In our fourth and final part of our series on What Is Cross+Gen Ministry?, I have invited Pastor Natalie Gessert Hall to share about cross+gen confirmation. She is the creator of our cross+generational Chosen Together confirmation program.
The Path to Success
Oakleaf hydrangeas and lilac trees are in full bloom, bright and fragrant against vast manicured yards. I’m at an Ivy League school for a conference. People have come to tour the campus, though not as high school students on a prospective college tour. Instead, there are groups touring the grounds with hopes that their young children would someday be admitted to this venerable institution, far along the path to “success” in life.
On this same day that I’m on the grounds of this venerable institution, the first verdict of the so-called “Varsity Blues” college admission bribery scandal was handed down. Sometimes, parents will go to extraordinary lengths to help their children “succeed.”
The Finish Line in Christian Formation?
Isn’t it tempting to see Christian formation this way, especially confirmation? We might imagine that there is a particular method we could employ to shape the faith of our kids resulting in an especially excellent outcome, with fixed goals to achieve along the way prior to “graduation.” This means that when we achieve enough goals, we will have succeeded.
A definition of formation that looks to a “finish line” of confirmation is not a useful definition in matters of Christian faith. Christian formation is not a single way toward a single outcome. It is neither a collection of memorized facts nor achieving measurable spiritual growth. Instead, Christian faith grows in the many ways people engage in cross-generational worship, conversation, and action, by which each person is transformed by the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Success in Confirmation
“Success” in confirmation is creating an environment in which all household members, of all ages, can confidently speak about their faith and connect that faith with actions both in and out of the home. It is a household connected to a faith community actively speaking together about their beliefs and seeking ways to practice those beliefs in worship and daily life. It is relationships between generations practicing faith together. The questions people ask, the vulnerability with which they wonder aloud about things they struggle with, and the differences about faith and practice that adults work out in front of kids is the ongoing gift of formation and it, in itself, is “successful” every step of the way.
For people in confirmation programs, “success” does not merely culminate in a Confirmation Day celebration. “Success” is welcoming newly confirmed members of the church into a lifetime of conversation – relationships – about Christian faith and life in their home, church, school, workplace, social activities, and beyond.
Chosen Together is a confirmation curriculum that will help youth, their households, and your congregation engage in the formative practice of ongoing conversations about Christian faith and life. The content of Chosen Together aims to engage households and the entire congregation in active, vibrant, and wide-open conversations that moves everyone involved toward faith by developing a deeper understanding of God’s work among us. Chosen Together connects the stuff of the catechism – the Ten Commandments, Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, sacraments, and more – to the content of the Bible, and to the content of everyday life. The Chosen Together way of confirmation creates an environment of ongoing, slow, and never-ending success. Created by God, transformed by Jesus, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, every person in every home and congregation has a voice in this lifelong conversation of faith and life.
The Rev. Canon Natalie L.G. Hall is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. After serving two congregations as a parish pastor, she currently serves in an ecumenical role as Canon for Evangelism and Faith Formation for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Hall has a gift and passion for building faith into the common structures of daily life and communicating the good news of God’s promises outside the church building.
She seeks to equip communities for engaging in cross+generational faith practices in church, at home, and beyond. She formalized this vision in Chosen Together: Cross+Gen Confirmation, based on her experience at Oak Grove Lutheran Church (Zelienople, PA). There, she saw how caring adults led youth into mature and vibrant faith that continued into adulthood. Hall also serves as a consultant and presenter for the Rev. Dr. Richard Melheim and his FAITH5 formation series.
Natalie’s commitment to Episcopal-Lutheran dialogue goes the extra mile, having promised a lifetime of mutual reformation with her husband, Daniel a bi-vocational Episcopal priest and practicing general surgeon. They have three daughters, Grace, Maryam, and Evangeline.