Confirmation: Thoughts?

Confirmation: Thoughts? February 24, 2012

I got this note from a pastor in a denomination that baptizes infants and then proceeds to catechism and confirmation, but this pastor has his doubts.

What wisdom do you have for him and for us? Let me insert another question here: What percentage of those who go through the catechism/confirmation process are turned down? Does the high number (almost 100% I’d say) suggest this is automatic?

I can’t really find any hard evidence [in the NT] for infant baptism and i wanted to make sure i wasn’t missing something.

I can identify with the covenant entrance idea. i was baptized as an infant. it came time for my wife to want to be baptized so I prayed and thought/studied on whether i should too…since i became a christian in college. I really felt like God was calling me to be at peace with the baptism I had…i felt like if i was re-baptized it would have been something that i was doing rather than focusing on something that christ did. not sure if that makes sense.

if you have time, what are your thoughts on the confirmation process?

i don’t really think our process is effective and it doesn’t really serve the purpose it’s supposed to. i was “confirmed” and while it provided me with head knowledge i was not a christian upon being confirmed. i see this with our students now…it’s not all that helpful of a process for them….but yet it’s one of those “untouchables” for change.

what do you think would improve confirmation?…

many times i have had parents with the attitude “well confirmation is the last thing i will make my kid go to…then they can be done”. it drives me crazy, confirmation isn’t supposed to be something you “graduate” from, it’s not the next level you check off your list…but that’s how our system is set up. why are we confirming students in 8th grade when they haven’t made a personal response to christ?

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  • I think the pastor makes a pertinent point. The problem with orthodox Christianity which has been carried through much of Christendom and which evangelical Christianity has tried to correct, is the idea of creed. I mean simply believing and confessing faith in the gospel. When the gospel calls for more. Not just a soterian result, but a whole life, whole world orientation. So that confirmation should include a testimony of what this means in one’s own life, I would think.

    As to baptism, while I hold to “believer’s baptism,” I am a part of a church and denomination which does both, while pastors must themselves have a position based on their understanding of scripture teaching. So I tend to think God honors all baptisms, and that it is not necessary to rebaptize. And yet I think there would be freedom to do so. Pay attention to the Lord’s leading either way on this, I think at this point.

  • John W Frye

    The Evangelical Covenant Church confirmation materials I use stress the importance of personally responding to Jesus right up front and rrepeats it throughout the training. To me, confirmation is excellent in introducing preteens to the sweeping Grand Story of the Bible.

  • Although most Baptist churches do not allow infant baptism, you will often see youth being baptised at the same age as their confirmed peers. Just because it is baptism does not prevent it from becoming an automatic secular rite of passage. Perhaps rejection rates should be dramtically higher for all ages?

  • Susan N.

    My daughter was confirmed in our UM church last year. We saw it as a rite of passage in our daughter’s faith, one through which the church “confirmed” her faith as her own (not your parents’ faith, nor their sole responsibility any longer to make it “stick” in our child.)

    The confirmation classes were wholly positive for us, and here’s why (in answer to how can the pastor in question make it better):

    The senior pastor personally led the classes. I so appreciated his commitment to investing in relationship with the teens.

    The teaching included a survey of the Old and New Testaments, with an overview of the major tenets of Christian faith. In addition, particular UM tradition and doctrine was discussed.

    During and after confirmation, the teens were given opportunities to serve in the worship service in varying capacities. Our youth keep active, serving in the church and going on various outreach missions. Faithful Christian life isn’t something you stick a fork in and say “done.” It’s a lifelong calling, and I think this is communicated and supported well in our church.

    Having said all this, our situation is somewhat different from a family that “grew up” in the UM church. We did not; we are transplants from the evangelical (conservative) church. In addition to that, we homeschool and have almost always come at it from a “Christian” perspective. Meaning, both of my kids have read and studied the Bible and are pretty knowledgeable for their ages. My daughter was baptized in 4th grade (immersion) in our former church. I think that this foundation made my daughter’s confirmation “rite of passage” more meaningful to her than it would have been otherwise. I’m not sure what she would have understood, lacking those precursors?

