edited version published in the May 2009 edition of The Lutheran Magazine
Yep, I said it…Confirmation Sucks.
I apologize if you are offended by the use
of that word, but I purposefully used it for two reasons: 1) I needed to get your attention, 2) It does.
The problem is that confirmation in the Lutheran church focuses on knowing “about” God instead of “knowing” God. We teach “about” the church instead of helping people become “a part” of it. We have this notion that implies that we need to “know” about a religion or a denomination before we can submit to it. Did Jesus give an autobiography to His disciples before commanding them to “come and follow”? Did Saul read up on the basics of Christianity while on the Road to Damascus? Do you recite the Apostle’s Creed before inviting friends to your church?
Of course not! Yet, when in comes to confirmation, we make 12 year olds go through a multi-year program of study, memorization, and service projects in order to become members of the church. When was the last time we made a 30 year old adult, new to Christianity, go through 3 years of study before becoming a member? (insert the Jeopardy theme music here…and wait)
Time’s up!!! Exactly…never. Jesus called His disciples to drop everything and follow. He taught them ‘about’ the message along the way. So I ask you, what is the reason for making kids do something that we do not require of adults? Why do we require something that Jesus didn’t even require of His disciples? Shouldn’t the requirements of church membership be the same as Jesus’ requirements of his disciples? “Come and follow”, not “Come and take classes”.
Confirmation for most Lutheran churches consists of education oriented programming that already assumes that the “students” or confirmands are already Christians; that they believe in Jesus and simply want to learn more. We assume that because they were baptized as infants and that their parents drag them to church every week, that they have already made a commitment to Jesus. Do we even ask them if they WANT to go through confirmation, if they WANT to learn? What if they do not believe in Jesus as God? What if they don’t care? What is our message then? “Do it anyway or else?!?!?”
Our goal and focus for confirmation needs to change. The ‘educational’ model may have worked in the past. In fact many Lutherans credit their Youth Ministry and Confirmation experience as essential in their faith journey. However, the numbers show that the majority of youth that go through Lutheran confirmation do not continue in the church, either in High School or later in life. Basically, our confirmation ministry misses the mark so badly, that we even lose an audience that we have captive for years.
So, I suggest that we all let go of the tight grip we have on confirmation and work together on some substantial changes that help the youth of our church get to KNOW Jesus…not just know ABOUT Him.