John Vest has written about Post-Christendom Youth Ministry, specifically on Confirmation. (Please do yourself a favor and read some of his posts. I don’t know him personally, but have been excited to read his posts and ideas surrounding this stuff!) He gave a presentation at the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference and has summarized it. I think his point below is one we need to take a look at…
Confirmation should function as a catalyst, training ground, and launch pad for these new expressions of Christian faith. Instead of trying to replicate the religious DNA of previous generations and training youth in religiosities they are unlikely to practice, confirmation should prepare young people for religiosities and spiritualities they might actually engage.
What if we were able to open up the communications with our youth and allow them to question their faith in a safe and welcoming environment? And not just once or twice a year for a lesson topic and not only in one-on-one settings or personal meeting (these are great tools to continue the conversations, but I’m pretty sure most youth are not going to jump at the opportunity to meet with a youth director one-on-one). I’m talking about creating a culture in which youth know it’s okay to ask whether or not God exists, because chances are 10 other youth are asking the same question, they just don’t want to ask it.
Creating a space like this makes us nervous. It makes me nervous. It would get messy. We wouldn’t have all of the answers. We would feel inadequate. We might even say something stupid. But it would be fun. It would be engaging. Youth would construct their own understanding of God. They would become theologians. Like purposeful theologians. (As opposed to theologians when we need a faith statement.) It would open the door to meet them where they are and give them the opportunity to explore where God is living and breathing into their own lives. By giving them this opportunity youth will start to think about the “religiosities and spiritualities” in their lives, not those lived by their parents or the generations before them. Life, faith and learning is different now than it was in the past, embrace this, it is an exciting time!
We need to ask ourselves a hard question, are we willing to let a space like this start to form our youth in a way that prepares them for a life of faith which will continue to ask the hard questions? Are we willing to let them ask those questions without a distinct yes or no answer? Are we willing to go beyond the knowledge of knowing a prayer and it’s meaning, or memorizing a Bible verse from a book they may not believe has importance in their lives?
I really think we do not have a choice but to change the process of engaging our youth in their own faith formation. It’s exciting and nerve wrecking at the same time, but I think it is time to start thinking differently, whether we are ready or not, and let the Spirit guide us into something new!