We are doing 47 confirmation services this year. In order to create a safe, meaningful experience for our confirmation families, we are doing private, single-family confirmation services for each one of the young people getting confirmed in the next two weeks. It goes without saying that it is a bit of a logistical challenge, but I truly believe it may also be one of the most beautiful things I will ever get to witness in my ministry.
Last year, Youth Ministries took over the confirmation program with the idea to rebuild it from the ground up. We focused on our two main guiding principles, Healthy Plate Discipleship and the vows of confirmation. We form most all of our Youth Ministries programming around practicing Healthy Plate Discipleship, but the aspect unique to confirmation was the seven questions that confirmands are asked during their confirmation service, known in the book of worship as the vows of confirmation of membership:
“Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church, and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?
As members of Christ’s universal Church, will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service?”
During our confirmation classes, we went through every single one of them. We we-wrote them in language that made sense to the confirmand; we talked about what they meant, we discussed examples of what it meant to live out those vows in our lives, and more.
It was important to me when we took over this program that we talked about these vows, that we used them as an anchor for what we taught. We wanted to give young people a chance to understand what is offered to them in Christian life and community through our healthy plate activities, as well as what Christian life asked of them by unpacking all of the vows and the responsibility they carry.
We wanted to establish that we mean what we say, that the gifts of the Christian life are real, transformative, and the true pathway to peace, meaning, and hope, and we also wanted to establish that opting into that life, choosing to join a Christian community, means something. That it places a great and beautiful call on your life to participate in God’s work of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth, in caring for neighbor, for self, for creation, in being Christ’s representative to the world.
When we wrote the curriculum this way, I never imagined that we would have a year where every single one of those confirmands would answer those vows alone. Instead of one huge service where they say their “I dos” and “I wills” together, we are doing 47 small ones. And so every single one of those children will answer those questions on their own.
As much as I grieve our large group celebrations as much as everyone else, the very thought of each of those sweet confirmands, standing in the garden with just their family and a pastor, answering those vows, not in muttered unison, but in their voice alone, puts a lump in my throat.
It’s hard to imagine anything more sacred than that; than a child, having experienced the Christian life being offered them, having learned what it will ask from them, standing alone and answering that yes, this is the life they want, that they choose this, now and forever.
I ask for your prayers for our 47 this weekend and next weekend, and for their families. I ask for your prayers for the small group leaders who have shepherded them through this whole process. And I ask that you, in honor of these confirmands this weekend, look at those vows and answer them yourselves, reaffirming your commitment to this community of faith, and to the life of discipleship it invites you into.
Director of Youth Ministries