“Mom/Dad, I am not sure about this whole confirmation thing.” Turns out I may not be the first parent to have heard this phrase. If your son or daughter utters these words, don’t panic; here are five tips to open up conversation that I can neither confirm nor deny having personally used with my own child:
- First, ask “why?” and then realllly listen. Try to get to the heart of the uncertainty. Keep listening and asking. It may take a while to get a response deeper than the standard “I don’t know.” Perhaps they have seen something they cannot explain or reconcile and will answer with “I don’t believe all that stuff.” It may take time and deep conversation to get to the root of what is concerning them. On the other hand, they may have specific questions like “do I have to believe in Creationism?” Those answers depend on your church’s beliefs and the beliefs of your family. Don’t know the answer? Be honest and let them know you will study the questions together. Your church and denomination websites should have good info. Our denomination, the UMC, has a helpful website heading titled “what we believe.”
- Once you know what the core issue is explain or re-explain the process of confirmation. For example, “Being confirmed means that you are promising to do your own personal best to follow the teachings of Jesus by acting in love. You are saying that you want to continue to be a part of this church family which is doing its best to follow Jesus. Being a Christian will affect how you live your life, treat others and make everyday decisions.” You may also want to share what confirmation is not: “Being confirmed does not mean that you will wake up the next morning and no longer have questions. It does not mean that you are done learning, praying and worshipping. Your beliefs will evolve and change through your whole life. It also does not mean that your church will be perfect.” Tell them about times when being a Christian has influenced your choices and share your confirmation story. Let them know when and how often you pray, read the Bible, and serve others. Confirmation is truly a lifelong process.
- Tell them you are proud of them. (This will probably not be the response they are expecting.) But, think about it, they are using their still developing, pre-frontal cortex to examine abstract ideas. Having questions means they are being thoughtful. Sharing their concerns is brave. None of us want our kids to be confirmed just to have a party. We want them to make an intrinsically motivated choice they believe in. Wrestling with questions is a part of that
- Review your expectations. In our family, we require attendance and participation in all confirmation activities. We encourage discussions about faith. Consider asking your child to hold off on making a decision until a few weeks before Confirmation Sunday. Hopefully, knowing it is their choice will help them to focus on the learning and process rather than the final decision. Church attendance and service both in and outside the church is part of our family expectation until our girls leave for college regardless of whether or not they choose to be confirmed.
- Talk with your Pastor or confirmation leaders. You won’t be the first, second or even the tenth parent whose child has expressed doubts. Hopefully, the leaders will be able to shed some light on how your child has been participating in class and be able to offer some resources for you.
Do you have other tips you would add to the list? Please share in the comments.