So I believe this is my thirty-fourth year teaching confirmation class for middle school students. I teach this class weekly during the school year for two years, covering half of the Small Catechism each year. This year I have eight students, four of whom are new and four returning students who will be confirmed next spring.
On my drive home last night, it occurred to me that I am now fifty years older than my students. That is two generations of space between us. On the one hand, that makes me feel old. On the other, it makes me feel young. For about ninety minutes each week, I enter their world, teaching them the timeless of truths of God’s Word. I love hearing how the Gospel applies to their world, which is a very different place than when I grew up.
This year I have a parent sitting in each week so I’m not alone with the class. Last night’s mom commented after class, “I feel like I should go home and slap both of my girls!” (She has two in the class.) I told her that wouldn’t be necessary. I’ve gotten used to the unique dynamic of teaching twelve to fourteen year old youth.
I like a lot of interaction, questions and answers, shock and awe, and of course, laughter. So to the casual observer, the class looks and sounds chaotic. There are often several conversations going on at the same time. We change subjects often. We pursue wild tangents. Amazingly, we just about always end up at the Gospel, which is the whole point, right?
Here are a few things I’ve noticed that haven’t changed and a few that are radically different in the lives of the middle school youth that I get to teach.
- Algebra and Geometry are still hard. (I never thought so, but I’m a math guy. I liked that stuff.) We sometimes plot graphs, solve quadratic equations and do a couple of proofs, just for my amusement.
- Every kid in this year’s class has an iPhone. No Android devices in this group. From what I understand, phones are mostly used to watch YouTube and look at memes. Most have a Bible app loaded, but I make them use a print version for most of the class. Siri is an entertaining ninth person in the class, too.
- Teachers are still totally unresonable. According to my students, they assign way too much homework, hand out referrals for no reason at all, and rarely smile.
- Friends are still extremely important. Everyone tosses the names of friends around when we talk about relationships, trust, forgiveness, betrayal, feelings and love. That is where the rubber hits the road.
- Sin is hard to identify. They are all little Pharisees who don’t worship idols, haven’t murdered anyone, haven’t stolen anything, and honor God’s Word in worship, Sunday School and youth group. It takes many weeks to reveal the selfishness, materialism, jealousy and hate in their hearts and minds. Pretty much just like adults.
- Even though they are exposed to a lot of violence, corruption and sex in the news and video games, they cringe when I speak honestly about blood, crucifixion, war, sexual immorality, abortion, and other graphic Biblical topics. The looks on their faces was priceless last night when I talked about Moses tossing blood on the altar and on the people as a part of God’s covenant with them in the Old Testament.
- At times their knowledge base is extensive. Other times it is limited. I have had to delicately explain “circumcision,” a “blunt,” “prostitution,” what contitutes “sex,” and what really happens when an abortion is performed. When I do, I always report to my parents the topics that came up. I’ll bet you don’t envy me.
- This year’s group is unique in that they are all involved in worship and most are present for Sunday School and serve in youth ministry as well. For the first time this year, I told a family who wanted to send their kids to class that they were welcome to attend, but I wouldn’t confirm them. This family historically is way too busy to ever attend worship. I wasn’t very nice about it, though. I think I was having a bad day.
Imagine your grandfather teaching your confirmation class. Yep, that’s me, gray hair and all. It sure makes me feel younger though. That’s why I keep coming back for more.