Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CONFIRMATION: Why do people treat it like graduation?

Last week I was talking with a group of pastors about confirmation instruction and one of them asked why people treat it like it's graduation.  The only response I could think of is to ask, "Why do WE treat it like it's graduation?"  We put the kids in a white robe, slap a flower on them, make them write a "final" paper, pass a test, and/or give them an oral exam.  What about that doesn't scream graduation?  Even the wording in the Rite of Confirmation sounds like, "Woo hoo!  You're done!"

Why have we done it like that for so long?  An older pastor reminded me of my grandpa and the many, many people like him.  He was born in the early 1900's and like many people in his class, went to school through the 8th grade and then got a job.  He became a pattern maker.  If people were completing their formal education at that time it makes sense that they needed to complete their religious education by then as well.  Of course, the world changed and for some reason, the church didn't.

The question is... what do we do now?  First, if we don't want confirmation to be the end of something we need to stop treating it like it is.  Second, if we want it to be the beginning or middle of something we need to define what that is and make some changes.

Here's something to think about.

  • Confirmation is the confirming of faith that was begun at baptism and a confession of that faith which, hopefully, does not end at age 13.  This makes confirmation the early middle of one's faith journey.
  • If faith growth is on-going then should there be or can there be other traditions added at other stages in life?  What might those look like?
  • Should we start inviting kids we confirm back after high school for a new tradition before they now graduate and take their faith into the "real" world whether it's off to further education or out into the workplace? 
  • We receive faith at baptism, confirm it in 8th grade, and learn to be missional through high school?  Perhaps we start a new "sending" tradition at high school graduation that focuses on their ability to state what they believe in their own words.  There are any number of creative ways this could be presented to a congregation.
What do you think?

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