For the longest time, my student ministry had not had a formal way to introducing students to the Christian faith in theory, theology, and practice. We would attempt each year to work within current structures such as Sunday school, retreats, and youth group nights to teach on a variety of faith issues. Some months would be heavy on Christian doctrine and beliefs, while others would be more faith related topical issues. We hoped that at the end of every year, we did a good enough job covering the more important subjects, but quite honestly, never really knew whether or not our students “got it”. They would listen and respond when prompted, but we often wondered if they were truly engaged and wrestling with the subjects and themes.
Additionally, year after year, students would come home from college break distraught and frustrated in their faith. While we had prepared a neat, clean, and pre-packaged faith to believe, their college experiences were opening their eyes (and brains) to a whole new world. They would return home with questions such as “Why does the Bible contradict itself at times?, ”Is God really a male?”, If there is only one God, why are there so many religions?”, Why are there so many different Christian churches?”, Am I really supposed to believe Mary was a virgin?”, Did God create evil?”, Can you accept the theory of evolution and still be a Christian?”, and many others like these. We had been teaching content only, with little to no room for interaction, question, doubt, wrestling, and really helping our students make the faith their own.
What took years to construct through middle and high school often took one semester in college to deconstruct and collapse. We had no way of helping students understand and critically and rationally think through some of the more difficult issues of faith. We also had no real way of knowing whether or not our students actually affirmed the Christian faith as their own and not their parents or youth leaders.
Thus, it became important to do something to help out students understand, affirm, and articulate the Christian faith in a way that made sense to them and would hold up in contextually relevant ways for their generation. We combined this desire and need with the fact that new families began attending our church from another Christian traditions such as Lutheran, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc.., and had been exposed to faith-based confirmation programs in the past. These families really wanted something more official for their children to journey through.
That birthed our new Confirmation Program. Though our particular denomination does not have a confirmation program, we actually went ahead and created our own. We chose to keep that same name because in the area we live in here in the Northeast and Metro NY area almost every church has a confirmation program and every student knows what that is. It is very acceptable, understood, and contextual word to use. Now, we are doing something very different with confirmation and making it extremely interactive, fun, learner-based, student orientated, culturally relevant, and biblically grounded. We also wanted to work with something that was more inclusive and embracing of various church traditions and was rooted in more of the historical Christianity, than just contemporary Western faith. We have discovered these other traditions to be rich in history, theology, unity, and spiritual experiences/disciplines. In an ever-changing environment, it is refreshing to share with out students the “bigger picture” and connectedness and connectivity of our faith, one that stretches far beyond (and behind) our current lives.
Rather than starting from scratch and writing our own curriculum, we have partnered with an excellent organization called Sparkhouse and are using their Sparkhouse-Re:form Confirmation program. Youth ministry veterans and theologians Andrew Root and Tony Jones helped collaborate on the theological emphasis of the course. The content is question-based and covers main topics such as Bible, Creed, Discipleship, Jesus, Other Beliefs, Tough Questions.
Below is some information on Re:Form confirmation curriculum as well as some
helpful websites you can visit and explore. The course will consist of 40
classes. (see attached list of all the topics covered). Each class will be
composed of 4 elements aimed at providing a creative, interactive, and
participatory learning environment for all types of students.
re:form is a fully customizable curriculum that’s rooted in historic Christianity, but
speaks to kids on their level. re:form empowers youth to discover for themselves
what they believe, through three components:
ENCOUNTER: Two DVDs with 40 hilarious animated short films frame the tough
theological questions that kids really ask, like “Who wrote the Bible?” and “Why
does God let bad things happen?”
ENGAGE: A hands-on Anti-Workbook is the centerpiece of each kid’s confirmation
experience. It’s a sturdy, full-color, wire-O bound journal chock full of activities and
ideas, with space to journal and doodle, and extras like pullout cards and cool
RESPOND: re:form prompts kids to make videos, take pictures, interview people,
and create stuff. Then they can upload all of their artifacts to an online portfolio — the
re:form gallery — where kids can share with the whole congregation what they’ve
Below are a few links for the confirmation website, a gallery that students can share their artwork and thoughts, and the list of the topics and questions that will be covered this year during the 40 week course.