The Confirmation Journey4 min read

In my previous congregation, we described the confirmation process as “one step in the life-long journey of the child of God growing in faith.” That journey begins at the Baptismal font, where God claims us as His own and Jesus says, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:18-19). It continues as parents (and grandmas and grandpas) in the home, as teachers in Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and day school, as pastors in confirmation instruction and other settings teach the faith. It continues as youth and young adults and older adults “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Word of God and gather around His Table. It’s the life-long journey of “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) – learning more about my Savior and His love for me, knowing that He walks beside me throughout the journey, picking me up when I slip, strengthening me when I’m weak, calming me when I’m anxious.

In the first class session, I would ask the students to give their understanding of “confirmation.” Usually at least one paper would be turned in with the heading “conformation.” My first response was to correct the young person. But the more I thought about it, the more I recognized that they were not altogether incorrect. Consider Paul’s words to the Romans: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29). It seems to me that this is what this life-long journey is all about – growing more and more in, and through, and closer to, my Lord Jesus.

I would suggest that the focus of confirmation is two-fold: to teach the faith (catechesis and catechism) and to equip young people to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). I am convinced that, while it has always been true, it is critical in our world today that young people (and the not-so-young as well) be taught not only the “what,” the teaching of the faith, but also the “what does this mean?” – what does this matter for me and my life, and the “how is this done?” – how does this show itself in my life and impact the things I face?

I suppose when you get right down to it, this journey, at its core, is a matter of the heart. It is a concern, an emphasis, an attitude – toward young people, toward families, toward the family of faith. It is a ministry grounded in Word and Sacrament, where Jesus is seen and the Gospel is lived in and through His people, as His love and will and message is constantly upon your hearts; impressed upon your children; talked about when you sit down and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up; carried with you and seen in you and constantly before you (Deuteronomy 6).

Retreats – through times of worship, study, reflection, and fellowship, individually, in small and larger groups – provide the opportunity to reinforce the teaching and preaching of God’s Word in the lives of students in the confirmation process and apply God’s Word and issues of faith in a setting other than the classroom.

I was at a meeting in St. Louis when I met one of my former confirmands who is now a Lutheran school teacher. As we talked, I asked what she remembered about the retreats we incorporated in our confirmation ministry. She said she remembered learning about her faith in a different context than the classroom and how the applications of what she had studied in those settings helped strengthen her faith.

I encourage your congregation to consider and participate in one of the confirmation retreats provided in October at Camp Arcadia. These are wonderful opportunities offered in partnership with the Camp and the Michigan District. I would encourage pastors to consider attending this opportunity with their confirmands. I found the time spent with these students, on retreats and other events we incorporated into our instruction, to be wonderful opportunities to reinforce and strengthen young people in their walk of faith, and an invaluable opportunity to connect with them on a different level and from a perspective that is not present in the classroom.

May God richly bless you and your service, in the name of Jesus, to His honor and glory and the blessing of many.

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About the Author

Rev. Galan D. Walther is Assistant to the President - Congregation Mission and Ministries, Southwest & Thumb Zones/Family Ministries for the Michigan District, LCMS.

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