Every young Catholic goes through Confirmation preparation at some point.
Would you like to see your Confirmation candidates develop a deep and loving relationship with Christ?
Do you want them to commit to living out their Catholic faith joyfully?
Have a deep sense of the reality of Christ’s love for them and a personal faith that carries them through life?
In this guide, we’re going to show you exactly where to start. If you overlook this, you’ll find yourself frustrated.
Keep teens engaged the whole time
How would you like to get your teens to actually pay attention during your Confirmation prep program?
Not just some of the time.
Not just during the “interesting” sessions.
The whole year long. Day 1 to your last day.
In this guide, we’re going to show you how to structure your Confirmation prep so your teens will pay attention and stay engaged throughout the whole program.
Make Your Job as the Leader Easier
These nine steps are going to make your job as the leader of the Confirmation prep program so much easier.
With the candidates themselves driving your sessions forward with their enthusiasm, you can simply guide the ship (instead of rowing).
If you’re like most Confirmation prep leaders, we bet that sounds pretty good, because what you’re experiencing now is often far short of this.
Boost Engagement Without Touching Your Content
Would you like to discover how to get your teens to pay attention to your Confirmation prep program?
Do you want to know how to keep them off their phones and get them to participate in the discussions instead?
Nine times out of ten, it isn’t the content of what you’re teaching in the program that needs to change.
In this post, we’ll show you three simple changes you can make to your program that will help you grab your candidates’ attention and hold it all year long.
But that isn’t all we’re going to show you.
Keep Them Catholic After Confirmation
Would you like to understand how we can help more of your candidates hold onto their faith after Confirmation?
You’ll see them not just “get” the faith during your program. They’ll have what they need to fight back when the world tries to undermine that faith.
Imagine seeing your candidates living joyfully Catholic lives throughout their teens and twenties.
This post is going to cover all these things.
It’s important because, for many people working in Confirmation prep, this just isn’t what they’re used to seeing.
The Issue at Hand
Teens Aren’t Enthusiastic About Their Faith
What we hear from parishes every day is that it’s difficult to even get their Confirmation candidates to show up.
If they do show up, it almost seems like expecting them to pay attention and engage is asking for the moon.
They Don’t Take Ownership of Their Faith
An underlying issue is that the teens themselves often don’t take ownership of their faith.
They’re going through Confirmation prep to satisfy their parents.
But prep is mostly something to endure, not something that they would ever find interesting or valuable.
You Feel Like You’re Dragging Them Through Each Session
As a result, all the energy to carry them through the program has to come from you, the leader.
You need to push your candidates forward through the program through sheer force of will.
And that can be incredibly exhausting.
Math, History, Spanish … Religion
While you may be frustrated by teens not paying attention, you are also trying to cover everything you need to cover.
And it’s kind of a lot.
You need to keep moving and keep teaching. Somewhere in all of that, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
That can leave you in a place where your Confirmation prep program feels like just another subject your candidates “learn” about … for them AND for you.
From “Sealed in the Spirit” to “Fallen Away”
Another disheartening challenge is, after all this effort, the pain of watching our candidates lose their faith after Confirmation.
We spend an entire year (or two!) walking with them and sharing the faith with them, hoping it will catch hold.
But then after they receive the sacrament, they go off to college and we see the world confuse them and deceive them about who the Church is and what it teaches.
But don’t lose heart. In this post, we’re going to give you tools to fight back.
Before we do, we want to point out a couple of traps to avoid as we proceed.
Fiddling, Tweaking, and Fussing
When you see your program fall on seemingly deaf ears year in and year out, it can be maddening.
So you try to fix it. You change this piece. You adjust that session. You add a bit here, and take some away there.
But no matter what you change, the results always seem to be the same: disengaged teens.
That can change, and it will.
We’re going to show you how, but before we do that, we want to point out a couple common mistakes many parishes make.
The Lies You Believe
“Catholic-lite” Will Resonate
If teens won’t engage with Catholic teachings, the obvious temptation is to water down the faith to make it seem more appealing.
Talk to any parish leader, and they’ll tell you that this just doesn’t work.
The problem isn’t that Catholicism itself is boring.
(There isn’t anything boring about the Creator of the universe knowing and loving you and longing so deeply for a close personal relationship with you that he sends his only Son to die for you.)
