Could you confirm that

confirm1.jpg I’m trying to do a whole bunch of reflecting on the meaning of Confirmation at the moment! (Baptists are excused from reading this post). I want to explore a theology of confirmation* and then look at what that might mean for the way we approach confirmation preparation as well as how confirmation fits into the life of the church.
I see quite a lot of stuff around confirmation that is done badly (imho) There is good stuff happening too BUT here’s the not so good stuff that I see and want to explore:
1.Young People are often confirmed too young.
Now I know that young people vary enormously in their spiritual maturity and I do hold to the “stage not age” philosophy BUT it seems to me that young people going forward for confirmation before adolescence is not a good thing. During adolescence EVERYTHING is re-evaluated, the process of exploring, owning or rejecting happens at this stage, confiming young people before this therefore means that faith can be assigned to childhood. I also find that groups that have run confirmation preperation with younger tweens have not devloped the discussion and exploration in the same way.
2. Confirmation groups often focus on ‘knowing about’
For some preparation groups the focus is “Teaching about” christianity rather than exploring faith together. A ‘what you should know’ approach is not a shared journey of spirituality, learning and action. Confirmation prep’ is an enormously exciting opportunity to experience christianity in action, worship and in understanding. It’s vital to understand what Christians believe but it must be linked to experiencing and living faith. I guess I’m saying there needs to be acts not just facts (wow I can be cheesy sometimes).
Young people have also told me that there was little about the connection between faith and their everyday lives.
3. Confirmation automatically follows confirmation preperation.
I think confirmation prep’ should be a place to reflect, think, explore, pray and to find whether it is the right time for a young person to confirm their faith. In other words the group should be a place to discern a ‘not yet’ or a ‘no’ as well as the place to discover that it’s the right time to confirm a real and owned faith. I’ve had lots of conversations with young people who felt that their confirmation was a process they were put through and that actually, it had little value to them at that time.
*I said you were excused from reading this if you were a Baptist so don’t be arguing with me about the idea of ‘a theology of confirmation’ 😉

4 Replies to “Could you confirm that”

  1. Interesting thoughts, Ian, thanks.
    I’ve foudn that the diocese of Oxford bringing in the admission of children to Holy Communion (generally in year three or so in our case – age not stage) has meant that those young peopel wanting to be confirmed are doing so out of a motivation to affirm their own commitment to Christ rather than from a desire not to “look like a little kid still getting a blessing”. Since I’ve been youthworker here I’ve had one year with one 17yr old candidate to explore confirmation with (wow that was awesome!) one year with none, one year with three 16/17 year olds and this year I have six young people whose ages range from 13-16. It certainly feels different both with a larger group and with a younger group. I’d say that there’s also the importance of FOLLOW UP. COnfirmation classes are not just the BEFORE confirmation either. There’s a really important part of reflecitng after the day too and looking at where thye move from there. If ythe candidates are more mature like 17/18 it can mean that we lose that and the newly confirmed go off to uni without that follow-up. I think there are pros and cons on both sides of that age debate.

  2. I think you do need to bring in the communion before confirmation angle here too. As a parish we were exploring communion before confirmation a few years ago, but that had to be stopped when our incumbent at the time died, and the idea has not been raised again.
    As a result my impression of our confirmation groups as opposed to other churches is that they are generally younger, and often bigger, as it is seen as much as something that needs to be done in order to take communion.
    Interestingly when we discussed it with some of our older young people, a number of them said that they wished they hadn’t done confirmation so early as they didn’t feel that they got as much out of it as they would going through it later. Certainly I think it is a lot more beneficial to take the need to do it to get communion aspect out of it and allow confirmation to take place when young people are a lot older, and able to explore the faith much more deeply than younger young people are able to cope with.

  3. hey great thoughts, perfect timing. The new job, one area have asked me to do confirmation prep with a ready group of youth. Coming from a free Church/ adult baptism background I have no Idea apart from the material given me. I really want it to be the exploration of faith you talk about and not just ‘head stuff’. if anyone can recommend any useful reading material it would be much appreciated! 🙂

  4. My experience and reflection on my confirmation process goes a little like this – I wanted to be confirmed whilst still in Pathfinders (I had had a conversion experience related to & following Mission England) but was told to wait till I got to CYFA, where I was told to wait a year…
    It made me think about the process and for just who’s benefit the whole shabang was for – in the end I came down on it was for their security that they ran it so tight. And that reflection made me think about the whole theology behind it.
    I am, still, a committed christian but could not in all honesty leave the place and say that a vow of faith to be held within the anglican communion was christian – and other thoughts on baptism being an outward sign of an inner reality – so I got myself dunked at an even later stage.
    It may be best therefore to go through the theology of diferent schools of thought and challenge folk which one they agree with – as in the end they’ll be the ones who have to live with it…

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