I didn’t want to be confirmed when I was 13. I had endured confirmation class with 20 other teenagers for a year, gathering on Tuesday afternoon with our earnest and well-meaning associate pastor. He was an excellent youth group leader but he struggled (or perhaps it was only my struggle) to make the confirmation curriculum relevant and interesting. Mostly we looked forward to the newly-installed soda machine at our church which allowed us to sip our Cokes as we tried to listen to lessons about the Bible and church history.
At the end of the year, we went on a “decision-making” retreat where we spent time learning about the significance of church membership, the importance of pledging ourselves to faithful living and the value of endeavoring to serve God with all our hearts, minds, and spirits.
I didn’t feel ready. I wasn’t sure what I believed. I was scared to make a promise to God because what if I couldn’t keep it?
But I was 13 and not a rebel. The retreat was billed as “decision-making” but it felt more like “decision-assumption.” It wasn’t explained what would happen if we weren’t confirmed. Would we be cast into eternal darkness? Or – perhaps even worse for a teenager – excluded, shunned? No longer considered “part of the group”? It didn’t seem truly up for discussion. I didn’t hear anyone else voicing any concern or notice anyone hesitating about what seemed to me to be an enormous step. So I went along.
Our rather intimidating senior minister performed the confirmation, placing his hand heavily on my head and offering a quick prayer. I didn’t feel any different after the service. For the next three years I was very active in church through youth group and choir, going on retreats and enjoying time with my friends. When I graduated from high school, I considered myself a graduate from church, as well. It would be a long time before I stepped into a sanctuary again.
This Sunday our congregation will be celebrating confirmation. The parents of our confirmands understand that while they may have been able to insist that their children attend class (and I’m glad they did), they cannot force their child to be confirmed. It is an individual decision based on personal faith.
I hope that choice is clear to the 11 teenagers who have experienced our confirmation program. While I hope that it was more riveting and engaging than my memory of confirmation, I can’t promise that. But I am confident that I let them know that they are on a lifelong journey of faith exploration. If they aren’t ready to be confirmed now, they should wait. And in the meantime, they can continue to be a valued part of our church family.
Very few faith decisions are “once and done.” More often, we need to choose daily – sometimes hourly – how to live our faith and say yes to a loving God who calls us to share hope and new life. We confirm our faith by loving our neighbor and treating one another as we want to be treated.
Our confirmands are making a public decision on Sunday and then will be asked to live that decision out in their daily lives.
How do you confirm your faith?