When PKs Miss Confirmation
I am the mom who has a book about the day each of my boys were baptized. Fresh out of seminary when my first son was born, I was committed to ensuring that this child and the one to follow would understand themselves to be Children of God forever and always, no questions asked. Ever. They would know the stories of the day we celebrated that Good News in church. They would know the people who stood around them, sang to them, prayed for them, and rejoiced with their families in the gift of God’s grace that comes to us unmerited and in surprise and delight. And I believe they do.
But the journey hasn’t been exactly like I imagined fifteen years ago. Over the past few weeks, social media has been a scrapbook of photos of Confirmations, First Communions, and Senior Steeple Climbs. In it, I see the breadth and commonality of a universal church seeking to nurture a new generation of disciples in the beliefs and practices of a life of faith in Jesus. As leaders in the church, we are doing everything we know to do to give our kids a solid foundation before we launch them into the world as young adults. With just a few years left before my boys go to college, I feel the squeeze to impart every bit of wisdom and knowledge I can into them in hopes of sparing them painful mistakes along a road that is more challenging than those little invincible souls could ever imagine. And it hit me this week, my children, it seems, might be finishing their time at home without a confirmation class. How in the world did this happen? I’m a pastor for Heaven’s sake!
My boys have known just about every expression of at least Reformed Christian community there is. Large church. Small church. High church. Contemporary Church. New Church. Emerging Church. The one they will remember best is Coffee Shop Church, a still wet-behind-the-ears community of want to be followers of Jesus wrestling with the Word and gathering around the Table on Sunday evenings with the whirr of a gelato freezer in the background. With so much to do as we figure out how to be this kind of faith community, a confirmation class really hasn’t been on our radar. Is this an oversight we need to quickly fix? We’ve sent young adults to college already and have another on the way this fall. Have we failed them? We give Bibles to children in a local preschool, but we didn’t give one to our second graders when they hit that milestone. It seems we missed that mark too.
I want our children to have a moment – actually many moments – in which they are confirmed and affirmed as growing followers of Jesus. I hope for them experiences that confirm for them the grace and mercy of God. I want them to feel surrounded by a community of saints who they know to be fellow pilgrims and sages who can help them along the road. I want them to know that these saints have stories of brokenness and healing, doubt and wonder – and that they will have these stories too. I want them to know that faith in Jesus isn’t something we ascribe to with our heads but live into with our hands and our feet. It takes us to strange places and challenges us to do things we’d just rather not. Where is the class for that?
And then I see it. Every Sunday night, as my children sit at Table with men and women who – on most days – are doing their dead-level-best to figure out who Jesus is and where he is leading us right now, they are in confirmation class. The are taught and challenged and loved and blessed each week and over and over again. They are writing their own catechism, and it includes the questions of the ages and ones I never thought to ask.
I couldn’t capture this curriculum if I tried. There’s not one moment that I can memorialize on Instagram to really show you what it looks like. It is so different than I imagined it would be as I stood at the Font and promised God and those tiny boys that I would nurture them in faith. And it is beautiful in its rawness. There’s not a system. The language isn’t carefully crafted. There won’t be a moment when these kids go before a Session to read statements of their faith. It just didn’t happen that way. Not because I didn’t want it to. Not because I don’t think those things are good and valuable. They are. But I see now that I wouldn’t trade this confirmation – this community – for anything else. It is a gift from God. It is a deep well from which they will draw water for years to come. It is grace.