The future of confirmation

November 24th, 2015

The United Methodist Publishing House is taking the bold step of creating new and innovative resources for youth ministry. Identifying key areas of need led to the development of our new resource brand Youth Ministry Partners, which recently launched at the Louisville National Youth Workers Convention. The name highlights our commitment to partner with and work alongside youth workers, agencies, conferences, and pastors in new ways to discover how to meet the diverse needs of youth workers.

Of significance to all of this is confirmation. Not only is confirmation a cornerstone of UMC ministry with young people, it’s also been a while since the initial publication of Credo, our last confirmation
resource. The main question we’ve heard is: “Will there be a new confirmation resource soon?” The answer is yes.

However, it will not look like Claim the Name or Credo. The feedback we’ve been receiving on Credo over the past couple years says that the way confirmation is being done in the local church has changed. We noticed and set out to learn more.

An advisory team of confirmation leaders from across the country that included pastors, conference youth directors, and innovative thinkers in youth ministry assembled to help us determine a way forward. Also in this group was the UMC representative working on the Princeton Confirmation Project, a PhD research project funded by the Lilly Foundation.

This group listened to people in their regions about their confirmation needs. The critical data that resulted, along with initial learning from the Princeton project research, have given us a clearer picture of the current confirmation landscape. 


Confirmation is being reinvented. Churches are experimenting with everything from the age of confirmands to the length of the process to the content. Patterns are emerging, but it’s clear that there’s a lot of variation among churches. Any resource must work for a range of contexts subject to things like age level, ability, special needs, urban, rural, suburban, church size, and ethnic composition.

Confirmation is being reclaimed as a discipleship process. Put another way, it’s being used as the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith rather than as an event that leads to a decision and a graduation. There’s an emphasis on shaping the confirmation/discipleship process to meet the developmental needs of teenagers. The goal is a faith that lasts.

Adult involvement is critical for the success of confirmation. Parents want to be involved. Confirmation is important not just for teenagers but also for their families. Confirmation enables the church to create a family approach to discipleship. Engaging parents for their own faith formation empowers them in their disciple-maker role with their teenagers.

From the time of the Old Testament, the responsibility of raising a child in the faith belonged to the parents and the faith community. New confirmation practices are involving more of the congregation in various ways, including mentors and teachers. This creates more opportunities to build the cloud of
witnesses and bring adults and youth together in ministry. The Princeton project research shows that confirmation is most successful in shaping sustainable faith when adults are engaged in the process.

Service is becoming a major component of the confirmation process. Traditionally, confirmands have learned how the church works by observing adults who serve in leadership roles. Now they are learning by doing. Churches are giving young people positions on councils and committees. Led by adults, teenagers learn what they need to know in order to step into those predetermined church roles when their time comes.

This new approach helps young people grow up and become coparticipants and coleaders in the congregation by giving them responsibility to do and to lead. In this way, adults shift from being the exemplars to empowering and coaching young people to serve, lead, and be disciple-makers themselves.

More partners are needed. The best metaphor for the future of confirmation is a buffet where confirmation leaders can make their own meals. This signals a significant departure from the traditions of the past. The opportunities presented by this shift are both exciting and very challenging. At UMPH we know that we can’t create the necessary resources by ourselves.

Early conversations and partnerships have been invaluable, but more conversations and partners are needed as we move toward launching new confirmation resources in the fall of 2016. In addition to input, we’re enlisting development teams and test churches. For more information on becoming a confirmation partner, email me at

We’re grateful for this new thing that God is doing and look forward to how we will join God in it.

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