Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Confirmation Assembly Line

After several years teaching confirmation both as a seminary student and now as a pastor, I must say that I am very unsatisfied with confirmation. I cannot help but feel that we are confirming students who honestly do not believe but are only parroting what they have heard and if given a choice would never have been there. Maybe I am imagining things but this strikes me as wrong on our part and I cannot help but wonder if this is contributing to the confirmation drop off (the disappearance of kids after confirmation). Are we leading children into profaning the Lord's Body by adhering to an old system. To add on to this feeling is that there are so many people who hold up confirmation because that is what you do, almost as if it is God's way of doing things. Do not misunderstand me, I take God at his word and believe that people must be prepared before partaking in His Body and Blood at communion. I just wonder if how we are going about things is the best way.

I think that it is time that we change our culture. A task I find singularly daunting. Just ask my wife we got into this discussion the other night. Right now in the Lutheran Culture, confirmation and communion are indivisibly linked. Some of the linkage is for good reason, as I said people must be prepared. However, it is not a good thing because people treat it as a means to an end rather than a part of a continuing process, a graduation so to speak. And we have people who are guilty of the Roman error by treating it as a sacrament, almost as if they believe that now they are confirmed they are now guaranteed salvation. Along with these reservations is the idea that we are somehow renewing our baptismal vows. What vows are we renewing? We made no vows when we received baptism. God made the vows as he claimed us through water and word. If we are going to correct these we must change our culture.

I know some people have made some changes in their congregations and I would love to hear from them, but I have a few ideas of my own.

Sunday School - should be the primary catechetical classes not confirmation. The children should learn the catechism from the time they begin Sunday School not when they enter Confirmation.

Confirmation classes - should not be based on age. Instead, we should judge this upon their willingness to join the church. All people interested should go through the same class even if this means having a wide set of age ranges. Parents of younger children should attend so that they can help explain complex issues to their children during the week. They should also be more of a gateway than a "graduation," a means of connecting the people to the community of believers in that congregation. It would also be the means by which instruction is given to older people who were not brought up in your church. Older converts be they new Christians or people from different denominations we would first of all run them through an introductory course, a version of Alpha perhaps, which, I hope, establish the confirmation class as a continuation and not a graduation for them. The class before ending would then guide them to a different bible study in order to emphasize this point.

Admittance to the Lord's Table - should not be based on confirmation rather their ability to discern.

These are just my thoughts and they are developing, and as I said if others have some input I am happy to hear them.

Update: I think that Sunday School should be the primary corporate level means of teaching the catechism, but the penultimate responsibility of catechizing the wee ones falls to their parents. As it is written, "The head of the household should teach..."

1 comment:

jWinters said...

Wow! Great post Lutherama...and something that I've been wrestling with for a while.

There's alot to your post and I have to run soon, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to comment on everything in full - so I'll do it in brief.

"Graduation" - Unfortunately, this isn't only a problem amongst us Lutheraners. Even Baptists and Evangelical kids feel the pressure to "graduate" in their own denominations (by Baptism in that case). Many of these denominations even allow children to come forward and say "I want to be..." I have a friend, however, who was basically told that she *had* to go up because she was around the right age.

Parents - Parents are an issue that we really need to address in all of this. They are not only giving confirmands the idea that they have graduated but they would probably do the same pressuring thing that happens in the evangelical camps.

Confirm-munion - Many churches are addressing this by allowing younger kids (i.e. 2nd grade) to take communion and then get confirmed later. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but my gut is against it...that could just be because I'm a Lutheran and change frightens us to the core. ;-) It works out well culturally here in StL where just about everyone is a Roman Catholic.

All in all - I think that the key to cracking some of this problem is actually not going to show up in how we do confirmation and communion. I think it is going to be in what we do with people who are confirmed. My church was guilty of it - after I was confirmed, I was dropped like a bad habit. Sure there was youth group and stuff, but nothing that gave me any responsiblity or sense of being a "real member" of the congregation.

Ok...this is too long. I could jaw about this forever. Maybe I'll throw something on my blog later. Thanks for your post again!

in Christ,
jW