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One of the responsibilities of your Faith Formation Team is to field questions and requests for resources and best practices in the many-faceted ministry of faith formation in our local congregations. With planning for the return to on-site programming, many are asking questions and looking for help with Confirmation.
The most frequent question is, “What is the best age for Confirmation?” The most direct response that your Faith Formation Team agrees upon is the tenth grade.
There are a number of reasons that we believe the tenth grade year of high school is the optimal time for a teen to undertake this discernment and learning process. Here are our top three:
- By tenth grade, the first year of high school is already under their belts and they are better able to adjust to something new, such as a more focused and transformative church experience.
- Tenth graders have developed the maturity to articulate abstract concepts. While brain development charts list concrete thought beginning at age twelve, there is still a good percentage of teenagers whose brains do not develop this capacity until the age of thirteen, and some even beyond that.
- In most secular high schools, world and national history are offered in ninth and tenth grades, which provides the teens with a readiness to understand the place of the Church in history and society, and the ability to compare and contrast those wider church concepts with what they experience in their local congregations.
Is the confirmation model that we’ve been using for the past 60+ years the most effective way to confirm one’s baptismal vows in today’s world?
A blogpost does not allow the space needed to address this issue thoroughly. However, I invite you to take a moment to compare how we ensure that our children grow up Christian with how a healthy lifestyle is fostered through exercise and good nutrition.
Good nutrition begins at birth, and as children grow they are introduced to healthy foods and taught to limit sweets and empty calories. After they are able to walk and run, they are taught how to engage in sports and other physically active games. Parents and caregivers model and provide for good nutrition and exercise. Children who are exposed to healthy practices throughout their childhood and youth have a much better chance of maintaining this sort of lifestyle as they enter into adulthood.
Like living a healthy and active life, the ability to commit to and live a life of faith cannot happen without having been exposed to Christian practices from a very early age, along with consistent and caring mentoring throughout one’s formative years. I can’t realistically imagine expecting a teen, who was raised in a sedentary household with poor eating habits, to engage in a healthy and active adulthood after spending only six months to a year learning about and practicing a variety of healthy routines. The most effective way to grow a faithful Christian adult is to start in childhood (dare I say, in infancy), surrounded by faithful and caring mentors - both parents/caregivers and a wide variety of people in the community of faith. Confirmation will need to be a milestone along the journey, because growth in faith and affirmation of one’s baptismal vows is a lifelong process!
Your Faith Formation Team has curated a variety of Confirmation and United Church of Christ resources for you to put to use. We encourage you to think about how you are forming your teens in preparation for adulthood, and how a confirmation of their baptismal vows fits into that process. What kinds of developmental goals can you create for the children in your congregation that will prepare them for confirming their faith as teenagers, and then faithfully growing within the life of your congregation into adult Christian disciples?
Confirmation is not about getting confirmed any more than being Christian is about going to church. Confirmation is learning to walk the journey of faith, the path of discipleship, and the young people need travel companions for the journey more than they need correct answers.
Debbie Gline Allen serves as a Minister of Faith Formation on the Conference’s Faith Formation Ministry Team. She also serves as the administrator of the SNEUCC Faith Formation Leadership Program. Her passion for ministry is with children and family...