Statements of Faith–No, Stories of Faith–No, Wait. What Was The Question?

My 9th grade confirmation students used to write one-page statements of faith. Then I changed the assignment it to a “story” of faith in which they wrote about their experience of God in the past, present, and future tense.

I’m now on my second year of not requiring a written product at all, owing to a gnawing ambivalence about 1) the value of a writing exercise meant to express either a teenager’s beliefs about God (whatever that means to a 15 year-old) or their perception–as if all of a sudden–of God in their life and 2) the lack of a similar expectation of adults who make professions of faith and become active members of the church.

I haven’t thrown down the gauntlet on this. The assignment has evaporated more than fled. I’ve lost something in its disappearance, though, but I’m not absolutely certain what.

Our 9th graders used to fret over my expectations for these statements, and I spent a lot of nervous phone calls assuring them that neither I nor the session would be grading them–like a history essay. Those phone calls now focus on an exclusively face-to-face outcome of confirmation, a meeting with the church session at which no paper changes hands. There’s a lot less anxiety about that.

The writing exercise had value in that it forced some concrete decisions about what our teenagers sensed was most important about their faith and the church. Even though I’m not certain that such a concrete exercise is all that great, developmentally speaking, for adolescents, I recognize at least some value that’s been lost in removing that requirement, even though I lack all conviction about what ought to replace it.

But to the point about what we expect of adults: should our processes for hearing their statements of faith mirror our process for teens? If one of confirmation’s functions is to introduce youth to adult membership and responsibility in the church, then should we be using a procedure that has no corollary for new adult members?

My tortured love of confirmation grows . . .


7 thoughts on “Statements of Faith–No, Stories of Faith–No, Wait. What Was The Question?

  1. I think churches should ask adults to write statements of faith. As long as it is understood that these don’t have to be polished theological treatises, I think it can be presented in a way that is not threatening. In fact, the best argument is that if an adolescent can write one of these an adult can too.

    Just last night I was in a presbytery conversation about the job posting for a transitional executive presbyter. The question came up whether candidates should be required to submit a statement of faith. Someone said that requiring this privileges teaching elders who are trained and required to write these to get jobs. I responded that I just had 38 eighth graders write them, so I feel pretty confident that anyone we would want as an executive presbyter, teacher or ruling elder, ought to be able to do the same.

    The past two years I have also asked each of our small groups to write a communal statement of faith. This is actually a better model of the creeds and confessions of our church. Both years it was a positive experience that also helped the youth (and adult leaders) write their personal statements.

  2. I handed my confirmands the Apostles creed, and had them go through with a highlighter for the things they affirmed and a black sharpie to redact the things they did not. It was a handy launching point.

  3. Kids are so adept at sharing their stories on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Maybe you could find a way for them to share their faith story in a similar way. Through snapshots, comments of 140 characters, and updates.

    • Yeah, one of the coolest things I ever had was two ninth graders who not only worked out their faith statements over IM but also showed a group of adults how they did it. The adults marveled.

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