Confirmation as Collective: A New Culture of Learning, part 3

See the first two posts in this series here and here.

Also, here’s a good review of the book by education policy expert Charles Kerchner.

Now, confirmation and the collective . . .

What if a confirmation class was a collective of self-directed learners? What if, instead of giving confirmands a series of lessons on the doctrines and practices that constitute Christianity, we unearthed some things about faith and church that these students had a personal stake in exploring and then guided their exploration?

If we did confirmation in the New Culture of Learning envisioned by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas then we would marry their internal motivation with an unlimited information source.

I feel sort of handcuffed about finding that internal motivation.

The unlimited information source, though, we have that. Youth can explore the full text of Scripture, all of our confessional documents, and an unlimited variety of Christian faith practices with online technology.

A YouTube search for “lectio divina,” for example, produces these results.

Here’s the full text of the Book of Confessions in searchable pdf form.

Oremus and Bible Gateway are easy-to-use, easy-to-search online Bible platforms.

Here’s a downloadable daily prayer podcast in mp3 format.

We could do this. Our task in guiding students in this process would be to help them see where their particular questions and insights fit into the overall canopy of the Reformed understanding and expression of Christian faith. There are several books and video curricula we can use for this.

Who’s with me?

What does this approach overlook? What could be limited about it?

9 thoughts on “Confirmation as Collective: A New Culture of Learning, part 3

  1. I love this idea, Rocky. But the reality I’ve encountered the last decade or so is the students of today are not very self motivated. Even when give complete freedom on a project or what they want to do in a class, they struggle to come up with much, if anything.

    I have not read the resources you mention, but I’ve always understood confirmation as a starting place from which they can begin to explore and discern their own relationship with God. And, there is something important about doing it in a group. I remember having independent study classes in high school and college. I did not learn merely as much because I did not have the skills to find things to learn.

    I hear what you’re saying about the vast information available at our fingertips these days, but can’t too much information (a LOT of misinformation) be overwhelming for people who are just beginning to learn how to think abstractly and how to discern? Just my thoughts.

    1. So what skills do we need to develop, Eric, to better uncover students’ motivation? Are we saying it’s there and we can’t get at it, or that it’s just not there?

      As far as information overload, I think that’s the value of a guide. Want to work on this together?

      1. Honestly, I truly believe the primary motivation in students today is the motivation instilled in them by their parents and teachers, which is to “pass the test.” That is what they are trained to do. What motivation do they have to think for themselves, for when they do they often get in trouble for stepping out of line. But at the same time, aren’t we called upon by the church to help our students navigate the traditions of the church to discover their own faith? So, in some ways we are doing some of the same thing (thinking out loud here) as their teachers. Isn’t it a balance between offering a foundation from which to take off in their spiritual exploration, and at the same time helping guide them through the mass of resources out there. Honestly, lately, I have felt pretty lost in this. I’ve been doing youth ministry for 20 years and the last several years seem to be the the most difficult when it comes to trying to come along side the students in their journeys. In response to my questions, they are more often responding with: “Just tell me the right answer.” But the questions I’m asking are often various forms of: “What do you think about all this?” There’s no right answer to that questions other than what is really going on inside them.

        I wonder if they have learned not to be real or honest because that’s not what the world wants. The world wants us to be fake. The world fears real feelings. The world (or at least our culture) fears going too deep becaue it’s scary and sometimes painful. If we stay at the surface, no one can really hurt us. And so, it seems, we learn to not be honest even with ourelves. And our youth and children learn this at an early age.

        Is it possible, in this day and age of crazy schedules and over programming, to create and environment where students can learn to be who God has made/is making them to be? Isn’t that the point of confirmation and spiritual development?

        Yes, I do want to work on this. Yes, i have been working on it. No, I do not feel like I’ve gotten very far because it seems most of the curriculum out there seems to speak more to the culture than to the reality God revealed to us in Jesus. And, it seems the people in our congregations don’t want us going there either because it’s scary for them too. I could be totally off base here, but this has been my experience thus far.

  2. I agree about the curriculum. I’m saying, let’s do our own thing. Confirmation is a good opportunity to do that, because the students are young enough that we may be seeding in them a new way of relating to faith. Use confirmation as a lab for youth ministry in general.

  3. I think this sounds great for cultivating high school collectives beyond confirmation, but I’m not sure that it fits for confirmation itself.

    In my experience, confirmation is the moment to do two things:
    1. Provide some kind of synthesis of all the Bible and theology they have been learning (or not learning) in Sunday School. This is akin to doing systematic theology. (Note: this is about the only time I find much value in doing systematic theology in the church.)
    2. Let students know that it is okay to question the tradition, ask difficult questions, and not feel like they need to have an answer right now. In many respects, confirmation is helping youth know what questions to ask and what resources there are for thinking through these questions.

    I think we would lose something if we reshaped confirmation into something like an elective course or an independent study that didn’t have the benefit of the 101 course.

      1. Probably next week, I’ll be posting a review of re:form and how I used it this year. I mostly worked it into a syllabus I have been using and tweaking for a long time.

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