Church Confirmation Tips, Etiquette and Gift Ideas
Church confirmation is a chance for children to take a big step toward becoming full-fledged members of the church and affirm their faith. Whether you’re teaching a confirmation class, parenting a confirmation candidate or attending a confirmation ceremony as a guest, here are several tips to help you navigate the process smoothly.
Getting Started: Setting Up a Confirmation Program
Setting up — or revamping — a church confirmation program is a time-consuming process. Make sure the result is a program that immerses students in their faith and doesn’t cut corners to make things too easy. Some things to think through:
- Who needs to attend? Most students are confirmed in eighth or ninth grade, but this might vary slightly for your church. Do students need to be members of the church or have gone through first communion classes as well? Make sure expectations are clear.
- How long will the process last? This is another crucial part of establishing your process. Many churches make their program’s last the length of a traditional school year, with required Sunday School classes each week. Others may opt for a monthly session that takes several hours each session. Still others might be a multi-year process.
- What is your absence policy? Even the most attentive worshipers won’t be in the pews every week. Figure out if you’ll have a set number of allowed absences and if you’ll require make up worksheets for students who miss too many days. Make sure parents are clear that attendance is mandatory.
- How will you get parents involved? Remember, some of your parents might never have been through confirmation either. Set up a couple of meetings before confirmation starts to communicate all information clearly about the program.
- How will you communicate? Make sure you have a point person through which all information flows. Parents need to know who to email or call if a child will miss a class. They also need to know when and how they will receive any information. Once you’ve established all your policies, write them down and create a document to be posted on the church website for easy reference. You can also hand this out at your mandatory parent meeting.
Plan a confirmation reception with an online sign up! SAMPLE.
The Process: Requirements During Confirmation
Faith formation is the main reason confirmation programs exist, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve thought through all aspects of the educational component.
- Confirmation Kick Off: Get students excited by hosting a kick-off event. This could be at a local campsite for a week or weekend or a special Saturday at the church. This will also be a great chance for them to meet classmates. Consider offering scholarships if it’s an extended camp that requires a larger fee. Genius Tip: Collect food for a potluck with an online sign up.
- Confirmation Curriculum: Just what will you teach every week? You’ll probably have somewhere between 25 and 30 weeks to delve into the Bible. You can buy a pre-written curriculum set or invest in creating your own that melds with your church’s philosophy. Think about how much time you want to devote to the Old Testament vs. New Testament, historical lessons vs. practical applications and outside texts vs. current events, among other ideas.
- Teaching Tip No. 1: You’ll likely have some students who just don’t want to be there. If you’ve been given a textbook to follow, consider using it as more of a guideline or jumping off point for your lessons. These kids see plenty of textbooks in school, so they’ll appreciate not having to have their nose in another one during confirmation class. Try something like Bible Bingo.
- Teaching Tip No. 2: Make it a multimedia experience. Some people think showing a movie during class is just a crutch to avoid the hard work of teaching. But if you use a film correctly, it can be a great way to spur conversation. There are a slew of short, creative videos on YouTube — Bible stories told with Lego minifigure animation, for example — on a variety of faith-related topics.
- Meet a Mentor: A great way to get the entire church involved is to require students to meet with a mentor who will help guide them through the confirmation process. Ask for volunteers among the congregation. As part of the relationship, have students interview a mentor about their faith journey and report back to the class. (Videos are encouraged, as well as a written report.)
- Connect with the Community: Any pastor worth his salt would tell you that faith doesn’t just exist during a couple hours on Sunday. Get your students to connect with the community through monthly service projects. Some suggestions: Serve at a soup kitchen, raise money and deliver presents for needy children during the holidays, build a Habitat for Humanity home, serve as a tutor at a local elementary school or visit a nursing home regularly. Your service could culminate with a spring break mission trip to a nearby city for a larger project. Genius Tip: Organize church volunteers with a sign up.
- Defending the Faith: Being able to articulate what you believe and why is powerful. Set up interviews with your church’s pastor several weeks before your confirmation ceremony, so students can share what they have learned and what it has taught them about their faith.