    Our son is in 6th grade and was not baptized in our former church. I’m not sure how our pastor will approach this when our son reaches confirmation age. My husband has spoken of wanting our son to be baptized by immersion, because it was an experience that he felt was so powerful. Our daughter, gracious and wise, replied, “Dad, I don’t think it matters whether you are sprinkled or dunked. It’s symbolic!”

    I’m past the point of being in bondage to the idea that anything *we* do “saves” us. Not our thinking and/or profession of “right” beliefs, not our baptism or confirmation… Christ made it happen. I think all we do, by God’s grace, is finally come to apprehend the truth of that.

    As an aside, my uncle (a 4-pt., at least, Calvinist) was baptized 3 times, because he kept doubting that the previous one had “stuck.” I read this in his ordination thesis and felt kind of sad for him. No amount of head knowledge or biblical scholarship can buy you any peace on these matters of faith, apparently.

  • JohnM

    “well confirmation is the last thing i will make my kid go to…then they can be done”. There is the problem with confirmation, when there is a problem. If the parents have to “make” the kid go, rather than confirmation being something the kid clearly wants to do, I would have a hard time seeing it as being an indication of anything that matters.

  • I was not only baptized as an infant, I was baptized twice as an infant, as my parents belonged to different denominations. I then went through confirmation as a teenager (though it meant nothing to me), and, as an adult, helped with my church’s confirmation class for two years.

    I am not a big fan of confirmation because, yes, it is automatically done, nobody is told they cannot be confirmed, kids have to do it if their parents want them to, and it is the rare few who refuse to do it.

    And even though these youth who go through confirmation to “confirm their faith” or “become members of the church” do it for 1-3 years, depending on the church, we don’t make adults do the same thing when they want to join a church. Why not? Why assume that adults have the knowledge that we insist the youth receive?

  • Without getting into the whole debate over believers’ baptism and confirmation, British Methodism typically waits for the person him or herself to ASK to be confirmed rather than automatically confirming an entire year-group in a school. There is no idea that confirmation is for children or teenagers and we don’t catechize an entire year-group of teenagers and expect them to go through with confirmation or be humiliated. (As was the case when I was confirmed in Missouri Synod Lutheranism in the 1970s.)

    A friend of mine once confirmed a “confirmation class” which consisted entirely of ladies over the age of 70.

  • Ann

    Confirmation is what each church decides to make of it. As a recent confirmation sponsor, I was very impressed with our program (Episcopal Church). Our priest was the leader and he made it very clear that being confirmed was choice that each person had to make on their own. He encouraged them even that if they had doubts to wait and choose not to get confirmed after the class. He made it clear that this wasn’t just something everyone should do, that you certainly don’t do it b/c it’s what your parents want you to do. I’m sure there were a few parents who didn’t appreciate this way of framing confirmation, but I did. And we had 2 kids in group of about 10 decide not to be confirmed after finishing the class.

  • Dave Leigh

    I recommend: The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism, by Karl Barth. Besides being the shortest thing he ever wrote (64 pages), it’s packed with theological and pastoral insights.

  • Susan N.

    Kelly (#6) – “we don’t make adults do the same thing when they want to join a church. Why not? Why assume that adults have the knowledge that we insist the youth receive?”

