Confirmation rolls around again this Sunday and I find myself eagerly anticipating it every year. Even if this is only a first confirmation for these 13 young people, and not a final confirmation of anything, with other confirmations of faith to follow at stages along life’s way, it is significant. So much so that I invariably find it chokes me up. Yes, we want to cast what this means in the broader sweep of life. Yes, we want to make it as personal as the gifts of each individual youth.
Right now I’m viewing Confirmation in the broader context of everything we’re attempting with our children and youth at FCC, Darien. Our goal to make this ministry seamless across the 18 or so years we have a shot at forming our youth. It’s exciting that the last stop—high school youth ministry—is alive and strong. We have gone from involving 3 or 4 youth to several dozen in our youth ministry, courtesy of Gary. But we need to build backward from high school into a vibrant and vital middle school youth ministry, and downward from that into a spirited Church School. To do this, let’s notice how our ministry to high schoolers has come alive to grow exponentially.
We were talking about this last Monday night as the Connecticut Conference Minister, the Rev. Kent Siladi, was visiting us, asking about FCC, Darien. Kent preached here last January as I was in Annapolis to do Lise’s wedding. He already gets why this ministry thrives. And that is why Kent is enlisting Gary and Shawn (from the UCC in Greenwich) to show other UCC churches the way.
Have you noticed how much time Gary spends out there, in the world of our youth, at their concerts, at their sporting events, their plays and their award ceremonies? Have you noticed how much effort Gary expends getting to know parents? The arc of ministry today takes us out into the world rather than tapping our foot waiting for folks to show up because we are terrific.
In the old ways of ministry, now past and gone, all roads led to FCC, Darien. All we had to do was open our doors and wait for folks to show up. Not only were we the only church in Darien for a hundred years after our founding, all town business was transacted here, and this is where citizens would pay their taxes. All roads led to F.C.C. because we owned the spiritual franchise.
Today no spiritual franchise exists. The largest growing religious group–a full one out of three under age 30—is “none of the above.” So if we wait for them to come to us, get ready to watch spider webs grow and dust to gather within our beautifully restored and fully prepared church. If some wonder why Gary isn’t here in our church more, spending more time with “our” youth, it no longer works that way anymore. If our territorial instincts got the better of us, and we were to reel Gary in from being out there with his time, you would see our youth ministry ebb.
The simple truth is that the rest of our ministries need to become more out there in the world if we seek to thrive on every front. Of course, this is a shift in paradigms, and change like this will always come slowly. It is the same reason though, why you have heard me go on and on about inviting newcomers to worship. Our new members tend to do this naturally while our veteran members will ask, why? “That is not how I got here.” Well, the world for which we were all so carefully prepared is gone. And we must prepare to minister in another world, glory be to God.