Program Overview: CnC Youth

Our philosophy

Youth believe something and the church needs to hear it.  That’s the basis for Confirm not Conform (CnC).

Rather than imparting information from the outside, Confirm not Conform explores the beliefs and questions that come from the students themselves. The debate and discussion sparked by the students ignite their faith into something lively and real. CnC takes the idealism and skepticism that co-exist in young people and uses that energy to help youth become engaged with their faith and their community.

In addition to class sessions, CnC students go on field trips, attend a weekend-long retreat, work with mentors, participate in liturgies, and design and implement a service project as a team.

When you purchase CnC, we hope you will use this material as best suits your local situation, whether you have a handful of youth or a huge congregation; whether you start in September or spring. CnC is about confirming not conforming; it is a tool for you to use, one that we believe will serve you well, but not something that every church will use the same way.

Thank you for your interest in youth and in providing them with what they will need in all the changes and chances of life. Let us know how we can help you begin this journey – contact us anytime!

What the program includes

With your purchase of Confirm not Conform, you receive:

  • Getting Started guide
  • 20 lessons
  • Weekend Retreat handbook
  • Mentor/Parent handbook
  • iConfirm service
  • Promotional materials
  • Mentor recruitment and training materials
  • And more!

Information on revisions

You talked and we listened!  Here are some of the ways we have revised Confirm not Conform:

  • Lessons have more room to breathe! You told us that there was too much information and too much to do in each lesson.  We have added lessons to make it easier to complete activities without feeling rushed.
  • No/minimal homework  You told us that just the word homework made it harder for students who are already overburdened and overscheduled.  Most of the “homework” has now been incorporated into the lessons as part of the activities and discussion.  Those lessons that do require outside classwork have been reduced to a handful.
  • Easier to group lessons by subject  We have retitled lessons making it easier to group them according to subject matter. You don’t have to take lessons in order, but can pick the topics that matter most to your class.
  • Removing our assumptions about context Confirm not Conform was written for a suburban, middle-class parish and it shows.  We have done our best to rewrite with the knowledge that not all parishes have the same context.
  • Expanded preparation for service project  Information on the service project is presented earlier in the program and additional lesson time is given to help students determine what to do and how to do it.
  • Strategies for special needs youth  Understanding the importance of including all who seek God or a deeper knowledge of God, we have worked to include more activities that are accessible to a wider range of learning styles. We offer additional suggestions and strategies for youth with special needs in our Getting Started guide.
  • Additional information for the Vestry  Vestry are often nonplussed by what Confirm not Conform asks of them.  A brief handout allows you to make an informed presentation to the Vestry, explaining what is in it for them and for the parish.
A sample session is now available for download and review.

Why most youth confirmation programs don't work

By about age 12, the most important developmental task for youth is to discover one’s own identity. There’s tremendous power in this struggle. Youth can be some of the most amazing revolutionaries, in the best sense of the world: idealistic and inspired to change the world and transform the church.

But historically, most kids don’t seek confirmation on their own – they attend the classes because their parents demand it. And in most confirmation classes, attending generally means you are going to get confirmed. "Confirmation" is about "doing what you're told," rather than completing a rigorous journey of exploration. It’s about conformity from day one. It’s pretty much a guarantee of disengagement and duty.

Where in this approach is the celebration of a teen’s ability to choose? Where is their need – and right - to forge a personal identity? As a result of this approach, kids experience God coming from the outside in, not from the inside out. Talking about God is only lip service and the relationship with God and the church is inauthentic. For healthy and mature people, a relationship built on this kind of falsehood cannot endure.

How Confirm not Conform is different

As we worked with youth, we realized we needed a new message and a new methodology. Our class had to be about respecting the growing empowerment of the youth and the onset of more adult responsibilities. The class needed to show, both in content and form, that we believed them capable of making their own faith choices. Our task was to expose them to ideas, religions, experiences and concepts, and let the Holy Spirit and their own engagement do the rest. Our program needed to focus more on their questions than our answers, and put us in the role of companions and guides rather than instructors.

The result was Confirm not Conform, a program that celebrates young people’s spirituality, creativity and responsibility. Over the course of the CnC program, students come to believe we’re serious about giving them a voice and, when they claim it, the results are amazing. The program not only energizes youth; it strengthens and engages the whole congregation. In allowing our young people to grow, we end up growing our whole community.

Empowerment is for everyone. That includes you. We don’t ask you to conform to our curriculum. We offer it for your use but encourage you to adapt it, add to it and enrich it, adding your own church’s voice to the process. Asking questions and generating dialogue are at the heart of CnC. We hope you’ll become part of this ongoing dialogue.


Take a look at what people say about Confirm not Conform.