Confirmation-age youth have a lot going on these days. Whether it’s a full schedule of classes at school, working toward a black belt in karate, daily sports or dance team practices, or private violin lessons with weekly trips to youth orchestra practice, today’s middle and high schoolers are probably busier than you ever were at that age.
So it’s no wonder that it can be hard to get a legitimately enthusiastic group of students in your confirmation class. Youth ministry can be a lot of fun, but confirmation classes often come with an aura of obligation that – if you’re not careful – can suck the joy right out of your sessions, for both you and the youth you’re leading. Check out these tips to help:
Addressing the individual
"What’s in it for me?" feels a little selfish, right? But, look at the issue from the point of view of your students. Sure, it sounds selfish on the surface to be wrapped up in what you’ll "get" out of confirmation, but what this question is really about is autonomy. When youth want to know why they should bother with confirmation, they’re often rebelling against all the other things they have to do at this age. After all, the average middle schooler doesn’t get a lot of choices, whether it’s about classes, clothes, or confirmation.
When you talk to your youth about confirmation, frame it so it focuses on their needs and concerns, rather than tackling the question from the "official" perspective of the church. For example:
Define what confirmation means
Many teens don’t know why they need to participate in confirmation, other than the fact that their parents told them so and their friends are doing it.
Translate the official language of your church into teen-speak. In general, it’s helpful to explain that when they were babies, their parents/sponsors promised to raise them in the church and teach them how God wants us love each other and follow Jesus’ example. Now that they’re becoming adults, it’s their chance to step up and take over that promise for themselves. They’re confirming – or affirming – their faith and promising to live by it in their own words.
Leverage the rite of passage into adulthood
Teenagers desperately want be heard and respected as adults, so lean into that aspect of the confirmation process. Confirmation can be their chance to show the adults around them that they’re ready to take on the responsibilities of being a grown Christian in your congregation – and give them plenty of chances to practice making choices and carrying out duties in ways that make sense to them, whether it’s a service project or a musical performance.
Make confirmation a personal choice
To combat feelings of resentment about being forced to come to class, make sure your students know that confirmation is a choice. Sure, it’s a lot of work and a big time commitment, but they should be freely choosing to take this step. If someone truly has reservations, offer to talk it through with them and their parents or caregivers to find the right solution.
Spend time listening
Once you’ve said your piece about confirmation and its meaning, listen to your youth. They have big ideas and strong opinions, and group discussion can be a powerful way to explore the meatier issues of what it means to be a Christian. Make confirmation a journey towards understanding, not an information dump – they get plenty of that at regular school.
When you talk to youth about confirmation, remember that the whole point of the process is to prepare and formally welcome them as adults into your church family. The best way to get youth to rise to the occasion and embrace these new adult responsibilities is to treat them like grown-ups instead of kids. Give them as much of a say in the process as possible, listening to their concerns and ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to creating the engaging, thoughtful environment you want to promote in your confirmation class.