    You raise a valid point. Before we joined our church, an adult small group/class was offered for 8 weeks, titled, ‘Who Are We: Doctrine, Ministry, and Mission of the UMC.’ I jumped at the chance to sign up! There were many long-time UMC members in the class, as well as a few like me who were considering joining. It was very beneficial to me in knowing the particular doctrines of the UMC, and whether I could vow my faithfulness to the church. I appreciated it very much. Though I had done my own research on the Net about the UMC, it was good to interact in discussion (bringing any questions or concerns) with the pastor and other members… My husband didn’t attend with me; he took my word for it in our discussions and decision-making, that we were well-fitted to the UMC. ~Peace~

  • My “mantra” that I have confirmands and the congregation repeat each year at confirmation is, “This is not graduation, this is a commitment to lifelong dynamic discipleship development.” When confirmation is an ending point/graduation and not a next step to further growth, we have missed the opportunity to teach our children and ourselves to be people who feed on God’s Word and grow deeper in Christ each day. That’s just as true for adults as it is for children. Disciples are meant to be lifelong learners in the Kingdom of God. Makes life a daily adventure!

  • I grew up in the Methodist church with that process. I was never re-baptized though I have strong anabaptist sympathies and do not believe in infant baptism [which is half the reason that Calvin said that Servetus would not leave Geneva alive].
    I think as others have said that the confirmation process could be taken seriously and faithfully. That would be the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, as others have described it and from what I have seen, it is broken.

  • I even have questions about the necessity of any kind of water baptism. I’ve expressed that and have had folks proof-text – but in light of Paul’s rarely practicing it, and the “one baptism” standard, it makes me ponder Jesus’ invisible Kingdom emphasis when he uttered the words which formulate “The Great Commission.”

  • Jerry

    I grew up in the Methodist tradition as well–baptized as an infant but not confirmed. As a teen I made a profession of faith at and evangelistic service but it was not until I hooked up with a Navigators ministry in the military that I really began to be a follower of Christ. I was rebaptized–seemed right at the time–now I see it as a reaffirmation of my baptism because God’s grace was at work throughout my formative years.

    Robert Webber wrote a book years ago called Liturgical Evangelism that called from a Protestant version of the Rites of Christian Initiation used by the Catholic Church. UM’s have a similar thing in their “By Water and the Spirit.” Fact is, churches do not have an intentional focus on making disciples. Dallas Willard first clued me into this and Scot and others are advancing those ideas.

    Confirmation can have a role, but I agree that it shouldn’t just be an automatic thing done for teens. Webber suggested using the church year as a means of catechesis in the faith. Scot, your book TKJG, makes a similar point. Why not run a class for people old and young who really want to commit to the faith. Build it from Advent through Easter the Easter season. Now that’s Christological and Soteriological all rolled into one!

  • Jerry

    Doh–meant to edit that last post a bit. Sorry for the choppy read.

  • Jeff Martin

    Jeff #13 – That is a topic that would be great to discuss here – Whether Baptism is necessary. It was a former Jewish rite that was taken over by Christians, and is not on the same level I would argue as the Eucharist, because the Eucharist was much more than just a “Rememberance Ceremony” (sorry Baptists)see I Howard Marshall’s study on the Lord’s Supper. It was a Love Feast where people are sacrificing by bringing in food for everyone to share, a real need today as back then. Whereas baptism fills no physical or social need

  • Paul

    It seems that what the author of the letter describes is the negative side of the infant baptism/confirmational process. The critiques are real and very much a problem. The letter itself provides some of the solutions to the problem (age of the confirmed, focus of the kids/parents, lack of clarity of the original purpose, no ability to change).

    This being said, believer baptism poses much of the same problems. At which age can they truly believe and be baptized? How much do they need to know to affirm they really have faith? How do you then disciple them into true/deeper faith (so that the moment of belief/baptism is not the end goal but the begining)?

    My guess is that for every problem believer baptism solves, it can create just as many new problems. I imagine the problem is not so much the process (infant baptism then confirmation), but rather a struggle in the church (both in universal church & within that local body). As an Anglican in a church that allows for both types of baptism (parents choice), I’ve found that neither is a silver bullet towards amazing faith.

