“What’s up with confirmation? What happens during confirmation and why do we have it?” –  Braden Malme, Arlington, Wash.

Anne: You are not alone in asking this question! Many people, including pastors, wonder what the point of confirmation is. Something that helps me is to call it Affirmation of Baptism, which is a much more descriptive name for what we’re doing. Basically, it’s an opportunity for people to affirm for themselves the promises that their parents, sponsors and congregation made for them at their baptism. At baptism, parents make this promise: “… to live with them among God’s faithful people, bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Ten Commandments, place in their hands the holy Scriptures, and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that your children may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”

At their affirmation of baptism, confirmands are asked to make this promise for themselves: “…to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” The process of preparing people to affirm these promises can take many forms, including classes and increased involvement in congregational life. The process of confirmation takes many forms and varies from congregation to congregation, but the end goal is the same: to prepare people to boldly and confidently make those promises, affirm their baptisms and continue to live out their faith in the church.

David Scherer is a young man in my congregation who goes by the name AGAPE. He started a Christian hip-hop ministry. Some years ago he translated the liturgy from the kyrie to the benediction into hip hop. Young people across social and economic backgrounds were empowered to experience their faith in a new way. I believe confirmation needs to be a time for experimentation within the church.

The church is missing a huge opportunity. I used to think there was something wrong with confirmation, but I have developed the opinion that the problem really is within congregations. We do not have enough trust in our young people. We do not see how young people are like the rest of the church where our ministry occurs in everyday living. With adults, ministry happens in households, on the job and in community. This is also true among young people. Faith formation may happen in the congregation, but the application is in the classroom, athletic field, band and trying to juggle a part-time job. 

Confirmation occurs at the age when young people are in a time of discovery. Some congregations get this, but sadly many congregations do not. The intent for confirmation is to support faith formation, which translates into ministry in daily living.

While confirmation is a time-honored rite of passage in our Lutheran tradition, we tend to treat confirmation like the finish line when it is really more like the starting gate.

Good question. At one time (like when I was confirmed), confirmation was a rite of passage. It was the time when a young person not only made a personal statement of faith, but it was also the time when we became a communing, contributing member of the congregation with the right to attend annual meetings and vote. But since children now commune at an earlier age than confirmation age, confirmation has lost the “rite of passage” purpose.

Confirmation, which is now commonly called Affirmation of Baptism, is the time when young people declare for themselves that they will live out the promises made for them by their parents and sponsors in their baptism (that is, of course, assuming that they were baptized as an infant). The years spent in confirmation classes are intended to continue, more intentionally, the exploration of faith, faith and life, and faith and the church so that students can make that affirmation of baptism statement of faith in the hope and trust that God will continue to lead and guide them in all the aspects of their lives now and in the future.

Do you have a question you’d like answered by an ELCA pastor? Email your question to us as at livinglutheran@elca.org and you might see it answered by one of our pastors. You can also find out more about our pastors on our “Bios” page. LivingLutheran.com offers a platform for ELCA members to share their diverse experiences of what it means to live Lutheran. 

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