It isn’t the content that’s the issue. It’s our enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm Will Weird Them Out
There is a stereotype that presents adults who want to teach teens about the faith as these glassy-eyed happy-clappy weirdos.
(And hey, let’s be honest, some of us are a lot like that.)
But what this stereotype does is make us feel defensive about being enthusiastic about the Gospel at all.
It can make us try to be “cool” about it. The problem with being cool is that it doesn’t seem like you’re very excited about what you’re talking about.
One-Off Speakers, Movies, and Events Will Spark Lasting Engagement
When your program is struggling to get candidates’ attention, of course you’re going to respond.
Often we see leaders bring in speakers, show movies, or offer events to add some spice and variety to their program.
There is nothing wrong with this at all. But the issue is that these efforts tend to be “one-offs.”
The speaker comes in, gets them engaged, and then leaves.
Your candidates enjoy the movie, and then the movie ends.
The key to keeping them engaged consistently isn’t with add-ons to your program. It needs to be built right into the program itself.
Teens Don’t Care About Religion
A lot of time, what drives these kinds of things is this underlying idea that teens don’t care about religion.
They think it’s boring.
But when you talk to teens and find out what they ARE interested in, what is it?
Now let me ask you: Does salvation history have any of those things? Yeah … I think it’s safe to say it does.
Fulton Sheen once said,
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
We’ll just rip him off and say, “There aren’t a hundred teens who find religion boring, but there are millions who are bored by what they think religion is.”
So our job is just to clear up that confusion.
But I’m Not Interesting
You may be sitting there thinking, “OK, but listen … I’ll be honest … I’m not very funny.”
Or smart. Or knowledgeable. Or interesting.
Take your pick, we all have plenty of insecurities to choose from that might make us feel like we aren’t up to the task of sharing the faith with teens.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need to be any of those things to get your candidates to engage with the faith.
Do you love God? Do you love your candidates? Do you love the Church?
Great. You have everything you need.
Being authentically enthusiastic about the Faith will serve you far better than trying to be funny or clever.
Now that we’ve addressed some of the things that might trip us up as we try to get our Confirmation prep candidates to engage, we can move on to show you how to do it.
And it’s important that we do this, and soon.
Time Is of the Essence
The Ever-Shortening Teen Attention Span
Historically, teens have never been renowned for their attention spans.
But over the past thirty years, between TV, radio, the internet, smartphones, and everything else, their attention spans have gotten very short.
The bad news? They’re only going to get shorter.
So if we plan to grab their attention, the best time to do it is now. Today.
A Noisy World That’s Getting Noisier
The sheer amount of information being shared on any given day is truly staggering.
The world is getting noisier, so you’ll have more competition for your candidates’ attention in the future.
We mentioned how teens’ attention spans are getting shorter, but on the other hand our competition for their attention is becoming more fierce.
This isn’t something we can put off until tomorrow. By the time tomorrow comes, our task will be even more difficult.
Religion Is Dismissed More and More
Because it is only going to be harder to bring them back to the faith in the future.
Kicking this can down the road isn’t going to make it easier later on … It will only be harder.
The world grows more skeptical of religion by the day, it seems.
Our culture is becoming more convinced that religion doesn’t make sense.
So why are we waiting? Why are we choosing to make things harder by putting off changes we need to make?
Here is what we can do and do immediately.
We’re Losing This Generation
We’re not looking to be fearmongers. Our goal isn’t to scare you.
But there does seem to be a lack of urgency.
Time and time again, we hear about how young people are leaving the Church.
We see the numbers, and they are bad. And they are getting worse.
We’re riding in our canoes, languidly paddling as the roar of the waterfall ahead grows louder.
We need to act. We need to change.
One thing we can do is look at how we approach what we teach in Confirmation prep.
Does it lead candidates to a relationship with Christ?
If yours doesn’t yet, don’t worry.
We’re going to show you how right now.
Nine Steps to Leading Transformative Confirmation Prep
1. Cultivate a Deep Love for God
More than 10 years ago, Simon Sinek gave a now-famous talk entitled “Start with Why.”
In his talk, he discusses why some people or companies are able to achieve incredible things while others fail.
The difference? Successful people start by identifying their why.
Their why is the purpose that is driving them forward.
For us, if we seek to bring young people back to the Catholic faith, we need to get clear on our why.
The first and most important “why” we can have driving us to help young people fall in love with their faith is our own love for God.
