If you are a DRE, a pastor, or anyone who works on a parish Confirmation prep program, this letter is for you.
The story at a lot of parishes is about bored teens checking a box in order to please their parents and get confirmed so they can “graduate” from religious education.
We’re going to show you how to rewrite that story.
Read on if you dream of a different version of Confirmation prep.
Learn how to get teens interested in learning about the Faith.
Wouldn’t you like to spend your Confirmation prep sessions fielding questions from your candidates? To see them so excited about what they’re learning that they just keep digging?
When that spark of curiosity gets lit for them, you don’t have to keep pushing.
They take over. And, at that point, you can accompany them in their faith walk, answering their questions and offering encouragement.
Understand why so many teens don’t pay attention in the first place
It’s hard to fix what you don’t understand. And when it comes to Confirmation prep, what every parish is looking to fix is “how do I get them to pay attention?”
But, before we can get them to pay attention, we need to understand why they aren’t paying attention in the first place. We’ll explain why in this letter.
Then we’ll show you how to fix it.
Discover what you can do to solve attendance problems
Just getting your candidates to show up in the first place can be a challenge. We’ll show you what you can do to get them in the door.
You’ll have them not only showing up but participating and growing closer to one another and forming strong Christian friendships and a sense of community.
Drastically reduce the amount of time you spend working on your program
You may be reading this thinking, “Sure … but how much more work are you putting on my plate to get all of this done?”
None. The opposite in fact. We’re going to show you how to free up the hours of time you’ve been spending on your Confirmation prep program each week.
What can you get done in that time? Imagine. You can finally get to those ministries you’ve wanted to put in place but haven’t been able to.
You can use that extra time to get more organized, plan out further ahead, or maybe just spend it with your family.
Find how to find and keep more volunteers for your program.
While others are going crazy trying to find volunteers, we’re going to show you how to find even more. Not just that, we’ll show you how to get them to come back year after year.
You’ll be able to build a great team that you trust, who are on fire with the Holy Spirit. And, together, you’ll be able to make a difference in the lives of these candidates.
If you’d like that, keep reading. Because we hear every day from parishes where Confirmation prep continues to be a struggle.
Hard to find volunteers
How many bulletin announcements, pulpit calls, and personal invitations do you make each year and yet still have a hard time getting all the volunteers you need?
And how often do you have to take what comes along and be grateful for it, rather than finding people who are well-suited for the role?
Passionate, knowledgeable, charismatic Catholics with a heart for service and a way with teens don’t exactly grow on trees.
Confirmation prep competes with extracurricular activities
Another force that we are battling against is time. There are only so many hours in the day.
Between school, sports, band, theater, dance, and so many other clubs they might be involved with, getting teens to show up to your Confirmation prep program can seem nearly impossible.
You’d love for them to prioritize their Faith over all of those things. But how can we make that happen?
When they show up they seem bored and won’t participate.
Those candidates that do show up can still be a struggle. They may be on their phones. They may just be zoning out.
Regardless, it just feels like they don’t care about what you’re trying to share with them. No matter what you do, it won’t sink in!
You could set yourself on fire at the front of the room and not get so much as a raised eyebrow out of them.
Candidates disappear and stop going to Mass.
Even more disappointing than how teens can be in class can be what happens after Confirmation. You spend an entire year (or two!) teaching them about the Faith, but once they receive the sacrament … they disappear.
These young men and women, sealed in the Spirit, now stop going to Mass, stop going to Confession, and stop living the life of a disciple of Christ!
They see it as graduation.
Time and time again we hear that teens and their parents view Confirmation as “graduation.” They see it as some sort of rite of passage for Catholics.
And, sadly, that rite of passage, once complete, means they no longer have to “jump through the hoops” of sacramental prep. (Until they want to get married a few years down the road.)
In a culture that views marriage as a “contract” instead of a covenant, so many relationships are reduced to a transaction. That same attitude has infected our young people in their relationship with the Lord.
God loves them so much and desires a deeper closeness with them. And they are missing out on all that he wants to offer them.
