ABOUT THIS REPORT
In addition to a national survey, researchers from The Confirmation Project visited congregations, using the research method of Portraiture to understand how confirmation and equivalent practices are practiced in congregations. Portraiture is a method of inquiry that shares some of the features of other qualitative research methods, such as ethnography, case study, and narrative, but it is distinctive in its blending of aesthetics and empiricism in an effort to capture the complexity, dynamics, and subtlety of human experience and organizational life. Portraiture first came to prominence in the works of Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. This Portrait is one from a gallery that can be found at www.theconfirmationproject.com/gallery.
In 1989, Pastor Washington led Reid Temple from its Northeast Washington, D. C., location to Lanham, Maryland. At that time, the church membership numbered only 300 worshippers. Guided by his pragmatic approach to ministry and a simple theme, “Have Faith in God,” which he received by revelation, the membership grew to over 1,500 within three years. The church later moved to a larger sanctuary and school facilities, and as it grew, Pastor Washington continued to outline a broad vision for the Reid Temple congregation based on the “Five E’s”: Evangelism, Education, Economics, Empowerment, and Expansion. By 2001, the congregation had acquired 32 acres of land in suburban Glenn Dale, Maryland. There, it built the spacious, ultra-modern sanctuary and educational worship complex that today houses most of the church’s multifaceted services, programs, and ministries.2
INSIGHTS FROM THE GROUND UP
When I came here there were maybe five to ten leaders. For The Remix5 alone there are about twenty-five leaders, but that’s just The Remix. The overall youth ministry [is comprised of] about ninety people who serve and every one of them we [have] been able to hand select. Some people we have drafted… Everybody you don’t necessarily always want, but you have to deal with who you have and you keep it moving. But [because of my hand selection process] I don’t have leaders fighting over mission, vision, how to go because everyone [has been hand selected].
OVERVIEW OF CONFIRMATION
Students are teamed with one another based upon grade level and placed in appropriate paths of instruction. The programs offered are for Nursery school through second year of college and each grade group has a non-paid staff coordinator who works with St. Bernard to develop and/or select the curriculum (as necessary) as well as the program activities. The Nursery level is primarily curriculum based. They use Andy Stanley’s “Orange” curriculum, however they supplement it with appropriate cultural images and support “to make sure it fits [them].” The Kindergarten through fifth grade program relies more heavily on activities than curriculum. In addition to utilizing the “Orange” curriculum, they plan a number of family focused outings. Sixth through twelfth grades are targeted together in what they call the “teen” grouping. It is this group that is discipled primarily through “The Remix” (worship) and “Crews” (small groups). This group CEP is also supplemented through partnerships with other local church youth groups, namely Community of Hope AME Church, Ebenezer AME Church, and New Psalmist Baptist Church.
WHAT OTHERS CAN LEARN
Others can learn to be innovative in practices of confirmation and confirmation equivalent practices. This congregational model of taking student success seriously and including the voices of students in the planning, programming and participation from start to finish is noteworthy. In the words of Caleb Clark, a high school student interviewed after attending The Remix, this process works because “you meet new friends and everybody knows about Jesus so it’s not like you run the risk of having a bad influence.”6 Confirmation equivalent practices done well result in students desiring to “read their bible more,” but also, as seen in this case, lead to developing “young prophets” who are focused on discipleship, making more Christians and telling others more about Jesus. Others can also learn that ministry models are not always ministry patterns for replication, however in the case of Reid Temple, both locations have found godly success in developing a model in house and then replicating it accordingly utilizing dedicated team members who understand the importance of aligning with the vision.
- Reid Temple Site Visit Videos. (2015). March 2015 CYLLF Site Visit interview with Rev. Russell
St. Bernard (S. Gladden, Interviewer) (Interview Transcript). ↩
- “About Our Pastor,” Reid Temple, Glendale, Maryland, http://reidtemple.org/locations/glenn-dale/about/vacation-bible-school—glenn-dale.Accessed August 18, 2017. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “The Remix” is the youth lead worship service that at the time of this visit occurs twice a month to reinforce the discipleship development activities engaged through the course of the month. It is open for attendance by all students, but the targeted age range is junior and senior high students. It is well attended, with an average attendance of 1,000 youth at each service. ↩
- Reid Temple Site Visit Videos. (2015). March 2015 CYLLF Site Visit interview with Caleb Clark (S. Gladden, Interviewer) (Interview Transcript). ↩