Our church has a vibrant, 2-year Confirmation program for 7th and 8th grade students where they study the Old and New Testaments as well as a smattering of church history and basic theology. It’s become a BIG part of our youth program and an extremely positive experience for the students. So much so that students have actually cited Confirmation as one of the highlights of their faith journey. I’m not making this up.
A few weeks ago I was having a great chat with a parent of a 9th grade student about the strength of the Confirmation program, but lack of any follow up course of study. It got me thinking quite a bit because...he was right! We are doing a great job bringing up kids in the church, teaching them the Bible, and then right when they get to the age where the faith needs to sink in at a deeper level or their faith may be sunk, we sort of leave them to fend for themselves.
So…With the success of the program, and following this conversation, it’s left me asking the question, “What’s after Confirmation?” For two years students are showing up every Wednesday night, skipping sports and other commitments, to be a part of a class that studies the Bible. Yes, our families are actually choosing faith development over sports and other extracurricular activities for their children. But then, just months after graduating the program, many disappear as they enter high school, never to be seen in Sunday school or youth programs again. What changes in the lives of these students who are so fired up for God in the spring of 8th grade as they enter high school a few months later? Or, what is it we’re not offering, or calling them to participate in, that could continue the journey begun in Confirmation? Is it possible that we lose some students because there is an empty answer to the question, “So I’ve graduated Confirmation, what’s next?” I think the same can be said in the studies surrounding the large number of our students who leave the church after high school. “So I’ve graduated from high school, what’s next?” We need answers to these questions. Answers that are varied, creative, and that tell the truth of the struggles of owning one’s faith during and beyond adolescence.
What comes after Confirmation? Is there anyone out there who has implemented a program or post-Confirmation study for their youth? I’m part of a denomination that elevates Scripture to a high level, and rightly so, but I’m afraid we haven’t done a good enough job in helping our students to have a continued appreciation and ongoing desire to study God’s Word.
So, what’s after Confirmation? Dream dreams with me. Think big. Discipleship? Mentoring? Bible study? Confirmation 2.0?