That is just one of the reasons we’re so excited to help you reach them more effectively.
But before we get there, we need to address some of the issues that may be holding you back—things you may not even be aware of.
You don’t need to do it all yourself
Your problem is NOT that you aren’t doing enough.
It’s that you’re doing too much.
When we talk to DREs, youth ministers, and catechists around the country, we’re always struck by just how hard-working you are.
There is no quit in you at all. And that is a remarkable and admirable thing. But it can also lead to you overextending yourself.
When it comes to your Confirmation program, you don’t need to build it from scratch for it to work well for you.
You have an inner fire to serve your candidates, their parents, your pastor, and your parish.
That doesn’t mean you need to put it all on your shoulders.
What your candidates need from you is your guidance, your wisdom, and your ability to be there to talk to them and hear them as they figure out their journey.
They don’t need you to write a book, a talk, or a program all by yourself. They need you to witness what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ.
Witnesses not teachers.
For your catechists and volunteers, it’s the same story.
If you’ve been looking for people to give compelling talks to communicate the theological points you need to cover in your Confirmation prep program, you almost certainly have found it a struggle if not impossible.
Compelling speakers are rare. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
And there’s no need! Your candidates don’t need brilliant theologians as their leaders.
They need disciples.
They need Christians.
They need men and women who can witness what a life led in Christ is like.
The truth is there are plenty of gifted speakers and writers who can do the heavy lifting of delivering the content you need to convey.
Let your catechists and volunteers be witnesses.
Programs don’t evangelize people, people do.
Now you might be sitting there thinking that we want you to take the easy way out.
Just “putting the kids in front of a TV and putting our feet up” or something like that.
Often we’ll hear folks say “programs don’t evangelize people, people evangelize people.”
We totally agree.
We don’t think programs evangelize people either. But we do think they can help.
You see, a lot of the time, when your catechists and volunteers are burdened with delivering content, that gets in the way of them witnessing to your candidates.
Accurately conveying the theology of Catholic teaching in a compelling way isn’t something a lot of people can do. And creating those presentations takes time.
Having a program to lean on frees up your time and their time. And that is precious time that can be very well spent.
Why? A big part of evangelization entails listening—active, deep, careful listening. And you can’t listen when you're talking.
We tend to think that the trick to getting candidates to engage is coming up with some brilliant speech or testimony. But the saying goes, “They’ll only care about you once they know you care about them.”
How do we show them we care? We listen. We hear them out. We let them express themselves and show them we understand where they are coming from.
Simple as that.
We need to free up catechists and volunteers to evangelize and break through, and we need to start now.
We’re running out of chances.
Anyone who looks at the numbers realizes what we need.
In 2000, 630,465 kids were confirmed. In 2020, that number was 537,283. That’s a 15% drop in 20 years.
But let’s dig a little deeper. From 2000 to 2010, it only dropped by 5%. (About half a percent per year.)
But, since 2010, it’s been dropping 1% each year. The rate has DOUBLED. Drip, drip, drip. As time goes on, fewer and fewer young people are coming to get confirmed.
What we have been doing is not working.
And, if we don't change our approach, we'll see the trend continue.
Right now, our hope is in the people—especially the young people—still coming to our parishes and giving us the opportunity to make the case for Catholicism.
We need to seize the opportunity we have today while we can.
It’s only going to get harder in the future.
Take a look at any of the recent Pew studies, and you’ll see fewer Americans identifying as Christian, with steady declines for both Catholics and Protestants. You’ll also see more and more people claiming no religious affiliation.
Every year we wait, our mission of sharing our Faith becomes harder. Our audience is becoming less and less open to the message of the Gospel.
So, if we delay, we’re only making our mission harder. We need to act now.
It’s a lot to digest.
And on top of it all, we know that Confirmation prep is only one part of your job at the parish.
There are dozens of other responsibilities on your plate that you also need to take care of.
This is why we’re releasing the newly revised Chosen: Your Journey to Confirmation.