I graduated from Confirmation in 2001. My strongest memory is of my friend Jeff's mom (who found her calling as a competitive ballroom dancer) doing a rap of the verse Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans that I have you-oo-ooh, declares the Lord. Not for calamity-ee-ee, to give you a future - and a hope! Jeremiah, twenty-ninah, verse 11." While I rolled my eyes in class and vividly remember watching Jeff's growing mortification at his parents, I never forgot that verse. I don't know how much PCUSA theology and polity I learned in the class, but I still remember those parents' engagement, attention and care.
For more than a few reasons, Confirmation at BMPC looked very different last year. It was entirely virtual, using technology that honestly we could only imagine in 2001. Adult volunteers similarly led our eighth graders. We had four fantastic adults who gave an hour and 15 minutes almost every Sunday for the past nine months to teach our Confirmands what it means to follow Jesus as a Presbyterian. Confirmands also have been accompanied on this faith journey by Confirmation Mentors, adults in our congregation who commit to meet with our kids monthly, walking alongside them in their faith.
As we inch our way back to "normal" life post-COVID, these relationships between youth and adults outside of parents could not be more critical. According to Springtide Research Institute, only 50 percent of young people with no mentors report that "they sense their life has meaning and purpose," whereas 91 percent of youth with five or more trusted adults in their life report an understanding of meaning and purpose (Relational Authority, 15). Additionally, 70 percent of youth with one trusted adult report feeling meaning and purpose, which jumps to 85 percent for youth with two to four mentors.
While these volunteer relationships won't solve the record levels of loneliness youth face today, they aim to foster these profoundly impactful mentor relationships. My greatest dream for our youth ministry is that each of our youth would eventually be able to point to five adults outside of their families who they know love and care for them, no strings attached. We have some work to do to get there, particularly with all the complications that COVID-19 caused. However, Confirmation provides a pretty incredible opportunity for our youth to engage with adults in our church in a safe, life-giving, faith-filled way.
This coming Sunday we'll have our closing Confirmation ceremony. Youth have submitted videos for the pre-recorded service, answering the Confirmation questions and reading the Apostles’ Creed. Then at the Outdoor Family Worship Service this Sunday at 4:00 p.m., the youth will be officially confirmed through the PCUSA Confirmation liturgy led by our pastors.
While this service will look quite different from my Confirmation back in 2001, I am hopeful that these youth will similarly feel the presence of God in their lives, in part through the love of the many adults who care for them.