an open letter on confirmation


Dear parents,

I don’t have children. Maybe this means that my thoughts on this don’t matter. But I was a child once, and that counts for something.

So, can we talk about confirmation? And can we talk about why it doesn’t seem to matter to your kids . . . or to you?

I get that it’s one more thing you have to do during the week, that it’s one more place you have to drive your child, that it’s one more book she has to remember to grab before leaving the house, that it’s one more hour you can’t spend cleaning at home.

But it’s a really, really important hour each week.

A life and death kind of hour.

Dads, in that hour, your daughter will learn about holy things, things that have implications for her eternal life. She’ll learn that when other girls pick on her and bully her, when she questions whether anybody likes her, that her Baptism — and the gifts of grace and faith given to her there — will comfort her.

Moms, in that hour, your son will learn that when he doesn’t want to talk to you about something stupid he did, because he’s embarrassed and because you’re his mom, he can talk to his pastor, because he was a young man once too. He’ll learn that our Lord puts commandments and people and His Word in his way to protect him and to care for him.

In that hour, your twins will discover what the Church has always taught even though they’re not even two decades old. They’ll memorize Bible passages that they’ll recall when they’re 80 years old and their memory is fading in and out like a staticky radio station. They’ll learn how to differentiate between what is good and what is evil, what is true and what is false, what we know to be sure and certain about our Lord and what we know to be false about the world.

In that hour, your child will be fed with the very Word of God, taught what a life lived under the cross looks like, and refreshed with a peace that the world simply can’t give.

That’s why confirmation and Sunday School matter, why church matters. It’s why it matters to your daughter. It’s why it ought to matter to you.

You say you just want your child to be happy. But that’s not really true. Or it shouldn’t be. You should want your child to grow in his faith, to be a pious Christian, an upstanding citizen, a respectful young lady, a Christian who bears witness to Christ’s work in him in all that he does and repents when he doesn’t.

So if you’re tired of having one more thing to do during the week, having to drive your child one more place, or remind her one more time to grab her catechism before she leaves the house, or leave one more bathroom uncleaned . . .

Give up soccer. Even if you you went to college on a sports scholarship and you love watching her play.

Give up 4-H. Even if you have cows to show and you want him to learn how to show them.

Give up chess club. Even if you think it’s the most strategic way of thinking your child will ever learn.

Give up quiz bowl. Even if other parents give you the stink eye.

Those things may look shiny on earthly paper, but they pale in comparison to what your child will learn in church, in confirmation.

So tonight, when you are tempted to find a reason not to help your son with his memory work or to tell that your daughter she can fudge her catechism quiz, hold up.

And then dig in to the good stuff with them. Do the hard work. Sit beside them on the couch, and memorize the Bible and the catechism too. Encourage them in their study of God’s Word. Pray with them.

Because, believe it or not, when you show that things  matter to you, they will start to matter to your kids too.

And when they are tempted to be more excited about soccer cleats or showing hogs, point them back to the cross. Remind them that Christ came into this world to redeem them.

And that’s cooler than any quiz bowl trophy.

(Although admittedly that’s not saying much.)

I promise.


A girl who was in confirmation once herself

18 thoughts on “an open letter on confirmation

  1. I am blessed to have had my dad be my pastor and teacher and now my kids attend Lutheran school and learn catechism in school. But I do wish that it be required (maybe strongly encouraged is better) that an adult/parent/slash guardian attend with the kids. My dad was already teaching it to me, but I think it would replenish the learning in the parent as well.

  2. Excellent piece, Adriane! It is indeed very encouraging for pastors and all catechists since it is a struggle we confront daily. My thoughts are simple, I think. We should NOT have early communion, as separated from confirmation. If a catechumen is truly able to discern and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, then they are ready to be confirmed, regardless of age! I honestly believe that the sainted Dr. Luther put the Sacrament of the Altar as the final chief part of the Catechism (both Large and Small) for a reason.

  3. I like reading the comments. I would add that age 13 when I was confirmed is a very impressionable age. I have one grandson who will become 13 the week he is confirmed this May & he has learned and understands. Two more grandchildren will be 13 when they’re confirmed next year.

  4. I think communion should be at a younger age. and confirmation at an older age. because at 13 or 14 I am not sure that they truly gasp what they are commiting to. that they would rather die than turn away from our Lord and the church.

    1. Thelma,

      You present an interesting perspective. Why do you think Communion should be received at an earlier age and Confirmation later?

      I get your concern that kids need to comprehend what they are “committing” to. Yet, part of one’s preparation to receive the Lord’s Supper worthily is an awareness of their sin, a comprehension of Christ’s very body and blood truly given by means of the host and cup in the Sacrament, and the intent to partake of the Sacrament often. (1 Cor. 11:23-26) The Large Catechism gives an indication of how young someone is who can truly comprehend what the Church is. (LC, II)

      With that said, you’re right. The comprehension that we desire to die rather than to fall away from trusting in Christ is profound. Yet, this begins to develop from Baptism onward through parents’ care, good Sunday school instruction, Confirmation, and tons of Christ-centered preaching. Sunday school, in particular is good when it conveys from the earliest age possible the gifts of Christ, Law and Gospel, sin and grace, forgiveness, etc. Programs such as GROWING IN CHRIST beat the moralizing, Pietism of decades past hands-down.

