by Heather Ferguson
After reading, 100 Things Every Child Should Know before Confirmation by Rebecca Kirkpatrick, I was reminded of the idea of life-long learning, not just for adults, but for each of us at every age and stage. In these days, the particular learning that happens in childhood and early adolescence can be likened to the scaffolding that recently surrounded our Sanctuary.
Preparations for steel bars being bolted, strong angles being created, and workers climbing higher at each level is like the groundwork, preparation, and building of faith. A safe and secure foundation is laid when young children are loved and cared for by parents, siblings, and grandparents, as well as nursery staff and volunteers, teachers, and leaders. Lower level scaffolding takes shape early on as children begin to see themselves as part of an even greater church family.
As their faith continues taking shape, they are strengthened in hearing and knowing the stories of God’s unconditional love for them and all creation. They ask questions about the stories of Jesus and are invited to wonder with the ever-present safety net of that love.
Pushing upward, children begin to understand the agency God has given them to share the Good News and reach out to the lonely and the sad. Putting the long arc of Scripture together piece by piece, they see the bigger picture as if from the top of a tree. With every level their scaffolding gets higher and higher until they are ready to step off of the strong frame and onto the firm surface of the Sanctuary roof, where the work of God’s people begins!
So what are the ways in which Westminster is helping to build this scaffolding? I hope you will take a look at the Lifelong Plan for Faith Formation created as a part of the strategic planning process. It outlines all the current ways in which our church seeks to assist in building the framework of faith development.
This fall we will fine-tune the scaffolding that reaches to the steps of confirmation. In Church School on Sunday mornings, the 5th grade class will do a survey of the Old Testament. The 6th grade class will do a survey of the New Testament through a fun and engaging curriculum called CONNECT, which unites biblical characters and the lives of our youth with a blend of solid theology, engaging art, and quirky humor.
The 7th grade class will embark on a year-long exploration of spiritual practices for teens using the curriculum, Way to Live, written by youth and adult youth leaders, and focusing on twenty Christian practices. Each practice addresses a basic area of human need. Each practice is something we learn from and do together with other people. Each practice appears in the Bible, and each has also taken shape in Christian communities through the ages and around the world today. Participating in these practices is a way of responding through action to God’s love for us.
In 8th grade, youth enter the Confirmation class to continue developing their faith. We focus on what it means to be a member of the PC(USA) and of WPC particularly, studying again the Old and New Testaments, the life of Jesus, and how to express our faith in daily life. The confirmands are accompanied on this journey by mentors, who walk with them as they continue to articulate their faith. The culmination of Confirmation is a faith statement, written by confirmands as an expression and snapshot of their faith at that moment in time.
We (and our scaffolding) grow stronger in Christian living as we exercise these practices. The building of all these practices within a community is that community’s way of life. This is what we want to offer our younger youth as they prepare to step into confirmation.