Intergenerational Confirmation – one church’s journey to involve the whole congregation in faith formation.
One of the deep desires when embarking on a traditional program like Confirmation is that it will simply be the vehicle to bring people to a deeper and closer relationship with Jesus. The program is the catalyst to allow God’s love to grow deeper and it is the relationships, practices, learning and experiences of Confirmation that will continue through the years to come for each individual.
It is important to understand why we continue with Confirmation and what is it about Confirmation that makes a difference in the lives of young people.
Confirmation is important and needed! How we go about this requires constant and vigilant reflection. Based on extensive research both within the Lutheran Church of Australia and beyond, Grow Ministries has taken the guesswork out of Confirmation and provided a refreshing and relational approach to Confirmation through the resource ‘Grow Disciples.’
As a congregation, our first step was to read ‘Grow Disciples; a guide to cultivating lifelong faith’ and share the vision of what Confirmation would be about with the leaders in our community.
This vision includes;
- Confirmation is relational – relationships are prioritised over filling heads with knowledge.
- Relationships include peer with peer, families, intentional congregation sponsors, the wider church community, and the wider community, which in turn requires people of all ages to be involved.
- We have implemented a long-range mindset which includes equipping parents and families, involving the congregation and planning the next steps in the discipleship journey.
- The Confirmation experience utilises engaging and developmentally appropriate teaching methods, cultivating an environment of openness and providing experiential learning opportunities.
- Hospitality and service are two key practices highlighted within the course.
The second step - gather a team.
Relationships are a high priority and include a large number of people. We need to move away from the ‘expert leader’ model to leaders who are positioned as coaches and facilitators. We called upon retired Pastors, leaders in youth ministry and those from the Spiritual Life team. Other congregational sponsors were intentionally and specifically called to different roles during the course. Some of these roles included prayer support, administration support, hospitality (baking the morning tea!) but most importantly being ‘with’ and available during the sessions.
This particular course was only eight weeks long. And so prioritising the most valuable content was imperative. At the four-week mark, a mini-retreat was held which enabled relationships within the group to solidify and deepened relationships within families as parents and confirmees shared and learned together through a variety of experiences.
Involvement with the wider congregation
Throughout the weeks of confirmation, regular announcements and updates were provided to the wider congregation through various avenues. Specific prayers were offered as relationships grew and changed. Younger children wrote cards of encouragement to each Confirmee. Older generations prayed, wrote letters, gifted, and blessed the Confirmees each week. Questions that arose during the sessions were shared and discussed during the week, and confirmees were encouraged to speak with grandparents, godparents and other family members about their views and faith.
The culmination of the course was Confirmation Sunday. This event was such a highlight and blessing for the church community, particularly at a time when we were coming back out of a life living with Covid-19. One of the sessions in the lead-up to this day was focused on understanding why we do the things we do in worship. The Confirmees planned and prepared the worship outline, and chose the songs and prayers by way of learning what worship is all about.
During the service, parents were invited to share a Bible verse for their child and bless them. Each child shared their prepared faith statement and was gifted and blessed by various congregation members. Confirmees were encouraged to write thank-you notes to those who had supported them during the course and their life of faith. Then we celebrated! With a huge community lunch and cake!
The journey continues
There are various ways now that these young people are continuing to be held in prayer as we support their growing faith and life within the congregation.
By involving parents in the sessions with young people, not only did each person grow in their faith, but their parent/child relationship also grew.
The influence of people from the wider congregation added depth and support and reassurance to those ‘who have gone before.’ Space and time and opportunities were provided for people to share, talk and discuss what faith means to them and in doing so many generations have been encouraged and blessed.
From one of the Confirmees: “It was great having my parents (and grandparents) involved – hearing their perspectives helped me think about things differently.”
From a parent: “It gave us opportunities to talk about things we wouldn’t normally talk about as a family.”
From a congregation member: “I felt like I was a part of this confirmation course. In the past, it’s been all about the young people, which is important, but it was great that the rest of us were included too.”
From a congregation member: “Confirmation Sunday was a real highlight. We haven’t celebrated this (confirmation) for a long time which included everyone and was such a celebration of faith for all people.”