. AT the time, it just felt like a bunch of hoops with people that I didn’t know, much less have a relationship with. It is funny that I ended up getting to know those people (other CLC members, my age) through praise team, worship, the real stuff that we did for God. And isn’t that what God wants most?

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  4. I am a 24 year old and watched my younger sister’s confirmation today. I was never confirmed. I never went to the same church as my mother (parents divorced) moved me around too much to have a steady life. I am not sure if she wanted to do it or not, but I know, that watching upon as she was confirmed made me want to start my process. I am not sure if adults can be confirmed… or if they need be, but I now as an adult of sound mind, and choice of my own, would like to learn more, in depth about the bible, etc. I think I can better understand it now, than I ever could have when I was 15…

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  5. My son went through confirmation (every Wednesday night Sept-May) for the past 3 years and now he doesn’t want to complete the requirements to get confirmed. I can’t force him to attend a retreat (requirement for all confirmands.) Also, he has never done acolytes or usher. I don’t know what to do…

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    • Well…my honest opinion is that there is nothing to do except for showing him your faith through love…Confirmation simply is an “affirmation of faith”…it is not a necessity nor is it effective. Retreats don’t build Christians and acolyting doesn’t build disciples. Faith is caught not taught..

      I suggest having a conversation, an adult conversation, about faith and church involvement. If church is what you do as a family, then where is he willing to plug in to church that YOU are also willing to plug in? Do you go to church TOGETHER? Does he ever get to decide what worship style you worship through? Does he have any choices in his faith journey? I ask these questions for one reason, we say in Lutheran Confirmation that it is the time where the youth takes responsibility for their own faith, yet it really isn’t. We never let our newly confirmed actually make decisions about the faith we say they now are taking responsibility for…therefore…talk to him…what is he willing to participate in? Where? Is this even the church? Is he interested in visiting another church once a month to see what he might like?

      Sorry…those are some thoughts…feel free to offer up feedback and keep the conversation going…

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  6. Rob: I am a retired pastor in the ELCA South Dakota Synod, and am well past the “normal” retirement age (being 74 years of age). I found your thoughts on “Confirmation Sucks” to be really timely, especially as they force us to pay attention to what we are doing in our congregations. Are we really encouraging our youth to grow in their faith and to become or remain active people in the body of Christ or what? Before my retirement my most recent congregation decided to have parents take part in the training of their children (and not have the pastor simply “indoctrinate” them.) They were using the RE:FORM curriculum. Good stuff, too, I thought, but it needed some supplementary material to make it work best, in my opinion. However, as time went along, I allowed myself to be moved into the position of a ‘resource person’, whatever that means, as it was never defined. Being out of the situation now, I frankly don’t know how it is working, but I’m afraid that no matter what way they are going they are most concerned about “following the rules”. (Unless of course, the Holy Spirit has chosen to intervene in a way I’m not aware of.)

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