At the beginning of the month (June 8th) the church celebrated its “birthday” on and we welcomed in two new disciples who made a membership covenant. My congregation and another partnered to participate in a joint confirmation class. We had six students in total. This was a really neat celebration because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work from the confirmands. They had been in class for a few months learning about the foundations of the Christian faith. They had conversation with each other, their parents, sponsors, and wrote a creeds about what they have come to know their faith to mean to them (watch the video for their creeds)
The hope for the New Disciples
Time and time again we told the students that the goal of the class was not to give them all of the church answers, but the tools to grow in their faith. Answers only get you so far and build a great looking facade, but once the nice and neat “sunday school” answers begin to face the pressure of real life the facade begins to crack fairly easily. Our hope is that with the tools that they have been equipped with and the care and nurturing of a church family these young people can continue to grow into the people God has in store for them to be. After all, they cannot rely on the faith of their parents, pastors or friends when things get tough. The need to have the tools and resources to grow and claim their own personal ministry.
The New Disciples Covenant
In the service we ask the students a couple of questions about placing their trust in Jesus and turning from the glamor of evil. These questions are a way for them to make a public statement of their own faith that is dependant on no one else. This is unlike when they were baptized as infants and didn’t really have a say in the matter. This is in part because the Methodist church understands baptism as a moment where we acknowledge God claiming us into the family through grace.
Confirmation on the other hand is a time where we are able to claim God and Jesus as our personal Lord and savior. So the students then make a covenant with God and with the Church that they will continue down the path of discipleship. An important part is that the new disciples covenant is not a contract. What this means is that if one party goofs up, the other is not released from the agreement. So if the student falls a way for a time, the church still committed to caring and loving that person. And I would add, if the church messes up, as has been known to happen, the individual shows grace rather than walks away from the church.
I have been doing confirmation classes for a while now and hundreds of students have come through the ranks making similar covenants. As these new disciples begin a journey of faith I would hope that the church doesn’t forget about them. Too many times confirmation feels like graduation from church when the reality is that it is the beginning of full incorporation into the church body. I would hope that young people are able to see that they are a vital part of the church right now and not just when they become their parent’s age. I would hope that chruch church would be open enough to see the wealth of wisdom and energy that our young people bring to the church as they see things in a different light. I love it when I see congregations actively discipling young people in worship and giving them ownership over ministry. I am seeking ways to give more authentic leadership/ownership to youth in my congregation now.
The bottom line is that when I see these new disciples making these covenants I hope they are not empty commitment, but commitments that will allow us as individuals to grow in our faith and strengthen the church universal.