Reflections on Confirmation: Faith Formation of Teens
As we finish up this year’s Confirmation class, I have found myself reflecting on faith formation of teenagers. Despite my general discomfort with teaching and talking to teenagers (like bees, teenagers can smell fear), I find them to be remarkable people- bright and articulate, more open in their intellectual curiosity than adults.
In many ways I have found my Confirmation class students to be similar. I experience them as bright, articulate young people who want to do well in school and do the “right thing.” But I also experience them as lacking in many of the foundations of faith knowledge – how to even read or open the Bible-and curiosity about faith as it relates to the world around them. On the one hand, I think this can be attributed to a general lack of interest in the church compared to other things.
It is no secret that for most teens, getting out of bed to attend church on Sunday mornings, or giving up a Wednesday evening with their friends to attend Confirmation, is about as exciting as being asked to help pick up the dog’s poop or take out the trash. Attending Confirmation is another homework assignment, an instrument of parental torture.
Which is also to say, dragging your teen to church isn’t exactly a pleasant experience for parents either. In a recent article “Why I Make my Teenager go to Church,” Mallory McDuff writes, “Making an ultimatum about church attendance to a sleep-deprived teenager may be my own version of hell on earth.”
But on the other hand, I think that this lack of faith knowledge and curiosity is part of a growing phenomenon in our culture in which faith is drowned out by a world of competing values and activities even on Sunday mornings. The New York Times, the soccer tournament, and a toasted sesame bagel is far more interesting than what happens in church on Sunday morning. For many families, faith is something that the church does for them or that isn't done at all.
Yet transformative faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t happen by osmosis. In fact, it doesn’t even happen through really, really good Sunday school teachers once a week. It happens in the rich soil of families and congregations where teenagers encounter the people that love them, enacting a larger story of divine care and hope.
Princeton Youth Ministry professor Kenda Dean points out, “The faith lives of the American Teenager mirror with astonishing clarity the faith lives of the adults who nurture them.”
Parenting and nurturing a teen is hard work But giving them a solid foundation of faith might be one of the most important things that we do as parents and as a community of faith. Included here are my ten commandments of raising faith-filled kids. They are important and a good place to start.