  • Jerry

    Let me extend this idea. I often encourage baptisms at times that they make sense–Baptism of the Lord, Easter, Pentecost, etc. The same can be done with confirmation. Use the Advent, Epiphany, Lenten and Easter seasons to build to Pentecost. Read and study the texts of those seasons because they tell the story of God and Christ. Epiphany is great because it speaks of Jesus’ identity. Lent is not really about the cross per se but the meaning of discipleship. The Easter season points to the resurrection life with its rehearsals of the gospels particularly in Acts. Pentecost is the great celebration of the ingathering–a traditional day for confirmation.

    I’m glad you asked this question–so many opportunities for ministry.

  • Jerry

    Jeff, #16–Baptism fills no societal or social need? Tell that to someone sitting next to the guy who hasn’t taken a bath in two weeks. 😉

  • discokvn

    i used to be on staff with a more liturgical church and was asked to oversee conformation… i hated it… often i wanted to reject certain kids who were hoop jumping… i believe that the hoop jumping would stop if we’d start saying, “i don’t believe you are ready to be confirmed in the church.” If we do that a few times, kids take it more seriously and so will parents.

  • Sterling

    I think the best way to approach confirmation is to understand and teach it as the first step for a young person on a life long journey of faith. Each day of our lives we should reaffirm our baptism and confirmation vows. If confirmation is seen as a graduation, or commencement then it is no wonder that we no longer see the young people in church after that. I find that I need to educate the parents of this generation as much as I need to educate the confirmands about this difference in understanding. I highly recommend the Credo confirmation materials produced by the United Methodists. The core focus really makes the life long journey metaphor a reality.

  • Wanting to stick on point here and not delve into why baptism is efficacious (covenantally binding and enabling grace), essential and preferably paedo to following the Christ.

    My experiences are manifold: was raised Baptist, which of course didn’t use words like confirmation but nevertheless had a baptism preparation class that carried with it all the automation and pressures of most confirmation classes.

    When I became an actual practicing Christian around 20 years of age, I was not re-baptized, as many in the Baptist tradition were wont to do. However nascent my theological understanding was in these matters, one dunk was clearly enough.

    I married in to a confessional Lutheran family, and my wife’s experience in confirmation, despite its automatic feel, was absolutely confirmatory (a bolster) for her faith. It should be noted at this point that we fail to grasp what confirmation is, not least as a result of its relationship to (the historic church’s view of) baptism, if we’re losing sleep over its “automatic” flavor.

    Fast forwarding to my own practices within the local church: At the church I had been a member of (an independent Reformed congregation) for 6 years, I taught the communicants (confirmation) class for 4 years.

    Here’s what was cool about this particular church’s practice: We asked parents to decide when to put their children in this class. This meant that during any given year, I had children ranging from 5 (the youngest) to about 12. Average age was 9-11. All throughout the class I spent time with each parent discussing their children’s “progress.” Graduation was by no means automatic. The final class(es) consisted of walking through the gospel (in age appropriate Q&A form) with an elder present. Now, given my conviction regarding baptism and confirmation, I’d made sure that each of my kids would be admitted to their first communion. But even then, a handful over the years would come back the next year for a do-over.

    I hope this last bit helps answer the question above. In short, what do I think would improve confirmation? Put the ball in the parents’ court to decide when to put their children forward. Move past the notion that a child has to be a certain age before he/she can enter confirmation. And get a spine—imagine the words coming out your mouth, “Your child is not ready,” and then get ready to deal with the consequences. And see each child as a mentoring opportunity—both for the child and her parents.

    Or sidestep this whole issue and just go Eastern Orthodox—their kids get confirmed right after they’re baptized (kidding—I do not think this is best practice, despite the tradition behind it).

  • zman

    We came at confirmation a little backward than most. We belong to a Church of Christ which, as most know, practices “adult” immersion only. Having said that, we were drawn to a local UMC confirmation process for our daughter because of the theological depth of what was being covered. Our CofC just had nothing to offer on this level, it is almost always one-on-one study, which is part of the equation for us, but sharing in the learning in community is also important.

