September 11, 2016
Mark Hinds remembers the effect that confirmation had on both himself and his brothers.
“In our family, it had a 30 percent success rate,” Hinds told a room full of Christian educators at the 2016 Association of Presbyterian Church Educators gathering in Chicago. “I’m still in the church; my brothers aren’t.”
As heads nodded in response to Hinds’s admission, the room hummed with questions about the efficacy and future direction of the confirmation process in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Hinds, publisher for the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Congregational Ministries Publishing, and Rev. Dr. Gordon Mikoski, associate professor of Christian education at Princeton Theological Seminary, co-taught a workshop on on the Confirmation Project, which seeks to determine the extent to which confirmation and equivalent practices strengthen discipleship in youth. The study, which is underwritten by a Lilly Endowment grant, focuses on five Protestant denominations: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Methodist Church.
Mikoski said the study was undertaken because “anecdotal evidence is that confirmation is not really working like it used to.”
“People on the ground have the sense that unless they have groundbreaking stuff, the old way isn’t working anymore,” he said. “They’re looking for some sort of ‘magic curriculum,’ but there are much deeper issues that have to be looked at.”
In studying what type of confirmation curricula denominations currently use—independently published, self-written, nondenominational—Mikoski said that there are “significant implications for rolling out new curriculum.”
Mikoski explained the evolution of confirmation practices in the church by presenting a timeline.
“Confirmation arose out of a fracture in baptism in the early church,” he explained. “You’d do the water part, and then later, you got the baby to the bishop to do the confirmatio. Over the years that rift grew and became farther and farther apart.”
Today there is “a great deal of confusion and frustration” about the theology of confirmation and a lot of diversity in its practice.
“It has been that way for 1,000 years,” said Mikoski. “Maybe we can rethink it.”
Publication of a new denominational curriculum is expected in the fall of 2018.
Emily Enders Odom, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Christian Education
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PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
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Praise to you, living God who makes all things possible and new! Guide us as we seek to share the love of Jesus Christ through our words and our work. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.