One of the best things my congregation does to help transition junior high students into our high school ministry is a tradition I inherited: The confirmation home visit.
Each fall, our associate pastor (who runs confirmation) visits all the 7th graders (those who are just beginning confirmation) in their homes. Meanwhile, I visit all the 9th graders in their homes just a few weeks prior to their confirmation, the Sunday on which they will affirm their faith. A student leader accompanies me on each visit.
At each visit, we get to know students and their families. We reflect on their experience in confirmation. We discuss their hopes for their continuing faith journey. We also share our excitement over having them in our high school ministry by plugging our weekly programs and some of our favorite yearly events.
In a word, these visits are awkward, sometimes painstakingly so.
As one of my student leaders observed after visiting one of our confirmands, “They're just not used to having an adult ask them a question and actually wait to hear their answer. That's weird for them.”
In addition to the awkwardness of that, I swear parents visibly relax when we stop talking about confirmation. It's as though until that moment, they fear I'm going to fail their child and prevent him from being confirmed.
Nevertheless, we endure. I keep asking questions. My student leader continues connecting with the confirmand, sharing stories about confirmation, high school, families, and our high school ministry. Eventually, we all relax.
Inevitably, it's in those moments I see God.
At confirmation, we ask students to affirm the promises their parents made at their baptism:
- To live among God's faithful people
- To hear the Word of God and share in the Lord's Supper
- To share the good news of Christ in word and deed
- To serve
- To strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
At each visit, I ask my student leader to share which of these promises has been easiest and hardest for her to live out in the years since being confirmed. I then ask parents to share which of these promises comes naturally for their family and which presents the greatest challenge for it. Finally, I ask confirmands to share which promise he anticipates being easiest for him to fulfill and which he thinks will be the hardest.
These questions are hard. They make people think. Yet, what I've discovered is that in the sharing of these joys and challenges, there is beauty; A sacredness that comes from sharing our faith within the walls of our homes.
After this, I always ask confirmands to envision themselves four year from now, after they've finished their senior year in high school. I ask them to share what they hope their faith will look like then. I also ask parents to do the same.
Again, these questions are hard because they make people think. Yet, what I've found is that in this process of speaking words that would otherwise go unspoken, there is beauty.
Beyond what is said during these confirmation home visits, there is also beauty in their underlying premise. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells his apostles, “Go and make disciples.”
Too often in the church, we expect people to come to us. Yet, during these confirmation home visits, we go to our people. We connect with students on their turf. And in this, too, there is beauty.
During these visits, students connect their faith to their home. Beyond that, they also connect to their parents, to one of my students leaders, and to me. Inevitably, they remember those connections.
On the way to a recent visit, I asked the student leader who was accompanying me if she had done any of these visits with me the previous year. After admitting her schedule hadn't allowed her to do so, she recounted, in detail, the visit one of my student leaders and I made to her house three years ago.
She remembered me, exactly who accompanied me (a fact I certainly didn't remember), and the details of our conversation.
This student leader's recollection of her own confirmation home visit reminded me that the hours spent discussing people's faith in their living rooms and on their back porches is always worth it; That these visits are so much more than awkward.
They are sacred.
And they are beautiful.