    No, at 12/13 she didn’t understand most of the concepts but was at least introduced to them. The best part – and for us a key to its importance and attractiveness to our family – was that parents were strongly encouraged to attend with their child and most did. You didn’t just drop off your kid and pick them up 12 weeks later. This was a great launching point for our own family discussions. Well, as much as a jr. high girl was willing to talk about with us!

  • S

    This is a really helpful topic for me. I was baptised (by immersion) confirmed and welcomed into membership on the same day about 25 years ago as an adult. This was in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. My wife is an Anglican and we worship at eh local parish church. Under the canons of the Cof E non Anglicans who are communicant members of another trinitarian church may break bread – which has been fine. There is another canon that says if you do this for too long then you need to be re-confirmed as an Anglican (as the C of E recognises Methodist Baptism, but not their non-episcopal confirmation). I am finding this a struggle to get to grips with. I don’t weant to simply regard it as a bit of “admin” that must be gone though, and it feels a little like my earlier confirmation is being degraded. I’m due to go to Anglican confirmation classes in the next few weeks, and don’t want to make a scene, but think I find it hard to take it all very seriously, having done quite a few roles in various church contexts outside of the C of E. My wife’s advice, in good Anglican tradition, is to just suck it up and say the words – which nobody ever means anyway. Perhaps she is right.

  • I even ponder what Jesus meant by Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου … τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν (This is my body…do this).
    I cannot rule out the option of Jesus’ use of metaphor. The context of their gathering is one of community. I wonder if he may have meant that, rather than the act.

  • To Susan N. #4, officially the UMC accepts all three forms of baptism, so your son could discuss with the pastor his desire for immersion. As a practical matter though, since the churches usually lack a baptistry, it is rarely practiced. My youth pastor baptized several kids in a swimming pool though. Then someone suggested the fountain that is behind the altar area in our church. It worked well, when turned off.

    I wonder why so many commenters have made it a matter of asking parents when their children should be confirmed? Shouldn’t you ask the kids? My 14 year old says she still isn’t ready, though 8th grade is the normal time to go through the process. I’m leaving it up to her. My son also waited until he was in high school before taking the classes. And I should point out that our church also asks each student to make some sort of profession of their own faith as part of the process. They do have to choose to take the classes, it is not automatic. Once they finish high school, they would take the adult version instead, which is a bit shorter.

    As for myself, it did seem automatic when I was in Junior High, but I was a Jesus Freak anyway by that time, so the timing seemed appropriate. Later, as an adult, I went to a Baptist church for a while and got baptized by immersion. For me it was a matter of actually wanting to be able to remember my baptism, which is often spoken of, but if you were baptized as an infant, you will not have any memory of it.

  • Dana Ames

    the Sacrament that the Orthodox Church confers right after baptism is not “Confirmation” but rather “Chrismation”. Anointing is certainly what happens at both, and both are seen to be the point when the person is imbued with the Holy Spirit. Two things stand out to me: 1) We need the Holy Spirit’s help from the beginning of our lives, not just when we get to be teenagers. 2) Doing it that way makes the entrance into the Church very much more Trinitarian in emphasis. I was received by Chrismation only, because of my pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic baptism (most who are received into EO nowadays are re-baptized, because they usually have not had “triple immersion”). When done that long after baptism, Chrismation is about all of the above, plus the Church recognizing something that was good in a person’s life and yet not quite 100%, and now there’s the fullness, and everything is “set right”. This did not offend me at all.

    your daughter surely has a very good and loving heart. The way she uses the word “symbol” is a reflection of its current meaning, as something that is “only” – something without weight or substance or ultimate meaning, or having to do with the mind and/or spirituality, with no relevance to the “real” world. But even (especially?) in the current culture, people pay a lot of money for symbols and will sue you if you impinge on theirs. And whenever you watch TV, check the lower corner of your screen. Our Enlightenment/materialistic philosophical mindset of the last couple hundred years has denigrated the symbolic, but I bet you can find other instances in your life where Symbol still holds its power. If you have time, I recommend “Bread, Water, Wine and Oil” by Fr Meletios Webber.