If we don’t love God to begin with, how can we help others love him?
At the Easter Vigil, the priest shares the flame from the Easter candle with another person and another, and they share it with another and another until until the entire congregation is ablaze.
This is how the faith spreads. To share that flame of faith, we must first allow it to be lit in ourselves.
So why do we want young people to discover God? Because we ourselves are radically in love with God.
2. Reflect on Love for Our Candidates
Since we love God, we know what it’s like to have our hearts transformed by him.
We want to bring that healing and joy to our Confirmation candidates.
All of us have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only Christ can fill.
So we want to share the Gospel with our candidates simply so that they can discover the perfect fulfillment of their heart’s deepest longing.
3. Develop a Love for the Church
Developing a relationship with Jesus will transform your candidates’ lives as individuals, sure.
But they are also members of the body of Christ. The head and the body are one.
So the third why we encourage you to consider is love for the Church.
When Catholics fail to embrace the faith and fall away, the body of Christ is injured.
Every day we’re losing hands and feet and arms and ears. Members of the Church are falling away and we all suffer the effects of that.
Cultivating deep love for God, our candidates, and the Church is the wellspring of life for us as we seek to ignite a love for Christ in the hearts of our Confirmation candidates.
4. Start with Their Hearts
Now that you are deeply convinced of your why for teaching Confirmation prep, you can pour that love onto your students.
When we begin Confirmation prep, we need to start at the very beginning. This way, we meet everyone where they are.
We don’t begin with doctrines and dogmas or even assume they have prior knowledge. We begin with the candidates as human beings.
Some call it “pre-evangelization.” What it means is that we start out by showing them that we understand their deepest questions about themselves:
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
All of us have a fundamental need to be understood and cared about.
When we show our candidates that we understand and care about them, it gets them to care about what we’re saying afterward.
This step is so important and so foundational. If you skip it, your candidates won’t know why they should care about any of this in the first place.
5. Introduce the Gospel
Now that you’ve gotten your candidates to buy into your program by promising to satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts, it’s time to move to the next step.
Here we introduce them to the initial proclamation of the Gospel: the kerygma.
This is the same message that the apostles shared after Christ ascended into heaven.
It’s the message that won thousands of souls. And it’s the message that the Holy Spirit blesses.
The basic four-part kerygma goes like this:
- God loves you and has a plan for your life.
- Sin has interfered with that plan.
- God sent his son Jesus to conquer sin.
- So if you reorient your life to Christ, you can enjoy eternal life.
To nail this, make sure you make it clear what you’re inviting your candidates into.
It isn’t about “graduating” from religious education.
It isn’t about a “rite of passage” into adulthood.
Jesus is offering them an invitation to become his disciples and to be in a personal relationship with him.
They need to choose how they will respond.
If you skip this step, your candidates may become confused about why they come to Confirmation prep in the first place.
Is it just another class like history or math? Of course not. But unless you are careful to get this step right, they’ll often lump this in with the rest of their schoolwork.
6. Share the Catholic Faith
After you’ve done this much to bring your candidates along in their appreciation for the Faith, you don’t want to see their faith choked by the world’s misconceptions about Catholicism, do you?
That is why this step is so critical. With the groundwork laid (for both you and your candidates), now it is time to catechize your candidates.
It’s important to notice that this is step 6, not step 1. Sometimes, in our excitement to share the Faith, we jump right to this.
But that is a mistake. It’s like offering water and sunlight to untilled soil with no seeds in it.
We need to make sure we bring our candidates along in a way that respects where they are in this process.
When they have reached this step, then a good, thorough catechesis that shares the full richness of the Catholic Faith will protect your candidates’ faith from being undermined by the misconceptions and misunderstandings they’ll hear about Catholicism.
Without this step, they might believe it when they hear that faith and reason are opposed to one another.
With it, your candidates will have the solid foundation of the Church’s rigorous intellectual tradition to stand on.
7. Provide Personal Testimony
To boost the engagement of your Confirmation program, you must begin with an emotional connection.
We can achieve this through the power of story.
When we teach our candidates that God loves them and has a beautiful plan for their lives, often we simply tell them just that:
“God loves you and has a plan for your life.”
This isn’t wrong. It’s true. But often it will fail to resonate with your candidates emotionally.
