For more than 45 years I have been actively involved in Affirmation of Baptism or Confirmation Ministry as a parish pastor, assistant to the Bishop of the Nebraska Synod, as executive director of the Youth & Family Institute, as a prayer partner, and as an adult faith mentor. Early in my ministry I learned that it is important for faith formation to connect the student with other adult faith mentors as well as work diligently at learning in teams with peers, and to assist the parents in learning as well. I loved using retreat process for faith formation that included active learning activities, servant events, music, and just fun.
In the baptismal liturgy used in most mainline Christian denominations the pastor or priests shares the responsibilities of the parents and extended family for the faith formation of their child. Various denominations word these responsibilities in faith formation differently, but they are similar to the following:
- To live with your children among God’s faithful people
- To faithfully bring them regularly to worship with you
- To teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments
- To place the Scriptures in their hands and hearts
- To teach them of the means of grace that the Holy Spirit uses to shape faith (Word of God, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper)
- To nurture in the children faith and prayer
your children may learn to trust God, proclaim God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ through word and deed, care for others and the creation God has made, and to work for peace and justice.
But instead of training and equipping people to keep their baptismal promises, far too many congregations have replaced them with educational programs that do not connect with the parents and extended families, and do not connect them with adult faith mentors and prayer teams. Thus we have tried to teach the faith and pass on the faith without the primary relationship of family and outside the primary place of the home. The danger of our present culture of individualism, materialism, and busyness is that the importance of a solid faith formation has been watered down and parents and extended families are not mature in their faith expressions of word and deed to be able to pass on the faith from milestone to milestone and generation to generation.
While serving as an interim pastor of two congregations in Montana, I decided to change the confirmation instruction learning process to be done by the family together on their time, to include online options of video clips, other visuals aids, and family faith stories to enhance learning and practicing the faith together in the home. In this style the pastor and/or other trained lay adult faith facilitators visited the families in their home once per month to introduce resources for faith formation and for practicing spiritual disciplines in the home like: Reading Scripture together, Praying with and for one another, Family meals together at home at least twice per week, Talking about faith—asking questions and wondering together, FaithTalk With Children, Scripture Talk, Taking Faith Home Devotions, Candle Time, etc. At each home visit the pastor/facilitator would check in to see what was some new learning from the lesson plans among the members of the family; introduce the new lesson plan options, and checks on how the Adult Faith Mentor has been doing with the student and how the Prayer Team for the family has connected regularly to the student as to how to pray for the student and family that week. Again, this is done to support the parents and extended family to keep their baptismal commitments and responsibilities for nurturing faith with their children.
The steps for recruiting and training a Prayer Team for each family as well as the Adult Faith Mentor Training and resources are included for the congregation to purchase on this website at the Shop.
Because congregations begin confirmation learning at different age levels, there are three, one-year learning at home lesson plans: for student, for parents, for Adult Faith Mentors, and Training for Prayer Teams. The age levels for confirmation learning available on this website are for: 6th grade—10 important stories in the Bible; 7th grade—many more important stories in the Bible of God’s plan of salvation; 8th grade/high school freshman—Six Chief Parts of Faith—Ten Commandments, Apostle’s Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, and Confession and Absolution/Forgiveness. Each lesson plan and expectations for the student, parents, and extended family comes with many options for the families to learn and grow in faith together and to practice the faith.
Upon purchasing one or the entire three year lesson plan choices the congregation will download their choice and will be able to print the lesson plans and trainings as many times as they need year after year. Please scroll down to see all the choices available, including the full program for congregations. A congregation purchasing the full Confirmation At Home program for $86.99 will receive a zip file with all the pdf files for each aspect of the program. Directions for opening a zip file are here.
Congregations can adopt, adapt, omit, or create additional lesson plans and other faith formation resources. Because this process works with the student and her/his family in the home, perhaps a congregation might want to do some of the learning in a retreat setting (I would encourage including the parents and the adult faith mentor if possible). I learned from one of the congregation that piloted this process that the pastor loved to cook. So the pastor invited the families occasionally to the parsonage where a lesson or two was done around a meal together. Others have taken the lesson plans and created an intergenerational learning time at the parish that included music and active learning designs that were fun to do together.
Included in this style of confirmation faith formation with family at home is a vision with clear desired outcomes and expectations for: student, parents, adult faith mentor, pastor/facilitator, congregation, and prayer teams.
To accomplish the desired outcomes from the vision it is essential to support the parents and family with other caring adults of the congregation as Faith Mentors and Prayer Teams.
When the families and pastor/facilitator feel that the desired outcomes of the vision have been accomplished, they determine when the rite of Affirmation of Baptism or Confirmation will take place within a worship service of the congregation. It is possible to have several rites of Affirmation of Baptism during a given year.
We are suggesting that the milestone of Affirmation of Baptism or Confirmation is an excellent opportunity to present a FaithChest to each person confirmed. The plans for building a FaithChest and more information of a FaithChest are included on this website.
Often it is difficult to find cards appropriate for celebrating the faith milestone of Affirmation of Baptism or Confirmation. Many people do not live near a Christian bookstore. Also not every Christian bookstore carries cards for that faith milestone. Other time we think of it at the last moment. Simply go to that section of the FaithWellMT Shop to purchase the download of the card and optional texts and print your own.
The research from Search Institute’s research in Building Assets in Youth indicate that for youth to succeed it is very important for them to establish a significant relationship with at least two adults other than their parents. They state that 3 such relationships is better than 2 and 4 better than 3.
At FaithWellMT we suggest that there be an adult faith mentor for every young person in the confirmation ministry. We have included a training workshop for such a ministry and the expectations and responsibilities are clearly described as part of the training workshop available in the Shop and listed as one of the related products as you scroll down. Also listed is an excellent resource Confirmation Journey for Mentors & Youth.
Again, in response to the Asset Building research of Search Institute and the importance of cross-generational ministry in faith formation, FaithWellMT suggests and supports having a cross-generational prayer team of 2-3 people for each young person in the confirmation growth ministry and their family. The responsibilities and expectations for the Prayer Teams are included in the Prayer Team training workshop that is available in the Shop and listed as one of the related products as you scroll down. This is a ministry to the members of the Prayer Team as well as to give prayers support the Adult Faith Mentor for the youth.