First Third Conversations

The Messy Reality of Young People and Faith

By Dr. Nancy Going, Director of the CYF Distributed Learning Program at Luther Seminary  

We at the Center for FirstThird Ministry at Luther Seminary are committed to walking alongside you and your church as you tackle the huge challenge of re-creating a rite deeply embedded in the fiber of the Lutheran church.

Confirmation, at its core is no more than a process of helping young people prepare to affirm their baptism.

But pretending that the young people at your church are all at the same place in their life of faith or are even ready to take this step is not a good idea. I know you know this, but a huge first move in working the Confirmation process differently is seeing your students differently.

For some of the young people at your church, that means learning the story of Jesus for the first time. They are baptized unbelievers. Their parents haven't kept those promises they made to do that, but they see the confirmation process as the means to do that. That can be a good thing, if you recognize that is what you are doing. Luther talked about the church being full of people like that too. That's actually why he wrote the catechism. But we know that all that information in the catechism won't bring people to a maturing faith in Jesus. People and the Spirit do that.

For some of the young people in your church, faith is alive and real and they have been walking with Jesus for years. They have a lively faith, so they are naturally going to be more interested in learning more about this Jesus that they have already come to love. But the info in the catechism is not what will bring it to life for them, and allow them to continue to walk into a maturing faith. People and the Spirit do that.

For most of the young people at your church, faith is like wallpaper. That notion isn't mine, it comes straight from the National Study of Youth and Religion. They believe in God, but like their parents(!) believe faith in Jesus is about being nice and doesn't really impact their life plans. That's why its so easy to only be a part of a church when it is convenient. No matter how much you require of them, you can't make the information or this process more important to them. But you can challenge and love them, and place them in experiences where God has promised to meet them. People and the Spirit do that too.

What about you? What ways have you already discovered to take the varied faith needs of your students seriously? What new ways are you considering for the coming year?

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