If you teach Confirmation one hour every week for two years, you get 104 classroom hours with your students. 104 hours of instruction to convey life-giving, life-changing theology to young students. Sometimes those 104 hours stretch to eternity and other times you wish for 104 more. Either way, pastors, DCES, church workers and leaders want to get the most out of that time. This week’s Youth Ministry Symposium focuses on confirming the faith and what that means today. This blog and several others to follow will focus on how we wrestle with Confirmation and ways to make the most of those 104 hours to help students truly identify with the life and mission of the church.
Confirmation is about helping young people to develop their faith as they grow into adult members of the church. Confirmation should help students better understand Jesus’ incarnation and redeeming work, and that understanding should motivate them towards acts of mercy in His name. Because Christ took the form of a servant, we too should become servants to others. What students learn in Confirmation should motivate them towards a life reflected of God’s love for us. Thus, service learning is a natural extension of Confirmation, where we learn of God’s great love for us, and give students an opportunity to show love, care, and concern for those in need around them.
Three reasons why service learning can benefit any Confirmation program:
- Service Learning creates a shared experience that develops relationships.
Research shows that when people serve together their experiences are heightened and relational bonds are created that transcend normal group boundaries. Including service learning in Confirmation becomes a way for students, their families, and other church leaders to build relationships that will last long after Confirmation is over. It facilitates a supportive network of faithful people that young students need to keep their faith healthy and active through the teen years and beyond.
- Service Learning creates teachable moments.
Research says students who participant in meaningful service learning with helpful reflection in school make academic gains and incr
ease attachment, engagement, and motivation in school. This is true in Christian education as well. Meaningful service opportunities with well-designed reflection will help Confirmation instruction to stick and increase the interest of students in the material. In order to get those gains, we need to focus not just on the service, but the reflection as well. Faith growth comes when pastors, DCEs, lay people and families have meaningful, Christ-centered conversations about the service during and after.
- Service builds connections between your students, your church and your community.
Providing service opportunities for Confirmation usually means identifying other congregations or organizations who are working in your community and beyond. Identifying these partners is incredibly helpful for the church beyond Confirmation, and allows churches to build relationships with other churches, registered service organizations, and community organizations. Service provides opportunities to engage parents and other adults in the lives of young people.
Service learning is one component that can help cement those 104 hours of instruction into the hearts and minds of young students. Service learning is more than asking students to volunteer at church or at a local food bank. It’s not service hours done for the sake of checking it off a list. Service learning should be connected to Confirmation content, deliberately planned, and debriefed before, during and after. It should take the Bible’s call to share the light of Jesus out of the classroom, and helps students to see how they can show mercy to others. Confirmation service learning helps tie families and other members to Confirmation students during this critical time and beyond.