First of all, the J-Blog got a little bit of a facelift this week. I hope you like it, and if you find anything that doesn't work the way it should please by all means let me know! Thanks also to Squarespace, who hosts this little experiment, for making this job crazy stupid easy. You guys rock!
In the east, Snowpocolypse 34 is upon us, and so we decided to cancel the opening retreat of our confirmation class and instead have an introductory session here at the church tomorrow morning. This is never really my optimal vision of the kick off of confirmation, as I so love the relationships that can be formed late into the night over a game of scrabble or whatever. And watch, now that we have cancelled the retreat, this weekend will be sunny (even at night) with a high of 75. Go figure.
When I talk to folks who are interested in youth ministry, Confirmation is always the crazy piece of the puzzle that no one quite knows what to do with. Some folks come from faith traditions where confirmation isn't much of a thing, others don't really see the effectiveness of it, and still others can't get the same kind of magic to happen in their confirmation as they had when they were teenagers. If anywhere, I fall into the latter camp. Confirmation was such a huge part of my faith story, it's hard to try to recreate it for the kids in my youth ministry. Which brings up the obvious and important point, I can't recreate it for my kids. They're not me.
What I can do is get really clear about what I'm hoping for out of the class. Each year, I have three goals for the students in my confirmation classes:
1) A richer theological vocabulary- Almost everyone who comes through my confirmation program is a Christian already, but they have a hard time expressing their faith. The hope would be that by the end of the program they will have a richer vocabulary of terms to better express their faith, both in their statement of faith and in their every day interactions.
2) A more engaged membership in our church- A lot of people skip over this part in their confirmation programs, but one of the larger points of Confirmation is that students become active members of their congregations. In the PC (USA), statistics show that only about 50% of the students who get confirmed are still active a year later. Having a confirmation class that misses this point is really a rite of passage, something no one is all that interested any more. So my goal is always to find areas where students can get more engaged.
3) A meaningful relationship with one or two adults in the church- Our mentorship piece of confirmation has been scaled down a lot since I started, mostly because folks are just too dang busy with soccer and such. But all the same, I think my second goal is way easier to achieve if we can get number 3 rolling. This is hard to do, because there is a temptation in youth ministry to silo ourselves away from the church at large. We should avoid that temptation!
So my habit has been each year, before the retreat, to sit down with my roster of students and pray for each and every one of them, in the hopes that these 3 goals could be accomplished. Sometimes I think we forget to spend time praying over our kids in the quiet of our office. At best it's frequently as time permits. But I think it's a pretty good idea to have intentional times carved out for praying for our students.
So take a second, put the J-Blog away, and pray for your kids! You'll be glad you did!