The importance of saying no

One of the things that I find confuses or concerns people about Confirm not Conform is our absolute insistence that youth must have a real choice about whether or not to be confirmed. They must be allowed to say no if they so choose and for that choice to be respected – even honored.

Here are some of the things I’ve heard: What if they know they can say “no” and so don’t participate in the confirmation program? What if they’re just doing it to spite their parents? What if they haven’t really thought it through? What if they say no and never come back?

OK, so first of all, Do not be afraid. 

Secondly, I’ve now been working with Confirm not Conform for seven years and I can tell you that the youth who say no are almost always doing very deep work during the confirmation process. In my experience, they do not say “no” lightly. When the choice is presented as an honest choice, when youth are truly given that autonomy, they take it very seriously. 

Thirdly, being able to say no is an incredibly important skill for youth to develop. Confirm not Conform provides a safe place to practice that skill in a way that can be applied to other situations when “everyone else is doing it.” I believe saying no is a learned skill. Giving youth the opportunity and time to do so in a safe environment will help them develop that muscle for other situations when they may not have as much time for reflection. 

And finally, it’s important for parents and adults to practice giving youth autonomy over their decisions and their lives as well. That’s not an easy skill either, and again, confirmation is a safe environment for youth and parents to experience this.

There are certainly times when parents and other adults have the power to override a youth’s decision, but when it comes to confirmation – a time when youth are specifically invited to stand up and say what they believe – in that case, we need to let Jesus and the confirmands take the wheel.