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Why it Matters – Terri Elton

terri-eltonWhy participate? An ELCA perspective

Two weeks ago a group of church leaders from across the country and from various denominations gathered at Luther Seminary to “Rethink Faith Formation.” The presentations were in the form of 25 minute TedTalks with lots of room for discussion and “rethinking.” With no formal role in the event, I simply “hung around the edges” and popped in and out of various sessions. Conversations were energized, and leaders were very open to thinking differently about their current faith formation practices. Yet one of the key questions that surfaced had to do with how to handle our current traditions around faith formation? Namely, Sunday School and confirmation ministry.

Rethinking faith formation is not a new thing in the Evangelical Church in America (ELCA). In my thirty-plus years in leading ministry with children and youth, this inquiry has surfaced many times. Frankly, I hope the searching and rethinking never goes away. I hope people gather year after year with energy for such conversations. I hope these questions continue to come up at synod gatherings and pastor’s conferences. I hope children’s minister continue to wrestle with faith formation, as do youth workers and campus pastors. I’m excited to be part of a denomination that sets the table for such conversations and is willing to change and rethink its practices.

So why add to all this good conversation a research study? Why, as a pastor or volunteer church leader, should our congregation take time to fill out surveys or host a research assistant for the weekend? Because an important element missing in the current conversations is a broad and in-depth picture of what IS going on in confirmation ministry. And some of us want to be part of contributing to this rethinking of faith formation with data and stories of the current state of congregations across the country and across denominations. We want to learn about congregations big and small; in the Midwest and on the East and West Coasts; with solo pastors and multiple staff; and using traditional teaching and innovative practices. I know the make-up of the ELCA has changed recently and these changes have impacted many dimensions of ministry. This research on confirmation practices is one opportunity for the ELCA to learn about itself, as it also learns from its brothers and sisters in other denominations.

In September all congregations who are involved in confirmation ministry in these denominations will receive information about how they can participate. I hope church leaders in ELCA congregations will take time to be part of this study. Your participation matters! And my promise to you is this – our team will collect this data, faithfully work with the data, and share our learnings with you. Why? Because these findings are part of what the church needs as it continues rethinking faith formation today.

Written by The Confirmation Project Steering Team Member Terri Elton.  Meet Terri.


  1. This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg - September 2, 2014

    […] adviser Dr. Terri Elton reflected on “The Confirmation Project” and specifically “Why it Matters” with and ELCA perspective. As she writes and hopes, I hope that if you are involved in a […]

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