The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Make confirmation optional

Recently we had dinner with a charming young lady whom we hadn't seen in a number of years. We first got to know her as a Sunday school student when she was 12. Now she's in her early 30s.

During the course of the evening she learned that our teenage daughter doesn't go to church with us anymore since we — after much thought — let her drop out of confirmation. "Now see," she said, "you guys are cool parents. The fact that my parents forced me to go through all that when I was her age is the reason why I've never been back."

Ouch! And yet the sentiment expressed by our friend and many others is the very reason we let our daughter drop out when she started to object. We didn't want to lose the war by winning the battle.

And then there are the poor PKs — pastors' kids — who have no option. Their parents' standing and credibility depends on their being in confirmation class every week — and getting confirmed. But do we expect the children of all math teachers to take calculus — and call their parents' ability as teachers into question if they don't? Of course not. Then why should it be that way with confirmation?

As kids, my wife and I weren't forced to go through the confirmation process. We asked to go through it, and perhaps that's as it should be. So I say, "Stop." Really. Let's stop expecting and forcing our kids (and especially our PKs) to go through the confirmation process. Let's make it optional.

I can hear some of you asking: "But what of the promises we made when we had our children baptized?" To that I say there's only so much you can do as a parent. At some point our children develop minds of their own and make decisions about what to believe. We can force compliance to a behavior, but we can't force belief. Indeed, trying to force both is what soured our friend and many others like her on the church.

Let's make confirmation optional. Invite all to join — but compel none. We might be surprised by who decides to show up later.

Check out this week's articles:

cover3Sunday school: It isn't what it used to be: (right) Old: Learning Bible stories. New: Forming, practicing faith.

'Hey coach, I've got a Jesus question': At this church, adults attend Sunday school, men teach.

Create a spiritual environment: At church and home.

One pastor's 'out there' ministry: Like Paul, we must go where the people are.

Also: Change confirmation.

Also: The way we were: 1954

Also: Faith practices in the making.

Read these articles at our front page ...

Discuss 'out there" ministry:

wollenbergMay 12-19: Join Bruce Wollenberg (right) to discuss his sidewalk ministry along Santa Barbara, Calif.'s main drag.

Consider reading "One pastor's 'out there' ministry" before joining in.

Join the discussion ...

This week on our blog:

amberAmber Leberman (right) blogs about grandparents.

Sonia Solomonson blogs about embracing change.

Andrea Pohlmann asks "What's making you happy today?"

Tell us! Pastor goofs

For some of you it was just last Sunday, for others it was years ago. Pastors, please share with us your funniest — yes, likely embarrassing — ministry stories.

Send your 100-word stories to Julie Sevig at julie.sevig@thelutheran.org or respond online.

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The Little Lutheran

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The Little Christian

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February issue


Embracing diversity