In the last post, I introduced a basic understanding of what confirmation and why it is a valuable venue for making disciples in the church. Now, let’s dig a little deeper and talk about the basic and essential parts of confirmation.

One of the first things you should do is to take some time reviewing resources or curricula to follow, and then decide, along with the youth leadership of the church, which one to use. It is best, in my mind, to start with resources that have been published and proven to benefit the confirmation process because coming up with or writing material on your own is daunting and it would be far less time consuming and stressful to slightly amend (if necessary) the schedules that the resources suggest than to start from scratch. People in our United Methodist tradition have spent LOTS of time and energy and good thinking, writing, and planning into these resources. And do please use United Methodist materials (or resources from whichever tradition your church belongs to), even if mentors, parents, or even the youth find themselves at times at odds with parts of our theology.

As a guide for find the right curriculum, here are some of the basic components of the content that is to be taught in the confirmation courses:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the Christian story
  2. Core beliefs of United Methodist Christians
  3. Exploring vows and commitments

The words to describe these parts may vary from resource to resource so don’t be too legalistic about it. For instance, in one church I attended before entering ministry, the new membership course for adults was 3 weeks and was based on these 3 primary aspects of confirmation. The 3 sessions were called “What it means to be a Christian,” “What it means to be a United Methodist,” and “Exploring spiritual gifts.” Even for most adults who were joining the church, those 3 weeks weren’t nearly long enough and we didn’t get to address some of the things we really needed to, but there was opportunity for discussion for those who had further questions. But confirmation for youth at that church lasted longer as they expanded on these three elements. And we won’t uncover it all now as you can see how each resource handles them in detail, but we can go over some of the ground you’ll need to cover.

Confirmation is like a guided path (photo credit: 1ms.net)

Confirmation is like a guided path (photo credit: 1ms.net)

1. Understanding the Christian story is learning about the basics of Christian faith and theology, and also examining a bit of our particular tradition within the larger Christian story. In growing in such an understanding, questions that will guide healthy conversation with youth and/or adults will include:

  • Who is God?
  • Why do we speak of the Trinity when we talk about God? And how best do we understand the Trinity?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Who is the Holy Spirit?
  • How do we understand creation and our role/relationship to it?
  • How do we define sin?
  • What is redemption?
  • What (or who) is the Church?
  • What role has and does Scripture play in the Church?
  • Who is John Wesley and what is his story?
  • Who are others in the history of our heritage we can learn from?
  • What is a relationship with Jesus and how do we live in it?
  • What does it mean to be transformed and transforming?

Teaching about Core United Methodist beliefs will involve discussing more about our doctrine than our history, which is more a part of our story. But talking about United Methodist beliefs will include:

  • The various “motions” or “modes” of grace – prevenient, justifying, sanctifying
  • The relationship between grace, faith, and free will
  • What we believe about the mysteries, or sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
  • Why we baptize infants
  • Why we don’t rebaptize persons
  • What it means to have an “open table” at Communion rather than a closed Communion, and why
  • Why we believe women as well as men can serve as clergy
  • Why our clergy are “appointed” by a bishop rather than chosen/called by the local church
  • What it means to be a “connectional” and “global” church
  • Learning the other various aspects of worship
  • Discovering a Wesleyan way of reading Scripture and understanding the Christian faith – this often includes speaking of the key sources that guide us in our faith and understanding: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (or what is termed the “Wesleyan quadrilateral”)

The third component is to talk about vows and commitments. When you get to this point, you’re nearing the time of when you can converse with each youth as to whether they are ready to make this step (to profess/confirm/reaffirm their faith in Christ). But talking about vows and commitments needs to include some vital parts, which are things that are asked in the worship service when they will be confirmed:

  • We’ve talked about “sin” and “evil.” So now, what is it to renounce wickedness, to reject evil, and to repent from sin? And how do I live these actions out?
  • What does it mean to accept freedom and power from God to resist evil, injustice, and oppression?
  • What is it to confess Jesus Christ as my Savior and to put my trust in and serve Christ?
  • How serious are these promises I’m supposed to be keeping?
  • Why is loyalty to the United Methodist Church a part of our membership vows? How can I strengthen its ministries within and beyond my participation in my local church?
  • How can I support the church through my prayers?
  • How can I support the church through my presence? Is it just coming to worship on Sunday? (It’s more – attending in worship, in the life of mission and discipleship of the church, etc.)
  • How do I participate by giving my gifts to the church? Is this all about money? How can I discover my “spiritual gifts” so that I can use them to benefit the church?
  • What are some ways I can offer the church my service?
  • How can I be a more effective witness for the kingdom of God in my community and world?

You can now see why 3 weeks is simply not enough to dig this deeply. And each of these are vital matters to consider because, in my experience, youth are asking at least these sorts of questions and MANY more!!

What are your thoughts? What would questions would you add (I didn’t intend to be completely exhaustive, so I might have missed some key elements)?

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