Confirmation Examinations

I took a week of vacation during Holy Week. It gave me the chance to be part of a special event for my older grandson. On that Tuesday evening, he and the other confirmands at his church in Iowa met with the session to complete their confirmation process. It was one of those nights when my daughter and her husband could not get everyone where they needed to be on time, so I got to help.

I went to a junior high track meet to see my grandson run a long relay race. Then I was part of his conversation with his coach about when to leave since we could not stay for the whole meet and get to the church on time. The coach already knew that my grandson had to leave, but was not too gracious about the fact. We barely had time to get home for him to get a shower and review the questions in his confirmation notebook. Then it was off to church for a potluck dinner provided by the session. Each student had a mentor who was there as well. My grandson was nervous about having to answer questions in front of the session. I told him that nobody flunks this meeting. He had attended confirmation class regularly and the session members want him and the others to join the church.

I told him about my memories of this night in my life. I went to a big downtown Presbyterian church and I am a baby boomer. There were several dozen in my confirmation class. In Sunday School for the previous eight years, we were required to memorize a Bible verse each year. So we all “knew” these eight Bible verses that we had memorized together. I was afraid we would be quizzed on all of those. Instead, they just lined us all up and asked one question of each of us. No problem.

My grandson and I got to the church. Each confirmand was to sit at a table with their invited guests, their mentor, and other session members. Since my granddaughters were still being ferried around to their various events, this meant that my grandson was the only young person at his table. He tried valiantly to enter into the conversation the adults were having, but they were not very good at including him. Then at the appointed time, the pastor stood up and called “these brave young people” forward to face the session. By this time my daughter had arrived and I had a long drive back home, so I excused myself. Before I left I reminded my grandson that he would be fine and that we are proud of him. The way the evening was set up, I would have been nervous to step up and be examined!

This experience reminded me of a couple of changes that I made as a pastor to the way that churches traditionally conduct confirmation. At one big church where I was the interim, there were a dozen or so confirmands. Part way through their year of training, I realized this church had the tradition of the confirmands writing a statement of faith. I could see them getting nervous. I told the session that it was fine to have the kids write a statement and that each session member would write one as well. This would be the basis of their discussion when the confirmands came to be examined. After all, why should we expect 13-year-olds to write a statement of faith and not ask the same of the spiritual leaders of the church?

The second innovation happened when my husband and I were co-pastors in Burlington, Iowa. My husband still has confirmands engage in this practice where he is pastor now. In the Burlington church, there was a person who loved to sew. Each year we had her make a plain white stole for each confirmand. They were encouraged to decorate it with symbols or words that had meaning to them in their life away from church and in what they learned and experienced at church. In came stoles with soccer balls and musical notes and crosses and words about communion and so on. This stole then became the basis of the examination by session. The confirmands could talk about their whole lives and how their faith and their day to day life intersect.

I hope that you have a confirmation class or student in your church this year. I hope that you will be creative about how they have a discussion with the session about what it means to follow Christ in 2019 in North America. I hope that you will also challenge your session members to share their own faith with these new disciples so that, together, you can continue to bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ.

Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Chicago