Adults Supporting Youth
No matter where we live: cities or suburbs, towns or rural areas, all our struggles are similar. All communities, regardless of size or wealth, face the enormous challenge of fragmentation. Family life is seriously threatened by the schedules we keep. Often our young people lack the sense of community beyond family that is critical to understanding the church and its mission.
Experiencing community life as lively, energizing and interdependent is critical to understanding our Baptismal Covenant. Faith and religion are caught, not taught. Our church communities can offer a context for learning about loving relationships, honesty, justice, forgiveness and all the other values essential to our faith. We can help families deepen their sense of Baptismal life.
Involving the congregation in the confirmation process encourages the development of one-to-one relationships between youth and adults. Sponsors assist those exploring their faith to share in the journey by offering insights, questions and the shared wisdom of what it means to be part of a faith community. Mentors should be baptized members of the church community. They should have a serious commitment to sharing their faith, meeting regularly and supporting the candidate in his/her spiritual life. They should be faithful in attendance, stewardship and participation in the life of the community. Besides giving encouragement, mentors are living examples of what it means to be a Christian, putting faith into practice.
Guidelines for Mentors or Sponsors
Consider a variety of adults across the life span in the congregation. When inviting adults to serve as mentors or sponsors, be clear about the expectations involved. Plan a get-together with all the mentors and Confirmands for some orientation. One way is to get together for a simple lunch after worship. Plan at least two or three gatherings during the year for mentors and youth together. Sometimes it helps adult mentors to gather with one another. Participating in a group event or service project with the class is also advantageous for building relationships.
- An adult of mature faith – someone who can give evidence of fulfilling his or her baptismal promises
- A member of your denomination – This is not to say that members of other denominations are not Christian. It is to recognize that some of the sharing and witnessing that the sponsors are asked to do come out of a particular tradition and theological understanding. There is a reason that we are Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians . . . , and this tries to support that reason.
- An active member of the congregation – faithful in attendance, stewardship and ministry; one who can serve as a personal representative of the church and is a sign of the community’s commitment to the candidate. This will give the young person another adult outside of his/her family with whom he/she can identify in the church. The young person’s church life will, therefore, be strengthened if the adult is a regular and visible participant in the life of the congregation.
- One who has a heart for engaging in conversation regarding faith issues
- To meet with the Confirmand regularly. The meetings do not have to be long, but should be in a public area or with others nearby (following safe church guidelines). Meet over coffee at a local diner, bookstore or fast food restaurant. Go to a movie. Please allow enough time for interaction.
- Attend gatherings/luncheons with all the Confirmands and sponsors, probably at the beginning of the Confirmation class and as the date of Confirmation draws near.
- Attend worship services involving the Confirmand: enrollment, Confirmation service, post- church celebration
- Hopefully, after Confirmation the newly confirmed and sponsor will maintain a relationship in years to come.
The above article is part of the Diocese of Connecticut’s Confirmation Guidelines, of which Sharon Ely Pearson was a contributor.