Try this instead. Human beings are addicted to stories. Our earliest ancestors were storytellers. And the way our minds work, we are predisposed to respond more fully to stories.
This is where personal testimony comes in. It is our secret weapon.
With personal testimony, we can share not only these truths but also the impact these truths have had on our lives.
Here’s a powerful example of personal testimony:
I was going through a really difficult time. I just didn’t feel as though I was loveable. I was unemployed, living in a new city, and I didn’t know anyone.
I came across a YouTube video randomly one day. In the video, the guy was saying, “God loves you and has a plan for your life.”
I had heard that a million times in my life. “God loves you. God loves you. God loves you.” But for some reason, that day I actually stopped to think about it. God, the God who created the universe … he loves me. And not just a little. Infinitely.
Did I really believe that? Did I really want to believe it? And I decided I wasn’t going to fight it. What could it hurt? God loves me.
Do you know what happened? First, I felt better. Because even though I had felt unlovable, I knew that couldn’t be true. God loves me.
And I had felt like I didn’t know anyone and I was alone. But I wasn’t. God knows me, and he loves me, and he is everywhere. So I wasn’t alone.
And even though I was unemployed and things were uncertain, God had a plan for my life. I found that just opening myself up even a little bit to the possibility of God loving me radically changed how I saw the world from then on.
Personal testimonies show us how a relationship with God can change things and how it can change people.
If you’re looking for ways to get the faith to resonate emotionally with your candidates, bring in more personal testimonies.
And not just your own.
Which brings us to …
8. The Cloud of Witnesses
One of the main challenges we face when sharing the Gospel is relativism.
Our young people have grown up in it. They’re steeped in it.
That can cause some issues when we present Church teaching as true, because often candidates will hear it as “true for us.”
In the world of relativism, it’s common to deflect new ideas that challenge your worldview by simply claiming that they’re just the other person’s opinion.
But there is a simple way to address this. Add more people.
If you are the only person on your Confirmation team, find others. They don’t need to be there for the whole year. They can just come for one or two sessions.
By adding more people, you’ll trigger what is known as “social proof.” This is when we as humans look at what most other people are doing to help us make decisions.
(Think about when you buy things on Amazon and go by which ones have the most reviews.)
Having your program coming from a group of people rather than a single person will help increase the authority of what you’re presenting.
That extra authority will make it more persuasive and more interesting to your candidates.
9. Use a Variety of Settings
The third simple change to make that will boost your candidates’ engagement in your Confirmation program is to vary the setting.
A lot of the time, Confirmation prep can get stuck in a rut and feel monotonous. The good news is that we know this happens. And since we know it happens, we can plan how to address it.
This is why you should plan on changing up the setting of your program. When you were in school, you went on field trips sometimes, right? Same idea.
Here are a couple easy ways to add some variety to your settings:
- Use a different room (if you’re able).
- Rearrange the chairs into different configurations.
- Turn off the lights and use flashlights.
- Pair up and go for a walk, doing two-person small groups.
- If the weather is nice, meet outside.
The human brain is hardwired to pay attention to new settings. It probably comes from our primitive ancestors. Back then, when something new came up, they had to figure out if it was a threat or not. They couldn’t afford to ignore it.
We can take advantage of this tendency by building novelty into our program on purpose.
These steps are foolproof. But they do take time to build and execute.
Which is why we’ve done it for you.
In Chosen: Your Journey to Confirmation, we bring together some of the top Catholic presenters and evangelists, including:
- Chris Stefanick
- Jackie Francois-Angel
- Fr. Mike Schmitz
- Leah Darrow
- Fr. Josh Johnson
- Fr. Mark Toups
- Mari Pablo
- Jason Evert
- And more!
This is the revised and updated version of Chosen, which has already helped over 500,000 students prepare for Confirmation. The presenters radiate a deep love and enthusiasm for God and his Church that are contagious.
Chosen has a logical progression. It starts with the questions deep in the heart of every teen: Who am I? Why do I matter? It introduces the Gospel and shows how it answers their deepest longings. With this foundation, Chosen brings them the truth of the Catholic Faith so that they will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.
In Chosen, all kinds of voices encourage your students. The presenters share their testimonies, their journeys, and how Jesus and his Church have changed their lives.
All you have to do is push Play and connect with your students through discussion (which is all you wanted to do in the first place!).
Sign up for a free preview of Chosen now and see for yourself.
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