This may be the time in your program year of Confirm not Conform when some of your youth are tallying up absences to class sessions. The newness of the commitment may have worn out a bit. Schedules get tighter and tighter. It is a perfect time to remind our participants who we want to hold ourselves accountable to...
We just shared Session 10 this past Sunday - the session on how we help. I was blown away by the passion and interest the youth had in issues and concerns of the world. It wasn't just their knowledge of the issues, but the reason they felt accountable to making the world a better place. At the recent Rooted in Jesus Conference I had the chance to hear the Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Seminary, The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas speak. She shared a personal story of seeing two kids in need in her home town. For decades this has been an image etched in her mind. In the work she does, she consistently remembers feeling accountable to those kids and has lived her life with this belief; "Never withhold from another what you wouldn't withhold from yourself."
In the next opening or closing of your CnC session, ask your youth to meditate on a memory or an image they have seen in the news that depicts who they feel accountable to in making a difference in the world. Leaders - who do you feel accountable to in the work you are doing? I am grateful for your ministry in Confirm not Conform!
As we enter into the Advent season and begin to look East, I wanted to share a story from one of our East Coast participants of Confirm not Conform. This also reminds us of what we are looking forward to as some of us come to a mid-point in the CnC year.
From Pastor Jen Miwok at United Church of Underhill in Vermont:
In June, UCU held two exciting celebrations to mark new chapters in the faith lives of many within our church family.
On the evening of Saturday, June 22, seven senior high youth participated in a special “iConfirm” service, the culmination of their confirmation program, which began in February. The service was a part of the Confirm not Conform curriculum used in the class. It recognized the faithful discernment process of each student, whether or not they ultimately chose to join the church. As a part of the service, each student memorized, presented, and taught on a passage of scripture. They were accompanied by their mentors, who met with them periodically throughout the confirmation process, and were presented with special gifts: Lectio Divina Bibles, handmade stoles signed by their mentors and families, and bookmarks with excerpts from their memorized passages of scripture. Afterwards, families, friends, and church members gathered for a celebratory cookout and game night on the church lawn.
Then on Sunday, June 23, we welcomed eight new members into the life of the church through baptism, confirmation, and reaffirmation of faith. See the next page for brief bios of our seven confirmands and two new members. The confirmation bios include references to the scripture passages each youth memorized. As pledged during the June service, please continue to keep all of our new members in your prayers and care!
There is often a hurried last minute feeling as we launch into the rhythm and routine of fall. Then all of the sudden you look up and it’s October. I hope that for many of you who have started the CnC program this fall, you are feeling like you understand the format and the ways to connect it with your community and context. The last two pieces of our Quick Start-Up Guide encourage you to do two things:
1. Schedule time to review the program. You may have noticed that the curriculum is very complete and thorough. So much so that it can feel like you can just turn to the Session right before your class and teach. I encourage you to give yourself a chance to get ahead of the game. Spend at least 30 minutes reviewing the material for a session so that you can interact with it with the participants. After class, see what is coming up next and stay ahead of it! Reviewing the upcoming lessons will help you understand the road map of the program.
2. Don’t panic. Or to be more Biblical about it, Fear not. Take a deep breath. Let go of the need for things to be perfect. Let go of any anxiety about how much you have to do. Take one step at a time. It’s going to be all right. Remember: We’re here to help.
Please contact me if you have any questions, if you are navigating any obstacles, or if you just want to tell me how awesome everything is going for your congregation! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just to tell you where I’m coming from: I’ve been teaching CnC for probably 10 years now. Every year I’ve talked the talk about how youth and parents need to make a commitment to attend CnC classes. Yes, youth are busy; yes, they have soccer and drama and all the rest. But if they want be part of the CnC program, they need to make the commitment to be there.
And now my daughter is old enough to be in CnC and I’ve had to walk the walk.
My daughter is a competitive gymnast. She has practice every day and meets on many weekends. And if she took CnC, she might not be able to compete in some of the big meets. She might be left out of certain team events that she could succeed in. There was a real possibility (or maybe just a threat) that if I took my daughter away from gymnastics in order to go through the CnC program, it might hurt her prospects. (I kind of feel that ought to be in capital letters, you know: It Will Hurt Her Prospects!!!)
But I realized if I thought this program was important enough for other parents and other youth to make the choice and commitment to attend, I had to do the same thing.
When I went to talk to my daughter’s coach, I got a some push-back on the fact that she was going to miss a few classes. I finally said to them, “Listen: if we were Jewish, and I said I was taking her out of class for a religious observance, would you be giving me this kind of resistance?” They said, “Well, no.” It’s a very strange thing how if we practiced some other religion, sports teams might be more accommodating. But I just don’t think we’re used to thinking of ourselves as needing accommodation for our religious observances, maybe because we already get the holidays off, or maybe because it just doesn’t occur to us that others should or would be willing to accommodate our faith.
If you’re getting concerns from your parents about how for this reason or that reason, their kid can’t participate in CnC, first of all, you’re not alone. We get that every year. And every year, Scott Denman tells them straight out, “If you can't make a commitment to come to the classes, then CnC is not for you; we don’t want to put you in a position where you’re torn.” People aren’t used to that coming from a church.
I often ask, “OK, where’s the real conflict?” Are we talking about how your kid is going to be 40 minutes late to every class? Then that’s not going to work. If there’s 18 things conflicting with CnC, then I can’t help you. But if there’s one thing, let’s talk.
But often it’s not the scheduling conflict that’s the real issue. One father once said to me, “I have no ego in my kid being at church, but I do have my ego in them being in sports.” Being in sports or a performance or whatever—there’s something that seems like achievement in that; getting confirmed, especially when the parents are used to a “do whatever and you’ll still get confirmed” kind of program—well, there’s no real achievement in that. Or at least it doesn’t look like achievement. And then they get to the iConfirm service and realize what their kid has actually accomplished and they’re so surprised. It’s like the mother on the CnC video [unavailable today] says, “I saw this young man I would have liked to have known, even if he wasn’t my own son.” And they don’t even know that that person is right there in front of them. [The son in question is an elite soccer player, by the way.]
There was one other mother who had decided that her son was just too busy to be in the CnC program. They were driving home after the information night, and she was going on and on about how he had this to do and that to do and she didn’t think it was going to be possible, and the son finally said, “Mom, I could really use some God in my life.”
We say all the time that you can do whatever you like with the CnC program. But on this one, you really need to challenge yourself and your parents—it’s more the parents than the youth—that making the commitment is important. If they can’t make the commitment, that’s fine. But then they’ll have to do the program another year. It’s what’s fair to the church, to you as a leader, and to all the participants. The commitment everyone makes is what ensures you’ll get all the good out of Confirm not Conform.
Written by Kellor Smith and posted on the original CnC Blog on 09/12/10. It is reposted with minor edits.
Confirm not Conform
Confirm not Conform provides a safe place for people to explore the breadth of the Christian tradition, to ask questions and express their doubts, and to discover what they truly believe.