  • DRT

    I have been debating the baptism topic with a Churches of Christ pastor (I think he is the Pastor) via email and he came down on the side the baptism may not be necessary for salvation but is a good requirement for knowing who is in the church community and who is not.

    That sounds legalistic to me and I have a hard time agreeing.

    There is no right answer to the confirmation/baptism question. Everyone is unique and some come to discipleship in an instant and others slowly after many years of study and experience. Therefore, I have no problem whatsoever establishing a practice like confirmation that provides a framework for people to, at least, consider what their spiritual develpment is like.

    I was splashed as a baby, confirmed with the rest of my Catholic class in 6th grade and never dunked.

  • Jay

    I’ve seen Confirmation working and I’ve also seen it when it doesn’t work. Right now, at the church where I serve as a youth pastor, Confirmation seems to be functioning well. I co-lead with my senior pastor. We are an established church of the Evangelical Covenant denomination with a long history of a Confirmation program. In recent years we’ve made some changes that have helped make it a relevant program connected to the whole of the youth ministry of our church.

    We use the curriculum offered by our denomination. It provides a good framework, but we’ve found it is too much content to force down the throats of our youth. For example, we often focus on one Bible passage a week. We’ve realized that formation is just as important to the process as information.

    Progress in the program isn’t measured by what the kids know, but instead by participation in the full life of the church. We have a points system we’ve created where kids get points for showing up to Confirmation, reading their journals, going to Sunday School, going to youth group, taking sermon notes, attending an annual retreat, and participating in other activities. At the beginning of Confirmation each week we check in with the group and report on the number of points received. Each person records their points on their own personal chart. One thing we’ve learned about this age group is that they love points! We don’t take it too seriously, but use the points to emphasize the importance of ongoing broad participation in the life of the church.

    Confirmation has become the centerpiece of discipleship for youth in our church. Some people come to the program just wanting their kids to be confirmed, but what they get is immersion into the church. This doesn’t mean they’ll stick after Confirmation. At the same time this doesn’t dicount the meaningful two year experience they’ll have.

    We’ve had kids coming to Confirmation not just because it’s what they’re supposed to do and not just because their parents are forcing them. Some join the program because they’ve connected to our church through friends, and want to grow in their faith. This has helped add positive momentum in recent years and a positive vibe among the kids in the program.

    As a youth pastor, I’ve learned that Confirmation provides a great opportunity for discipleship. The commitment that many families automatically have to the program can be used positively rather than being seen only as a negative force. Sharing a similar vision with my senior pastor has been significant. It has allowed us to share together in youth ministry and build a cohesive program.

  • Baptism is a symbolic way to show that a person has become a member of God’s family. I was baptized as an infant and am so thankful. I never had a drastic life change of “before” and “after” Christ, and I think that’s okay. As a pastor once said to me, “when did you first know your name was Naomi? In the same way, when did you first know that you were a child of God?” Baptism as an infant was a way for my parents to say they wanted me to belong to the family of God, and it’s a symbol of God’s grace and my complete inability to do ANYTHING to deserve it. HOWEVER, I also support a believer’s baptism.

    Baptism is a bit like marriage. An infant baptism is an arranged marriage, and the believer’s baptism is a “choice”. In both of these models, the individual needs to choose Christ again and again, every day, the same way a spouse must choose to love and act in love toward their partner each day.

    Confirmation is the opportunity for a person who was baptized as an infant to “confirm” their faith and publicly announce their decision to follow Christ. The fact that confirmation has become synonymous with “graduation” from church, is a travesty. This, I think, can be changed on a congregation by congregation basis. Don’t make it mandatory or expected. Change your Wednesday night youth education to encompass anyone, not just people who plan to “be confirmed.” And give people, youth AND adults, opportunities to confirm their faith throughout the year.

