This is the post that hopefully begins to address what evoking curiosity and creating opportunities for encounter with Christ looks like in different aspects of Confirmation preparation. I’ve spent the last two weeks noting the challenges facing confirmation teachers, and then mapping an overarching approach to providing meaningful faith formation to encourage discipleship. So, what does this look like?
I’d like this to be an open forum of best practices. I’ll get the ball rolling with examples of things that have worked for me in each area. If you want to add to an area, or create a new one, just leave a comment below (this is of course conditional on the fact that people are reading this post…). Ok, here we go!
Creating Openness and Encounter
In the Classroom:
I love doing activities with students (using Playdo, Legos, crayons, and anything else you can think of). As an example, for Baptism, I had students build a symbol of a time when they felt new, reborn, or like a million bucks! The experiences that were shared were incredible. Then, after talking about why God calls us to new life, we all went into the chapel and everyone brought up a candle to the altar. When they lit the candle, they named one part of their life that needed a new start. The silence in between each student was intense and prayerful!
When I worked at a retreat center in upstate New York, we would run some week long service programs. The best part was “theological reflection” after dinner. We would break into groups and talk about the experiences of the day. Next, we would read a Bible passage or magisterial document, and reflect on it and the day by journaling and answering questions. We would then share some of our insights. This process was very effective, and the best part was that adults from the community were in the group too! It was very powerful for the teenagers to hear the struggles of the adults, and their perspective on the day’s events.
Exposure to the Parish Community:
There is no getting around it, if teenagers don’t experience the church community they are being confirmed in; there is no way that they will be invested in that community. Unfortunately, I have never seen this type of integration done, let alone done well. How do we expose teenagers to the richness of parish life? How do we make that life relevant and life-giving for them? How do we get parishioners to care about the students? I’d really like some insight on this one!
I think when it comes to Liturgy and Sacraments, more exposure is better than less. I was at a parish that didn’t want to make Mass part of the class because they feared the teenagers would be too distracting to the rest of the congregation. They probably would have been, but I don’t think that is a reason to not do it. How will students learn the importance of our liturgical life if it is not part of our formation program. And, let’s face it, a good number are not going to Mass with their parents… But I think this goes even beyond Mass. We have an overflowing treasure chest of beautiful liturgical experiences. Let’s show them what we got!
So, here are four categories to start with. Please add to them and add more of them if you wish. I think the more we share ideas, the better off our students are. I would like to do at least one more post next week talking about a theology of Confirmation, and where the question of age fits into the conversation.
Thanks for reading!