Posted in Confirmation Class, Ministry

Taking the fifth

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 2.30.11 PMLast night was fifth commandment night in confirmation class. “You shall not murder.” So we ran through the gamut of the best known killing sins, from murder to abortion to euthanasia to suicide to manslaughter.

I guess my lesson gets pretty gruesome as I describe each, because several of the students bemoaned, “Do we have to talk about this?” “That’s horrible!” “Why are we even discussing this?” Which I find very interesting, because they are all gamers to some extent. They spend time in virtual worlds shooting people, crashing cars, blowing up zombies, and waging war. But when you actually sit down to talk about real killing, they get uncomfortable.

Perhaps that’s a good thing. We spend a lot of time in a virtual world of sorts, where shootings, explosions, fires, storms and epidemics fill our news feeds. Most of them don’t directly touch our lives, so it doesn’t bother us too much. It’s not till you sit down and talk about real killing — on your street, in your family, at the school — that we start to pay attention.

Maybe we need to talk about that more. We need to talk about what it really means to take care of someone in hospice, or with an unexpected pregnancy, or who has killed in war or law enforcement. Perhaps then we would understand the depth of this commandment and the importance of life to our Creator. We would better understand what we think are the “lesser” killing sins: anger, hate, bullying and hurtful language. We would better grasp what it means to take care of our lives, exercising, eating right, and getting enough. And maybe – just maybe – we would be moved to take care of others’ lives.

But if the class was uncomfortable talking about death, just wait. The sixth commandment is up next. Time to talk about sex!

Posted in Confirmation Class, Ministry, youth

Ten for ten

screen-shot-2017-10-17-at-5-06-39-pm.pngFor the first time this year, I had all ten of my confirmation class students together. Trust me, in a world where there is so much going on in the lives of our children and their families, this is nothing short of a miracle!

The students range in age from twelve to sixteen, from sixth grader to high school junior. They are all involved in other activities during the week, including but not limited to: band (three tubas and two clarinets), orchestra (violin), golf (at the state championship level; one young lady can drive 250 yds!), flag-football, boy scouts (one on the way to eagle), girl scouts, youth group, and future problem solving (with international competition experience). It’s a diverse group with interests that range from fried-chicken to robotics to “The Big Bang Theory” to their various pets.

It is such a dynamic time of life for them. Each is now just discovering their talents, passions and relationships as we learn how our Lord and faith affect every part of our lives. I’m fascinated. Our conversations take totally unexpected and bizarre directions every week. I was watching the video stream of last week’s class as we covered so many ideas about the third commandment and worship.

At one point, I told how some ancient civilizations made human sacrifices to appease their gods. That was their form of worship. One of the students shared that how they probably sacrificed the best looking people to please the gods, so it was better to be ugly and have ugly children. I said, “Imagine if that’s the way they did things in band?” After auditions, we’ll cut the best player from each section. By the end of the year, the band would sound horrible!

Some heard for the fist time that Jesus was Jewish. And that according to Old Testament law you weren’t allowed to eat shellfish. And how shellfish are bottom feeders, which is yukky. We discussed whether or not chickens have vocal chords (if not, how do they say, “bock?”) and whether or not it is OK to have a job that requires you to work seven days a week and words that my dog knows (bark, ruff and woof).

I’ve been teaching confirmation class for over thirty years, and it never gets old. Thank goodness for the catechism, laughter, and the joy of the Lord!

Posted in Ministry, Rant

It’s time for confirmation classes!

ringing-alarm-clock-28496894It’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!