What do you remember of confirmation? Do you remember the relationships you had or the information learned by rote? I remember sitting in a classroom with chair and desk reviewing chapters of a book we had to read and submit homework answers to questions at the end of each chapter. I remember standing up with my 40 other confirmation classmates and answering sixty questions in unison we had learned by rote before the congregation. It was more like our indoctrination into the Lutheran church. We had a lot of knowledge about God and Jesus and the Church. We may have even acknowledged some of it was meaningful to us. But when it came to knowing God, to knowing Jesus did we have a relationship with them? When some never darkened the door of a church again until their wedding day I’d say, “Not likely.”
On Friday, June 17 I met with Prof. Terri Elton at the coffee shop at Luther Seminary and discussed what she has discovered so far in her ecumenical Confirmation Project study that seeks to answer the question, “Is confirmation still viable?” While the analysis is still going on it is clear that in today’s world it is essential confirmation be able to meld church and family life together. There is a need to accompany the youth both as individuals and as a cohort with mentors and guides during the crucial teenage years and even into post-high school. Confirmation will need to pay attention just as much to relationality between youth and God and the Church as we do memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism.
That focus on relationship was also echoed in Pastor Jennifer Rome’s comments the next day when I met with her at a coffee shop in St. Paul to discuss her “Worship Young” service held at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Eagan MN once a month. Imagine Vacation Bible School meets Church Camp meets Children Sermon and you might get an idea of what this worship service is like. Energetic songs with lots of movement. Children participate in leading worship by assisting with communion distribution as well as receiving it. Even the special offering of donated items is designed to reinforce the Bible story and message of the day. The children discover that worship is not just a time for adults to connect with God but also for them as well. They get to know God and God’s people in an engaging and fun worship style while simultaneously learning our liturgy and some of our classic hymnody as well.
Later that day I discovered what a relational faith formation ministry can truly become in hearing from Amy Kippen (pictured) and her FINK Team who lead and coordinate their GIFT (Generations In Faith Together) ministry for children and youth age 3-15 at Journey In Faith and Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo ND. Using Faith Inkubators’ Bible Songs curricula they provide two opportunities each week, Wednesday night and Sunday morning, for both parents and their children to participate in learning the stories of faith revealed in the Bible as well as hear their parents and other’s stories of faith in small group. When 100% of all families with children in this age group are participating in the ministry it speaks to how relationship with God and the people of God has become an important value in the culture of their congregation. It makes me wonder what our congregation would look like with so many moms and dads directly involved with their children’s faith formation, both at church and every night in the home, rather than entrusting it solely to an hour or two a week with another adult in Sunday school or the pastor at confirmation. I’ll have some time this week to reflect on all I’ve heard. The question I’d ask anyone reading this blog is, “Is your faith life more knowing about God and Christ or knowing them? One involves the head. The other involves the head and the heart. Is it possible to remodel our faith formation to focus on the latter?”
Blessings from Jamestown ND where I’m enjoying the hospitality of Pastors Erik and Kristi Weber before heading to the towns of my first call, Terry and Fallon MT.