This past week we completed our family faith formation sessions for the year, and this weekend our LIFT first communicants will receive the Blessed Sacrament for the first time. The past year has flown by, and I suspect the summer planning season will pass even faster. We have lots of great for next year, but one of more significant changes has to do with the age of Confirmation. After extensive discussion in recent years, including our priests, committee members, catechists, and staff members at St. Michael and St. Albert parishes, we have decided to gradually shift the age of Confirmation to 8th grade for all our students.
This decision was made for several reasons, but for me, the two most compelling are these:
- Middle-schoolers are more open to evangelization and catechesis. They are more likely to follow the lead of their parents and parish volunteers, more excited about activities and retreats, and significantly less busy. High-schoolers have other priorities, including sports, exams, driver’s ed, jobs, and social lives—and unless their faith is already a top personal priority, it is difficult to make them care.
- We already have great success in reaching and converting middle-schoolers. We have tremendous youth ministry programs that change kids’ lives (as almost anyone who has sent their kids to Extreme Faith Camp can attest). We don’t capture the heart of every middle-schooler, but of the high-schoolers we have who stay committed to their faith through graduation and beyond, nearly all of them were hooked in middle school. Each year we have a large “bubble” of students who show up for Confirmation classes—why not move the bubble to the age at which we have proven success in reaching kids and helping to keep them Catholic
What does this mean for you? If your children attend the parish school, they will continue to be confirmed in 8th grade. If your children attend LIFT and our parish Confirmation program, the plan looks like this:
- Next year: Tenth-grade students will see no change; they will complete the second year of the Chosen program and be confirmed in Spring 2017 as planned. Ninth-grade students will complete a more intensive, one-year Chosen program and will also be confirmed in Spring 2017.
- 2017-18:Ninth-grade students will complete a more intensive, one-year Chosen program and will be confirmed in Spring 2018. Eighth-grade students will complete either a one-year program (either based on Chosen or the YDisciple model) and will also be confirmed in Spring 2018.
- 2018-19:Eighth-grade students will complete a one-year program using the YDisciple model from this point forward.
The YDisciple model involves forming small groups of around eight students each, beginning in middle school, with a trained adult leader who walks with those students from middle-school until they graduate. In each discipleship group (or D-group), students continue to learn about their Catholic faith, grow in prayer and discipleship, support each other, and hold each other accountable.
This is a volunteer-intensive effort. We will need people who feel called to work with teens and share their faith, who are willing to be trained and to commit to a group of young people, and who are able to share their own lives as examples of faithful discipleship. It is a daunting task to find and train so many volunteers, but we believe this is where God is calling us, and He will make our efforts fruitful.
In fact, our need for dedicated disciples who are ready to work in the vineyard is not limited to Confirmation. We have such great needs in this parish, and so few workers. It is time for those of us who have been asleep to rise and walk, with our spouses and children, our friends and neighbors, and all those in our lives who need Christ—in short, with everyone!