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Making Young Disciples of Jesus Christ Through Confirmation

12/13/2018

By Fel Cao
Director of Camping and Retreat Ministries and Young People’s Ministry

I share the joy of both clergy and lay when we witness the growth of our children and youth as they are engaged in the ministries of the church. We have seen the children moved from children’s Sunday School to camps and Confirmation Classes and into youth and young adult fellowships. Pastors have witnessed in their congregations the children’s journey from baptism to service in the church, community, and the world through sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of peace and justice on behalf of the Kingdom of God. Oftentimes, their journey from Confirmation has moved them to ministry as lay leaders in our churches, or to become pastors and ordained deacons and elders.
 
The mission of the United Methodist Church in the global connection is, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I call upon our clergy and lay to collaborate with us in the ministry of “Making Young Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, through Confirmation.”
 
Bishop Minerva Carcaño is offering the 2019 Bishop's Confirmation Rally on [dates]. The Office of Camping and Retreat Ministries and Young People's Ministry of our Cal-Nevada Annual Conference is providing help and support through in the planning, organizing and coordination of this event.
 
Instead of an overnight confirmation retreat, as has been done in past years, the new Bishop's Confirmation Rally will be a one-day event, modeled on a day camp. There will be three district locations for the 2019 rally. Constituents from these three districts must register for, and attend, the rally in their respective district location.
 
You will find more information about the Bishop’s Confirmation Rally on the conference website.

The Spirituality of Confirmation
I can still remember the exact words of a feedback given by a male Southern Baptist clergy in one of my Inter-Personal Relationship (IPR) sessions, when I took my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education in 1988 at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Manila, Philippines. He said, “Fel, you are a person whose mind will never be at ease.”
 
These words came back to me very recently and I was very much aware of them when I woke up at around 2:30 in the morning and was already thinking about the young people. I was so excited about them as a wonderful gift to the church, with our ministries for and with them, as we engaged with them in developing new young principled Christian leaders and disciples of Jesus.
 
My mind will never be at ease, because I see vision for the growth of our United Methodist Church with our young people.
 
The Rev. Craig Brown, our Cal-Nev Annual Conference Executive Director for Congregational Development, shared with me a book titled, “GROWING YOUNG.” It is a book that came out of research by the Fuller Youth Institute in addressing the need for the church to grow by focusing on the youth. One of six essential strategies in “growing the church young” which struck me so much that I wrote it on the planning calendar in my office is, “PRIORITIZE THE YOUNG PEOPLE (and FAMILIES) EVERYWHERE[1].”
 
That my mind was so active on a very early morning, thinking about our young people, I believe was a form of a prayer -- of speaking to God and receiving a vision of prioritizing the young people everywhere in our churches and communities.
 
Prioritizing the young people everywhere begins with the “Spirituality of Confirmation.” (Italics my own) I am a product of catechism and confirmation. I am more aware now that my faith journey in the United Methodist Church has been firmly grounded by my rootedness in the faith through confirmation. The confirmation of my faith was strengthened more in my journey of attending youth camps and later, leading camps and serving as one of the pastors in camps such as the Christmas Institute. I find further confirmation now, serving with you in our California-Nevada Annual Conference’s Camping and Retreat and Young People’s Ministry.
 
Remember Your Confirmation: The Gift of Mentoring
As I continue to lift up the words, “‘PRIORITIZE THE YOUNG PEOPLE EVERYWHERE,” I am bold enough to say, “PRIORITIZE THE CONFIRMATION CLASSES” in our churches. Some of our churches in the conference connection have done two-church joint-Confirmation Classes, which could be a model for other churches to follow.  Another idea is that churches could also adopt from the Circuit ministry collaboration among clergy and consideration into Circuit confirmation classes.
 
Confirmands need their parents or guardians to support them in their spiritual formation journey. Confirmands need their pastors as they learn about the Wesleyan teaching on the Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, Sanctifying Grace and Perfecting Grace of God. Confirmands need their mentors (or in other cultural practices and traditions, their sponsors or Godparents) to support them, guide them, walk with them, study with them and pray for them in their decision of making a commitment to follow Jesus and become young disciples of Jesus Christ who will help transform the world and help define the direction of the United Methodist Church.
 
Remember your own confirmation journey? We are where we are right now, in many different forms of ministries, because of our mentors. Confirmands need mentors who will serve as their models in following Jesus.
 
The Bishop’s Confirmation Rally
Therefore, I admonish you clergy and lay in our annual conference to:
              Arouse the interest of the children who are now able to move to Confirmation classes.
              Organize the Confirmation classes with the support of parents, guardians, mentors, 
              Godparents and sponsors.
              Mobilize the confirmands with the companionship and support of the pastors, lay
              leaders, parents, guardians, mentors, Godparents and sponsors to attend the 2019 Bishop’s Confirmation Rally.
 
I pray that the Confirmation Classes in our local churches and the Bishop’s Confirmation Rally will serve tremendously in making young disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and will give evidence that indeed we “PRIORITIZE THE YOUNG PEOPLE (and FAMILIES) EVERYWHERE.”

 
[1] Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin, Growing Young (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016), 196.

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