I attend a church that does “confirmation” in the 6th grade – a series of classes on Christianty that confirms a student in their faith. I volunteered to be a mentor of one of the youth being confirmed, and I’ll be attending the classes over the next 3 months. I come from a church background that does not do confirmation, so this is all new to me. Of course, I was familiar with the idea of confirmation. But having attended distinctly low-church, evangelical churches most of my life, I’ve never been in a church that does it.
In the past, I perhaps had less-than-positive thoughts about confirmation. For some families I’d known whose kids went through confirmation it was simply “jumping through hoops” (what they were “supposed” to do) and it brought no change in their life whatsoever. What was the point? It is simply family/church “tradition” and no more.
My dad was raised high-church Protestant, and had to be confirmed. He said the classes meant nothing to him, and when he stood at the front of the church to say he believed, he said “yes” because he felt he had no other choice. Was he an atheist? No, but just had no personal faith in Christ yet. He was not ready and the Spirit had not moved in his life. A few years later he met a Christian with a personal faith and relationship with Christ, and eventually my dad did accept Christ as his personal savior. That brought the change in his life, not confirmation classes.
While my dad realized that he did not come to belief through confirmation, other less-thoughtful or less-sensitive kids might go through the classes, without their hearts being moved, but falsely think they are now Christian because they took the classes.
While it probably sounds like this is an “anti-confirmation” post, it actually is not. Keep reading! Yes, the above are some possible weaknesses of confirmation. But low church evangelicals have similar weaknesses in some of the methods they use too.
How often do evangelical churches have “invitations” for kids (and adults) to accept Christ? These can involve emotional manipulation or pressure. Kids can accept Christ without properly realizing or understanding what it is they are actually doing. Believe me, I’ve observed some sad “hoop jumping” gospel presentations in my day! But, hey, if they said the “sinner’s prayer”, they are saved – no doubt about it! If they “walked the isle”, all is settled. [Sarcasm]
Evangelicals can create plenty of false converts too.
I think that stereotypical evangelical invitations to accept Christ, as well as confirmation classes can be both good or bad…helpful or not helpful…for creating true converts. God can use many things to bring people to genuine faith. Ultimately it is God’s work. And people can come to true faith in Christ without either an “alter call” or a series of classes! I myself did neither of those things.
At the church I currently attend, I have browsed through the confirmation book. The lessons look very sound, and introduce the students to core teachings of the Christian faith. The lessons on salvation are very clear, and emphasize that salvation is by faith alone in Christ.
In the intro class for students and parents, it was emphasized that taking confirmation classes does not make you a Christian. Rather, it is hoped that through the classes and the work of the Holy Spirit, students will reach a point of decision and want to place their faith in Christ. If they don’t feel ready, that is fine. [Yet, I am sure there will be indirect pressure to do so. But as already said, other methods can make people feel pressured also.]
At least with a series of formal classes, there can be more certainty that a proper understanding of Christianity has been reached. In other words, an informed decision, rather than one possibly based on misunderstanding or only half the story.
So, those are my rambles on confirmation classes! Any thoughts? Meanwhile, I am looking forward to being a mentor the next few months!