    In any case, baptism is not a requirement for salvation, but an outward expression of an inward journey–like all sacraments. It’s something Christians do that is unique. It’s a milestone to remember. And we do it, because Jesus did, and Jesus asked us to do the same.

  • nathan

    I’m just always blown away when evangelicals get all “regulative principle” with baptism but with pretty much nothing else when it comes to their ecclesiological practices.

    Seems to me the Covenant Church has got it right. There’s a range of legitimate expressions that have inherent limits to them. Regardless, it all has to be done in a larger framework of communal spiritual formation.

  • DRT

    Naomi, I like the arranged marriage vs. marriage of choice analogy. While many in the US may not understand arranged marriages, I have had the opportunity to know many people in arranged marriages over the years and have come to appreciate their value. I often think we should adopt it here.

  • Dana (#27), since you brought it up and all: Of course I’m aware of the different words used, but at any rate, “chrismation” in the East is well-nigh the sacramental equivalent to what the West calls “confirmation.” Moreover, in those western nations that use the romance languages, the equivalent of “chrismation” is actually the preferred word used when an older child is confirmed.

    But beyond this, the OCA doesn’t seem to have a problem using the terms interchangeably.

  • jamie

    I think there is a huge issue with confirmation when we have 100% “graduation” year after year. As much as I would like to believe all those students are disciples I know better ;). Isn’t confirmation supposed to confirming ones faith? Not teaching them to jump through hoops? And why on earth does confirmation end in 8th grade?

    I think overall its a broken process….don’t get me wrong, it could be an amazing process, but the way its traditionally done is broken.

  • Carlo

    I have a feeling it should be ‘harder’ to get confirmed than it is currently at least in some places. We are evangelical in background and our 7 yo son attends a Catholic primary school – he’s one of only 3 kids not getting confirmed in his class right now.

    The school has a beautiful ethos and works hard to nurture prayer, faith, an understanding of the biblical narrative and Catholic ethics which we think is great. However, I would say a lot of the parents are just not on the same page.

    Many seem to see getting confirmed as a ticket into the local Catholic secondary school (which is the best performing school in the area). In the enrollment mass they have to pledge to bring up their child in the faith but I just don’t see a lot of talk about Jesus amongst the parents (there are some wonderful exceptions) and most rarely if ever attend the church. The conversations are entirely about the dress their child is going to wear, the limosine they might hire and the party afterwards. It comes across as a kind of rite of passage that they have to get their child through to be in the ‘in club’. To be honest, we’ve found the whole process rather disappointing. We hope it’s better elsewhere. :o(

  • John Loppnow

    Can anyone recommend any quality baptism + confirmation teaching materials?

    I am responsible to teach and train people in these classes.
    (Infant Baptism, Confirmation, Adult Baptism)

    This community’s help is greatly appreciated.


  • To throw in my 2 cents (and BTW, I’ve been “following” you for a while Scot and really appreciate the effort you make here)…

    My wife, 26, has recently started working with confirmation students in the Lutheran State Church here in Norway. Curiously, she doesn’t actually consider herself a Lutheran, and belongs to a denomination that holds to a “believers baptism” position. Nonetheless, we see the confirmation as an amazing opportunity and have no problem with the Lutheran perspective. However, we don’t really view it as a confirmation in the traditional sense – these kids are not making a personal stand for Christ, agreeing with what their parents did when they were infants. Instead, these kids are doing it simply because its what is expected of them… and because they know they will get a whole pile of gifts if they do it!!

    So, while we don’t really see these kids as being “confirmed,” it is an AMAZING opportunity to share the faith with them in a way that makes sense to them. Sadly, the classes are often incredibly dry and irrelevant for the students, confirming to them that the church (and Christianity with that) is a dead, boring, archaic social structure that no longer has any relevance. Yet, if it is done right (and saturated in prayer) we believe many of these kids will take a personal stand for Christ.

