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Welcome to the Confirmation Project

Welcome to The Confirmation Project website!

The Confirmation Project is a collaborative research effort among five denominations to learn more about confirmation and equivalent practices across the United States. We are interested in how the experience of confirmation serves to intensify Christian identity and integrate belief into daily life.

Our team consists of ordained ministers, practical theologians, researchers, youth ministers, PhD candidates, and Masters of Divinity candidates who are committed to serving God through deepening practical and theological understanding within the church at large through empirical research.

The denominations that we will be researching include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and the United Methodist Church.

We invite you to use this website to explore our project. Here, you will find a timeline of the history of confirmation practices, links to various resources that are already available, our findings as they become available, and the biographies and contact information for our research team.

If you, or your congregation, are interested in participating in our study, please let us know through our “Contact Us” link.

Katie Douglass

5 Responses to Welcome to the Confirmation Project

  1. Jasmine Vinson May 28, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    I would love to be a part of this project!! It has always been a concern of mine that conformation is graduation for our youth; no matter how much we tell them it is not. I often wonder if this is a practice of our ancestors that could be changed in such a way that our youth desire to continue their search for knowledge and strengthen their faith and relationship with the Trinity. Thank you for taking on this project and please include me wherever you see fit!! -Jasmine Vinson

    • Michael Gewecke May 29, 2014 at 2:43 am #

      Thank you for your interest! There is no doubt that many churches experience confirmation as a form of graduation. Do you know of any churches that you think are addressing that problem well?

  2. Gene May 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

    I will be following your project with interest. I used to be a big supporter of confirmation. The more seriously one did confirmation the better was what I thought. Then I became the youth pastor at a congregation that took it more seriously than any place I had ever been before. We worked it till it was something the kids actually looked forward to. We had a very successful and growing high school youth program as well. But even here, I found that for many confirmation became the one thing that we could do which was more successful at “graduating” children from the church than anything else we did. Clearly there had to be another way.

    After several years there I found myself at another, much older congregation that had no youth. I was shocked by this and thought that it was an exaggeration, a bit of hyperbole. After all the congregation had a full-time children’s coordinator, how could they have no children. I asked the children’s coordinator to organize a cookout for me with the church’s youth on my first weekend there. She invited the youth from the church down the street because we had none. Our children’s ministry was reaching unchurched kids from the neighborhood, but there were still no youth in the church, they dropped out once they “graduated” from our children’s program.

    Well, I cancelled confirmation. I had a parent with a 5th grader ask if there was going to be anything for her daughter when she reached 6th grade. Together we began a new youth program from scratch. Never once did I confirm anyone. But as youth asked me about how one became a member of the church I would meet with them one-on-one, or sometimes two at a time, and each would go through a process very similar to what we did with adults who wanted to join the church. In addition, we set each and every youth in the congregation up with mentors who had been in the church at least 20 years. When I left there 4 years later, we had an active youth program with 12 Sr. High youth, 22 Jr. High youth, and 6 young adults who had entered the church through our youth program in the previous years. These folks were not just in the youth fellowship program but actively attending worship and involved at all levels of church life. We no longer had people thinking of joining the church at confirmation as a graduation exercise, but as a time of commencement in the Christian walk.

    I don’t think I’ll ever go back to “doing” confirmation again. But, I also don’t know if that might be a model that works better with unchurched youth, and that perhaps I need to tweek things differently for youth who have been raised in the church. Trusting that you will have a lot to teach me through your study.

    • Michael Gewecke May 29, 2014 at 2:45 am #

      Thanks for for sharing your comment Gene. I appreciate the way that you addressed the “graduation” problem in your local context. I do want to ask, how did the long term members of your congregation initially respond? Did you feel it was an easy transition, or was it pretty difficult?

  3. Gene June 7, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    It was a fairly easy transition as it wasn’t even planned.

    When I arrived at the church it was an aging congregation. I happened to turn 50 about 4 months into my ministry with them and on a Sunday. Everyone was enjoying giving me a hard time, but I could also see that even at 50 I was one of the youngest people in the sanctuary. So I decided to ask them, given that they all knew my age, how many considered themselves to be of my parents’ generation? Three-quarters of the congregation stood. It had been a long time since we had had a confirmation class in that church. The children in the children’s program were unchurched children from the community that they seemed to expect not to stay a part of the church. So, when the first of the new kids that I was connecting with decided to join the church everyone was ecstatic.

    None of the initial kids had parents (or even grandparents) who were active in the church. When eventually we would add a few new families so that we had children who did have parents in the church, some who had been through confirmation in other congregations before migrating to ours, this new way of approaching membership for the church’s youth had become our accepted practice.

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