Sunday, July 13, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Time to Differentiate!

Ugh! No matter how often I talk to pastors, eventually they always say, "Parents should be the teachers of confirmation." Really? Because parents will tell you they don't feel equipped to do that so you'll need to have a training program for them. The latest trend is for parents to co-teach, be available to curb discipline issues, or to take the course with their kids. These are fine ideas but I think they are unnecessary.

Here are a few of my thoughts on parental participation.

  • Freedom to Question - Students will not feel free to respond as often or as honestly when their parents are in class. Pastors have told me that they do but I'm telling you that they won't. How do I know this? Because more often than not, the minute their parents are out of earshot they ask me questions. There are just some things they won't say in front of their parents. 
  • Discipline Issues - Some pastors have problems with discipline and think having parents involved will help. That may be but it sends a message that the pastor can't handle the situation and there's no reason pastors can't learn to handle a few headstrong kids when necessary. 
  • Who is this class for? - Pastors have told me that they find that parents respond more openly and quickly than kids which helps get the discussion going. They also said they often end up talking more to the parents than the kids... but confirmation is primarily intended as a learning opportunity for the kids, not the parents.
  • Relearning Opportunity for Parents - I understand that many parents like the opportunity to relearn the material and that pastors want parents to have an understanding of what their kids are learning but having a class for the parents at the same time and giving them family discussion questions as homework would be a better idea. 
  • Developmental Issues - Parents are at a completely different developmental level than are middle school students and the discussions need to be focused differently because of that. It's similar to teaching a 1st grader and a 5th grader in the same class. 
  • Lack of Parent Involvement - Pastors are getting parents involved because they see a lack of involvement but the answer to that does not have to be that parents become the only teachers of the faith that kids have. 

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote what he did in the 16th century because he lived in the 16th century and that was the state of things at that time. We do not live in the 16th century and who's to say that had he lived now that his thoughts would not be different? I've searched the Bible for a verse that says parents should be the only teachers of the faith for their children and found nothing. Why then, are a few phrases in Luther's Small Catechism that were written in 1529 what pastors cling too as if this is the final word? For more on Luther's thoughts see a previous post.

Answer:  Time to Differentiate!

It is time, my friends. It's time to give ourselves permission to differentiate between teaching the faith and teaching confirmation. My parents taught me the faith but my pastor taught me in confirmation. We can and should equip and encourage parents to teach their children the faith via conversation, devotions, prayer, reading the Bible, etc., and we can and should do a better job at that, but they do not have to be the sole educators of their children. So confirmation educators - step it up! If you're not sure how then feel free to contact me or buy my book The Art of Teaching Confirmation which will be available soon at

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