      Then, Confirmation wouldn’t be as too many people think–that added program on top of other things to do. Instead, it remains the same as all growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18, Gal. 6:6-7, Rom. 10:14-17) is from the get-go in life. After all, one can’t shoot hoops to get into heaven. Yet, one can certainly rejoice in the gifts our Lord gives him/her and love for his neighbor even in mundain activities such as shooting hoops. One can’t get into heaven by dating the right girl or boy. But, being taught and armed with the Word of God, one can rejoice in the friendships and dating opportunities that the teenage years (or younger) have to offer.

  5. Perhaps this is a thought for another day or another post, but why do we wait so long? Why do we make them feel like outsiders for so long and then suddenly tell them that now they can be “real” members when they’re 13 or 14 years old? My son could tell us that the bread and wine were Jesus’ body and blood by the age of 2. He was starting to recite the Lord’s Prayer and the NICENE Creed (because we always went to Communion service and the Nicene was always said for Communion services). He’s been through the catechism several times and has memorized the 10 Commandments once around 3 or 4 years old. He asked for a long time to be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper. What are we waiting for? What is all this, “Oh people won’t understand why he gets to do it so young.” jibber jabber And believe me, even young children know when they’ve sinned!

    As a Deaconess intern, I served a church that confirmed in 5th grade. The children came every week with a parent or a Sponsor or another important adult in their lives who attended every session with them. They worked together on the lessons. There was lecture time and small group discussion. The adults in their lives were extremely actively involved. These children asked excellent questions, and so did their parents. The option was open, too, for those who felt their children were ready at a younger age in consultation with the pastors.

    Piano lessons. Soccer. 4-H. They all start a lot younger than Confirmation. They start ’em young. They captivate their hearts. What are we waiting for?

    1. I’m right there with you! There’s a reason there’s a service for early Communion in our hymnal . . .

    2. Amen! I am a pastor and I just recently confirmed two younger kids- a fifth grader and a seventh grader. Both kids have been growing up in the church and could recite most everyting that is taught in Confirmation Class. I taught the class more like a discipleship class, emphasizing application and growing in their faith, rather than just memorizing stuff. Both of these kids have received their First Communion! They were greatly anticipating the great joy in receiving God’s grace given in the True Body and Blood of Christ! Why wait? If they are ready, do it!

  6. Adriane, with all due respect the answer is not better commitment to midweek classes. The answer is parents taking up the responsibility of daily prayer and catechesis in the home. I cannot do in 45 minutes a week what needs to be done daily in the home. The whole system is flawed not just the dedication to it.

    1. Pr. Hoppe,

      Your point is well-put. I really think it’s a both-and thing. That’s why I think Adriane’s open letter is great for pastors to share with not only Confirmation students but also with the entire congregation. Many congregations treat Confirmation as if it were that added-on amount of work to do during middle school. Rather, Confirmation, while concentrated in the middle school years, is and aught to be an intensified instruction in God’s Word which begins in folks from infancy. (2 Tim. 3)

      One of the reasons which I see for Confirmation classes being kept right where they need to be, if not earlier, for children is that they are receiving and comprehending greater the challenges to their trust in Jesus Christ everyday. You’re right. Parents need to be involved along with the pastor(s) and elders in catechesis of children already. Then, in Confirmation an element of apologetics might be instilled along with the dogmatics and ethics of Lutheran theology.

      I also wish more congregations would get on board with Higher Things so that children going into high school and college will keep on daring to be Lutheran, not just in name only but in and throughout the stuff/vocations of life.

    2. You’re right. It’s their job, not yours. But if they’re not teaching the faith in the home, a good first step might be to start taking what their kids are learning in church seriously.

  7. That is why I am on a mission to address education, and specifically confirmation, in the Lutheran church. We expect 13 year old kids to take it seriously? That’s silly. They’re 13. They don’t take much seriously. We need to demand that parents take it seriously by pastors being taught how to teach it better and expecting more and holding both kids and parents accountable.

    Check it out:

  8. I wish that pastors would share your open letter on Confirmation with their whole congregations, not just with their Confirmation students.
    Because, The words, “for you” call for all hearts to believe, (SC VI, 10), Confirmation further teaches the everything” that our Lord Jesus has given us. (Matt. 28:19-20) After all, those kids who have quiz bowl, hoops, homework and hormones going on, they and we need that solid certainty that Christ Jesus died for our sins and rose for our justification. (Rom. 4:25) It further instills the facts that found our trust in Jesus.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post Adrianne. I so agree! I didn’t grow up in a Lutheran area so my dad, a farmer, drove me to North Kansas City every Saturday morning for 2 years for confirmation classes. I am over 70 now and remember much of what I memorized and learned then. We drove our girls about 20 miles for class and all the miles were worth it! Our future church members really need to know what our church teaches and why. They need to understand the pledge and promise they make at ther confirmations, also.

      1. My father is now in Heaven, but, thankfully, my husband is just as faithful.

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