Confirmation is the opportunity for teenagers to ‘confirm’ the promises made on their behalf at their infant baptism. They are now at an age where they can reaffirm those promises and claim them publicly as their own.

If a teenager has not been baptized as an infant, then adult baptism is the appropriate public expression of faith. It would be meaningless for them to confirm promises that were never made over them as an infant, and redundant to be baptized and then confirmed on the same evening.

As the order of service for confirma­tion and adult baptism is quite similar, it is appropriate for teenagers who are coming forward for baptism to join with the confirmation candidates in the confirmation classes as their baptismal preparation. The service set aside for confirmation then includes both bap­tism and confirmation.

Who is it for?

Confirmation is for Christians only. This might sound obvious, but it is of­ten NOT the assumption of teenagers or their parents. It may be essential, therefore, to have a system whereby families have to apply for confirmation rather than it being an ‘open door’. It is entirely proper for us to turn down a potential confirmation candidate if they are not a Christian. Confirmation classes should not be run primarily for evangelism, although we should always bear in mind that during the course there may be those who come to a realization that they are not believers. We should be ready to point these teenag­ers to the Saviour in the hope that they may be converted.

Confirmation is a local church event, and as such it is only for those who have made your local church their spiritual home. Sometimes you will be asked by parents to confirm their kids even though they go to another church or even no church at all. When a teen­ager is confirmed, they make a prom­ise to continue in Bible reading, prayer and fellowship at your church, and you in turn make a promise to encourage and support them in this endeavour. You can only do this if the confirmation candidates are regulars at your church / youth group. Therefore we should not confirm teenagers who will then be at­tending another church (or no church at all).

The age for Confirmation

There is no required age for confir­mation in CESA. However, experience shows that the later teenage years (16-18) are when young people are responsible enough to claim the prom­ises made at their infant baptism with sufficient understanding and clear con­sciousness. This usually translates into running confirmation for grades 10-11.

Confirmation in CESA

Article 20 of the 39 Article begins:

‘The Church has the power to prescribe rites and ceremonies and has authority in theological controversies . . . (as long as it doesn’t prescribe) . . . anything that is contrary to God’s written word . . . ’

Nothing in Scripture forbids con­ducting a service where young Chris­tians, after a period of teaching and re­flection, are given a chance to publicly confirm their faith. And since such a practice has much to commend itself in the light of biblical teaching and practi­cal wisdom, confirmation as an event in local church life is entirely appropriate.

The CESA Handbook of Procedures has two sections relevant to confirma­tion:

In regards to Communion – Ch 1. 4

It states that while the communion ta­ble is open to any Christian regardless of denomination, as a matter of good order within our local churches no per­son may participate in communion un­til they have been confirmed, or ready and wanting to be confirmed. This pre­scription reflects the rubric contained at the end of the confirmation service in the Book of Common Prayer. It is spe­cifically directed toward those who are Anglican and serves within this context to reinforce the teaching that commu­nion itself ought only to be taken by those who have made a credible and responsible profession of faith.

In regards to church membership – Ch 3. 7

To become a member of a CESA church you must be ‘baptised and make a per­sonal confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for example, through a confirmation service or in some other way.’

NB: Ch 3.7 iii. requires that the person applying for membership be over 18 years of age. Therefore, confirmation of under 18’s does not give automatic church membership.

Problems some churches encounter

• In some churches confirmation is a traditional or cultural ‘rite of passage’. As a result parents push their teenagers into confirmation even though they are not Christian or in regular fellowship at their local church.

• Teenagers come for confirmation but then disappear from church or youth group shortly afterwards.

• Confirmation is seen by some as a way to keep restless kids in church.

• Confirmation is often confused with evangelism. When this happens it actu­ally encourages non-Christian teenag­ers to become confirmation candidates and make promises they have no inten­tion of keeping.

Confirmation mirrors the spiritual growth of your youth group

Think of confirmation as one of the fruits of youth ministry at your church. If you have no youth group, or the kids who attend are not Christians yet (or very young in the faith), you are under no obligation to run confirmation. In fact, it may be counter-productive. If we push the wrong kids through con­firmation classes, it not only makes a mockery of the public confession, but it should be no surprise when they disap­pear so quickly afterwards.

Running confirmation at your church

When it comes to what to teach in Confirmation classes, there are a few resources available, but they are quite dated and not contemporary to SA cul­ture. As far as CESA is concerned, there is no prescribed curriculum. Some churches run Christianity Explored (there is now a youth version avail­able), others focus on Two Ways to Live. I have structured my classes around the Apostles Creed, as this is what they con­fess in the service, and it is packed full of ‘ready to go’ doctrine lessons. (And let’s be honest, when else will our kids spend time learning from the Apostles Creed?) Most confirmation courses also involve the candidates writing out and giving their testimony.

There are many options for running your confirmation classes:

• You can run classes every week for a term.

• Perhaps you would prefer a weekend away where you complete most of the classes on a Confirmation Camp. (Why not join up with a few other CESA youth groups to make the weekend viable?)

• If you have a youth group that runs weekly small groups or discussion groups, instead of your regular youth programme run the confirmation class­es in this format for the term leading up to the confirmation service.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Confirmation doesn’t need to be the ‘elephant in the room’. It can be a real highlight and great opportunity in our mission to grow teenagers towards maturity in the faith.