    Not long ago in one of her confirmation classes a student caught my wife, Mari, somewhat off guard. Mari was explaining how she had been a Christian her whole life, and one of the kids blurts out, “But you don’t look like a Christian.”
    Mari, whose hair is dyed bright red and who has her own unique way of dressing, cracked up laughing and then asked what they meant.
    “Well, when I first saw you you had a batman belt, and like a metal* looking shirt.”
    Still laughing Mari asked what a Christian looks like.
    “Well, not like you.”
    All the students nodded, and then another explained how they need a skirt, only black or white clothes, and long, normal hair.

    *Metal being a style of music with a corresponding dress code.

  • Karl

    As we were deciding whether to baptize our children as infants or just “dedicate” them with the hope of a later believer’s baptism to follow, it occurred to me that churches tend to make young people jump through the same hoops – in different orders yes, but in most cases just as perfunctorily.

    For example, in the “believer’s baptism” context most young people who grow up in the curch feel the same pressure/expectation to make a profession of faith and get baptized, within roughly the same age range, as young people in churches that practice infant baptism put their kids through confirmation classes. Maybe it isn’t quite as formalized but it happens just the same. You asked how many kids who go through confirmation in essence get “turned down” or don’t get confirmed? Well in a believer’s baptism context, how many kids who say the right words about why they want to be baptized (and what kid who has grown up in that context doesn’t know what to say by the time he/she is 12?) get turned down?

    Baptism-profession of faith before the mid or late teens. Or profession of faith-Baptism before the mid or late teens. The order may be different in different traditions, but the way it works out on the ground usually makes what happens when a kid is 11-13 years old have about an equal amount of meaning, on average (very meaningful for some, maybe meaningful for others even though they don’t realize it at the time, and simply perfunctory and basically meaningless for many others).

  • Fish

    There is absolutely no comparison between the year-long deep discipleship-based process my child went through for confirmation and the quick dunking and words her friend had at the local Bible mega-church. And the latter is far more likely to preach on “once saved, always saved.”

  • Logan

    As a United Methodist pastor and an evangelical, I too have wrestled with confirmation and its relationship to baptism. I was baptized as an infant, two months after my birth, and was consistently raised in the life and love of the church. My tradition was heavily holiness and revivialistic, so there was great emphasis on having a born again experience to which one could place a date and time. I had that when I was fifteen in my livingroom watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. Sharing that experience with my church, they announced it in our worship gathering. Shortly thereafter, I was received as a member of the church by profession of faith. I never went through a confirmation class. A few months later, I and other youth successfully strong-armed our pastor into baptisizing us by immersion in the nearby creek.

    As I’ve grown in my faith journey in concert with the ecclesia of Jesus, I’ve come to appreciate the complexity of the various theologies surrounding baptism and confirmation’s relationship to it. I cannot post all of those complexities here in this limited space (and no one would read it anyway). But it seems to me that the basic question here is: “What is the best way to disciple all peoples?” I remember from the Great Commission that Jesus stated baptism is part of the way we are to disciple all peoples. As someone else has said here previously, the arguments for and against infant and believer’s baptism, whether baptism is a sacrament or an ordinance, what is the role of human response and understanding in baptism, are rendered moot by the fact that the attrition rates of persons baptized as infants and those baptized as cognizant believers are virtually indistinguishable.

    I am in firm agreement with my denomination’s stance on baptism as a sacrament of initiation into the ecclesia (in our document By Water and the Spirit), but I’ve found that forcing children through a confirmation factory (an old Industrial Age metaphor) in order for a church to post “members” on its roll has long seen its better days.

    We need to find ways to disciple people of all ages, nations and races, that goes beyond mere content in a classroom, and see the entire ecclesia as a faith incubator: our worship gatherings, our mentoring ministries, our hands-on mission in our communities, experiences followed by biblical reflection. It is what the early church called catechesis.