The Ceremony: From Logistics to Etiquette
The culmination of all that hard work is a time to celebrate, but make sure you keep things orderly using the following tips.
- Decide the Date: Most confirmations are held in the spring, but decide carefully when you want to hold the ceremony. Interested grandparents and friends can make the pews overflow, so determine if you want to hold the ceremony on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to avoid overflow audiences. You can always recognize students briefly during regular Sunday morning worship as well.
- Hand out Tickets: Know what the capacity of your sanctuary is and divide that by the number of confirmation participants to get a rough idea of how many tickets per person you can allow. Make sure to block off rows the day of for program participants. Genius Tip: Collect RSVPs in advance with a sign up, so you know how many attendees to expect.
- Let Students Participate: Let students deliver Bible readings, offer prayers or bring up the gifts before Communion. You can also highlight the entire group with a video or photo slideshow at the start of the ceremony.
- Decide on a photo/video policy. Many churches will not allow any photo taking or video making during the ceremony, which is probably a good idea in this selfie-obsessed society. If you are a ceremony organizer, consider hiring a professional photographer to record the ceremony and give attendees information on how to purchase video and photos afterward. If you’re a guest, don’t get your camera out unless you are sure it is permitted.
- Establish a dress code. Churches in general have become more permissive of casual dress in recent years, but you might want to ask people to dress up for this special occasion. Perhaps bar spaghetti straps, jeans and T-shirts? Be sure to articulate whatever dress code you set well in advance to your students and their families. If you are a guest and are unsure of the dress code, covering your shoulders and knees is always a safe bet.
- Communion: To take or not to take? Only practicing Catholics are permitted to receive Communion in a Catholic church, which means this can be a touchy subject if some attendees are not Catholic. All involved should try to be gracious and remember that the last thing your teen wants to see is any hint of tension among the adults. If you’re attending a confirmation ceremony at a non-Catholic church and aren’t clear on the Communion policy, feel free to check beforehand. Most welcome all baptized adults who typically take communion.
Coordinate a prayer vigil using an online sign up! SAMPLE.
Celebrate: Confirmation Gift Ideas
Teenagers can be tough to buy for already, and you’ll want to the gift to have a special meaning for this occasion. With a little forethought, you can find something they’ll really appreciate.
- Fabric Cross: Are you crafty? Make them something they can carry with them to remember their faith. All this requires is a block of wood, some pretty fabric and a button. Attach the fabric using glue to the wood in an artful way shaped as a cross. The button goes in the center.
- Remember When: Frame a picture of your teen dressed in their baby baptismal best as a reminder of how far they’ve already come in their faith walk.
- Something that lasts. A Bible with your teen’s name engraved on it can be a meaningful physical representation of his or her new status within the church. Jewelry such as cross/dove earrings or a necklace also can serve as keepsakes from their special day.
- Charitable Donation: Did your student really take to one of the service projects from confirmation? Consider giving to that cause in their name. It will do more good than another gift card.
- Hand Lettering: This older art form is making a comeback, so find someone you know (or someone on Etsy) who can transform one of your favorite Bible verses into a framed art piece.
- Light of the World: Transform a candle into something special. Write your favorite verse on tissue paper (illustration optional). Place it where you want it to overlap on the candle, and then cover with a piece of wax paper. Use a heat gun to affix it to the candle. After a minute or so, remove the wax paper and enjoy your finished product.
- Cash Cross: If you must give cash to your confirmation graduate, at least fold it like a cross — check for an online tutorial if needed.
- Prayer Jar: Teenagers are prone to worry. Decorate a Mason jar or other glass container with puff paint or stickers and leave some blank slips of paper where they can write down their dreams and worries.
Confirmation is an important step for teenagers of faith. Organize things from the start and you’ll have a program that will leave a lasting mark.
Jen Pilla Taylor is a former journalist and mother of two school-age children. She is in her fourth year of teaching their Sunday School classes.