It’s that time of year again. There must be some sort of internal alarm that goes off in the minds of parents who have children entering 7th grade. It’s not a bell or a chime, but a voice which insists, “You better get your child to confirmation class!”
Parents who were somewhat raised in the church, who attended classes leading up to their confirmation, may not have been especially faithful in bringing their own children to church or Sunday School. But come hell or high water, “You are going to confirmation class.”
So here is what I’ve been wondering. What does it do to a young person’s faith when Mom and Dad suddenly make you go to confirmation class? Or youth group. My youth leaders started off their year by asking those who came to the first meeting, “So why did you come tonight.” Some youth answered, “My mom made me come.” What will be their memories of youth group?
Do you have any idea what it’s like to face a room full of middle school youth whose faces broadcast, “I would rather be anywhere but here”? I have to get and keep their attention, earn and keep their trust, and build a pastoral relationship from scratch.
So basically, parents brought their kids to be baptized, stopped in from time to time to worship at Christmas and Easter, and now hope that I will be able to prepare their children to confess their faith and commit to being faithful unto death. That is a daunting task. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I’m up to it.
Weeping and gnashing of teeth follow when I tell them they need to do sermon reports. Which means you have to come to church and listen to a sermon. Suddenly mom and dad have to get up and come for worship, too. Ouch. And there is memory work to do. What? Are you serious? Yes, I am.
This is when I am humbled and discover exactly where I rate in this world. If the coach says, “You have to be there,” you are there. If the band director says, “You have to be there,” you are there. If the scoutmaster say, “You have to be there,” you find a way to get there. If the dance teacher says, “You must be there,” you go. If the pastor says, “You must be there,” you say, “Well, the [coach, director, scoutmaster, teacher] said I have to go [to practice, to rehearsal, to class]. Sorry, I can’t come this week.”
Sigh. You have spent eleven years teaching your children by example that your faith is not really all that important to you. I thank you for your confidence in me. But I am also sorry; there is little I can do to undo that.
OK, this is not always the case. In fact, this year my three second-year students come from families who have been faithful in worship for years. I have known these young people since they were very young, and it is a joy to teach them, encourage them and learn from them as they boldly confess and live out their faith.
It’s not a perfect process, but I am so blessed to be a part of it!