Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Time for a Paradigm Shift

CONFIRMATION is about giving a young person the information they need to verbally and publicly confirm their faith. We begin at an age when they have the cognitive abilities necessary to do that but should it ever end? Should all people of all ages continue to have opportunities to confirm their faith? I say, "YES!!" If they can't tell you what they believe, how will they be able to share it with somebody else?

My ideal program starts in 7th grade with a special dinner and the giving of gifts that include a study Bible, a catechism, and a reflection journal. This special dinner is an opportunity to explain to parents and students that confirmation is the beginning of life-long Christian education. Students are now old enough to move from Sunday School to Bible Study and it starts with special classes called confirmation because we're now giving you the tools and information that you need to confirm your faith and share it with others.

My ideal program is the big paradigm shift because it actually has no ending. It continues through high school and into adulthood and hopefully instills in them a desire to always keep learning and seeking God's truth in the Word. It'll be hard because so many people like the 8th grade, white robe, red carnation, here's your "certificate of completion" ceremony. There should never be a ceremony indicating completion of a program. It NEVER ends!

My ideal program would include:
  • Traditional Catechism education incorporating appropriate teaching/learning activities and strategies that I often talk about in my workshops. 
  • Bible reading program - This should be continued through the high school years and include reading guides and a once-a-month Bible study including deeper, more reflective discussion questions regarding that reading. 
  • Lutheran Worship education - Most students know absolutely nothing about Lutheran worship services. 
  • Worship Music education - This could be REALLY cool and should be a part of the high school program. It is a chance for students to get to know some great hymns and really look at the different types of contemporary worship music. 
  • Service within the congregation - This should begin near the end of the 8th grade and would include a mentoring component. I think the kids need to take an active part in the congregation though ushering, reading Scripture, being Sunday School teacher aids, working or participating on a board and/or being a part of a "ladies" group or larger church ministry of some kind. This should include multi-generational activities. 
  • Service outside of the congregation - This could begin at any time and should not be something they do with a youth group but could be done with one or two friends. We want them to live lives of service and understand that it doesn't have to happen within and "event" or "mission trip." They can volunteer to visit nursing homes, clean their grandma's home, help an older person in their neighborhood, volunteer to take care of a younger person for somebody, stay after school to help a teacher, etc. 
  • Leadership - This should be done in high school. Students should organize (with a few friends) an event at the church each year of high school. The older kids should take the key leadership roles while the younger kids learn from them. The key to this working is not to let adults take over and do it for them. 
  • They should also visit adult Bible studies regularly and do an evaluation of some kind that includes questions about the content and asks their opinion of what was discussed. They need to feel absolutely welcome and encouraged to attend and ask any questions they might have. Some older adults may have difficulty with this but it's an important step in the transition into adult participation in the congregation. 
  • Summative assessments or benchmarks - Students should write an essay on what they believe, with specific requirements, to begin the process. There will be formative, or informal, assessments through the first 2 years of the more traditional confirmation classes and at the end of 8th grade they will do a more formal Reflective Essay on what they believe. They should also write one at the end of high school that will be similar but have different requirements as they will be capable of a higher level of critical thinking. Other high school benchmarks could be the organized event, opportunities to speak about what they've learned about worship, service, and leadership in meetings or classes, and I would have all high school students help organize and lead a worship service. It should contain all appropriate elements, a theme, appropriate music, a message about what they believe with specific teachable moments for the congregation, etc. Again, they'll need guidance and be given structure. 
It's in developing programs like this that I wish I was in a congregation and not teaching math. But then again if I were I would probably not have the time to share it with all of you! My summer is looking very busy this year in continuing to develop this program further and adding all the educational components!

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