It is my great joy to spend quite a bit of time during the school year with the confirmands of the church that I serve. Our confirmation class meets during the sixth grade. Sixth grade is the perfect time for confirmation. These children have just entered middle school, and their whole world is changing. They are now in a BIG impersonal school, with many teachers. They are sorted into classes by their accomplishments or test scores. Their bodies are beginning to change. They aren’t sure about the other gender. They aren’t sure about their parents. And they aren’t sure what is going on most of the time. But they are also beginning to think and reason in ways that they never have before. Moving towards making their own decisions is scary, and they wonder whom they can count on. I know that other congregations go through confirmation earlier and some even later, but I think developmentally, the sixth grade is the most perfect time.
And this congregation has a rich tradition of ensuring that confirmation is a time of deep commitment and a significant amount of time is spent on revealing to them what it means to be a Christian disciple. So for the entire academic school year I spend an hour on Sunday morning, an hour and a half on Sunday afternoons, and an hour on Wednesday with these children. We take field trips to explore our religious heritage, we study religious history and theology, we study the Bible, we learn to sing and play the chimes and we learn to play and work together. We learn what it means to be a Christian disciple, and a United Methodist. Most of all, we have fun.
To be sure, they are goofy people. The girls would like to sit with the boys, but the boys aren’t ready for that. Some of the girls have been told that it is better to be pretty than smart, and are discovering they can be both. Some of the boys are beginning to realize that the girls are attracted to them, but are not really sure what to do about that. Some of the boys are clueless. They do many things to be the center of attention, yet don’t want to be in front of the congregation. And they insist, INSIST, on sitting on the front pew together during worship. And just when you think they don’t understand, one of them says, “can we pray for the family we built the wheelchair ramp for?”
And that is a thin place.