Why Our Research?
This research project began with a preliminary round of interviews with ministers representing various denominations. In those interviews we identified a number of gaps, challenges, and opportunities that this research project will seek to address:
Across and within denominations there is a plethora of practices surrounding confirmation. Historically, the content of confirmation often included a catechism that was memorized, often focusing on the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles Creed. As ministers realize the value of forming Christians rather than merely passing on information we have begun to see shifts away from content driven curriculum to more relational practices. Practices such as mentoring have become a key feature of many confirmation programs.
Shared understanding between ministers, youth, and parents
We have heard from confirmation leaders and ministers that there is often a lack of understanding between leaders, youth, and parents with regard to what confirmation is supposed to be or achieve. Some ministers discussed the challenge that they have with regard to welcoming new youth to confirmation programs, who had not formerly been a part of a congregation, while offering opportunities for spiritual growth for those who had been life long church-goers.
Graduation versus Integration
In our research we have heard that many ministers are frustrated with the “graduation affect” that confirmation can have, where upon completion of the confirmation program youth discontinue their participation in the life of the congregation. We are interested in learning about why this “graduation affect” happens. Additionally, we are interested in learning from congregations who are successfully integrating youth into congregational life after confirmation.
Tradition versus Innovation
Ministry leaders told us about their own choices to adapt, shift, and reform the curricular content of confirmation to more closely align with what they believe to be the telos of confirmation. These shifts often included an emphasis away from the traditional catechisms and content driven learning opportunities to more hands on experiences of worship, service, retreat, and mentoring.
Confirmation versus Becoming a Member as an adult
More than one minister we talked with highlighted the ironic tension between the rigor that we demand from youth with regard to “being confirmed” and the ease with which an adult is able to become a member of a congregation.
Confirmation? Oh yeah, I think I remember that
In some denominations, the practice of confirmation or “Decision Day” is deep in the memory of older generations, but is no longer a wide spread practice. For these denominations we are interested in answering the questions, “What brought about this shift away from the practice of confirmation?” and “What has replaced confirmation to provide youth opportunities for intensification of faith and integration into the body of Christ?”
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