First Third Conversations

Formation Centered Confirmation

By Rev. Tim Coltvet,Coordinator of Contextual Learning and Coaching for the Children, Youth, and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary

As I step back for a moment, I have to say, “I love confirmation!”  And I’m really excited for the next First Third Dialogue: Monkey Business.   I, perhaps like you, have actually been the envy of many of my evangelical Christian friends as they’ve wondered how we get this captive audience of middle school students to come to our Lutheran churches in droves on Wednesday night!  As wonderful as it is to see those shining eyes, smiles, and faces – one quickly learns that leading from the right place is going to be the difference between a confirmation ministry that thrives or simply upholds.

For lack of a better phrase – confirmation is to be formation centered, not information centered.  I have heard Dr. Nancy Going make this distinction a time or two in the halls of Luther Seminary.  And this phrase greatly informs the impassioned plea I often give to parents and students alike each Fall when embarking on yet another “kick-off” of confirmation (I know, the notion of “kick-off” conveniently fits with the NFL regular season schedule, for better or worse). 

I can see myself pacing in front of the captive audience as I physically act out the calling of the disciples.  It’s a beautiful story – a formation story - where Jesus calls the disciples by name, they drop their nets, and they follow him.  It’s personal, it speaks of a commitment, and it is formational community.  I know this talk well, because this perspective has informed how I view confirmation itself…as powerful relationships forming and being spiritually formed over time.  It is increasingly how I view life itself.  Every day we have an opportunity to “drop our nets” and follow, and spiritual formation will follow.

As confirmation wears on throughout the year, however, it can be easy to forget the compelling story with which we began – and more importantly the main character of the story who is calling each of us by name. 

And so, as we prepare for this First Third Dialogue on confirmation, I offer up a bit of a confession…for taking my eyes off of Christ all too often by burying myself in the details and minutia of building a program, or following a curriculum step by stepForgive me Lord, for tending to information, and remind me of this exhilarating call to be about formation, about a relationship that transforms and drives me deeper into ministry and mission for your sake.

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