I recently visited Prince of Peace in La Crescent, MN. This is a church that successfully keeps their youth active and involved after confirmation. They have figured out how to avoid the confirmation graduation, the exodus, moving on and beyond the church.
Please read that again!
“They keep their youth active and involved after confirmation!” That is unheard of!
I remember the youth ministry legend, Mike Yaconelli speaking to an all Lutheran audience. “You Lutherans, you have every one of your middle school youth there every week.” Us Baptists would give anything for that to happen.” Then he got very loud, “Why aren’t you doing anything worth while with them!” It was a bit shocking to hear, but at the same time most of us had a sense there was some truth in his observation.
Rich Melhiem has also challenged confirmation. “If an American cooperation invested in a two to three year training program in which on completion most people quit, they would be rethinking their systems!”
My personal observation, many churches (not all!) have decent programs. The issue is that unless youth discover a vital purpose for continuing they are gone. They become saturated with other groups that do have purposes for them. Unless youth hear and personally experience the words, “We need you.” They quickly move on. Youth are either leading or they are leaving!
Cathy Beardmore, of Prince of Peace, in La Crescent, MN, says, “When we first started using Peer Ministry as part of confirmation in 2005, Pastor Mike and I were hoping that 3 or 4 youth from our 20+ class sizes that would continue Peer Ministry training beyond confirmation. This year we had 100% participation from our confirmation group: all the youth continued with training after confirmation. Peer Ministry Leadership has a definite role in our little ‘miracle’ story here at Prince of Peace.”
Here is what they do.
Towards the end of their confirmation experience the youth experience the first five sessions of Peer Ministry Leadership. After the youth’s confirmation service they are invited to continue training and they do. They keep going!
With the relational skills of PML training as a bases high school youth plug in to the church, teaching and mentoring younger students, assisting with facilitating Peer Ministry, helping lead mission experiences, checking in with how they are using their skills in everyday life, and another informative session on the consequences of binge drinking and how we can protect our young people. The female peer ministry leaders also organize a middle school girl’s sleepover, helping them navigate through the drama of these tumultuous teen years. The church staff is constantly on lookout for ways to personally say, “We need you!”
Cathy shares that the support and personal involvement of Pastor Mike Woods adds greatly to their successes. Pastor Mike also works directly with confirmation, meeting for personal spiritual direction, reviewing personal values, working through gifts inventories and Myers Briggs. Results? Pastor Mike personally knows the gifts, and passions of every young person and ensures that every youth is needed throughout the congregation.
Pastor Mike shared that he once in a while gets asked by an adult coming for worship, “Oh, is this youth Sunday.” He then gets to say, “No, it’s just that our youth are the ones eager to serve.”
I also had to smile as Pastor Mike pointed out the ingredients on a table to make “Goo,” and his story about a spontaneous squirt gun fight. I quickly picked up that this is a fun playful place, full of surprises.
Prince of Peace uses confirmation not only as a teaching of the catechism, but also as an equipping preparation for immediate, involved ministry. They assume youth are ministers and are important and needed both in their church and in their community. Youth feel needed and important so respond by helping, serving and leading in many ways.
Take-Away Considerations for Your Confirmation
- Make confirmation a practical, preparation and practice for relational ministry.
- Youth’s biggest concerns? Relationships! Help youth help others. It is a way of understanding ministry and faith being practical for today.
- Get rid of the overblown teen world drama. Learn the people skills of PML.
- Learn every youth’s talents, values, gifts and personalities.
- “We need you,” are words every youth should personally hear at least twice a year.
- Youth participation happens when they are needed for something meaningful
- Staff and volunteer leadership do not quit relationships with youth after confirmation.
- If all the adult leaders are done after confirmation it is likely the youth they led will also be done.
- Find ways for adults to continue their investment, involvement, mentoring and mostly also their modeling of staying involved.
- Churches intentionally plan multiple opportunities for individual high school youth to serve.
- Put together a, “We need you plan!”
- “Here is a list of a several youth, how do we meaningfully say, ‘We need you,’ to each one this week”
- It is still a sin to bore a kid!
- That used to be the great cry of youth ministry world. It is still relevant today.
- Maybe after every Bible story should be added the word, “Surprise!” That was the first hearers experience of these sometimes shocking stories. Youth need to experience surprise in everything from spontaneous squirt gun fights, to the discovery of radical biblical stories, to the importance of a confirmation that helps them know how to care for others.