Monday, May 18, 2009

One Word

A few weeks ago, I outlined the process I try to utilize when doing summertime planning for the coming school year. This week is the first time that process will be put into motion for 2009-10. It's time for the pastors and I to have our annual Confirmation Ministry planning retreat. We do this in late-May, when our failures and successes are fresh in our minds. The hope is for us to create the most effective plan possible for helping 5th - 9th graders grow in "faith, love, and obedience to the will of God". The tricky part is that we also do our best to honor the traditions of a church that, to my knowledge, is the only congregation that has a five year confirmation ministry.

(The joys and sorrows of this particular educational model might be the subject of another post; but not today.)

I've been toying with an idea that is new to our congregation...and to me...but I doubt the idea is universally "new". I'm calling this work-in-progress ONE WORD. The goal of the curriculum is to focus on a one-word theme for the duration of the class time. From a pedagogy standpoint, there would be a variety of activities that appeal to the three learning styles and the eight multiple intelligences. From a curricular perspective, we would use (1) Scripture, (2) Church History, (3) Luther’s Small Catechism, and (4) Culture in each lesson to help young people explore what God is saying about a variety of topics.

For example, let’s say the ONE WORD on a given night was “Covenant”. Here’s how the lesson would unfold:

  1. Gathering Activity
  2. Prayer
  3. Definition of Covenant
  4. Scripture Stories
  5. Introduce Memory Verse
  6. Covenants in Church History
  7. Covenants in the Catechism
  8. Covenants in Kid's Lives
  9. Memory Verse Recap
  10. Covenant Challenge this week

Obviously, for Christians, the title ONE WORD refers not only to a thematic focus on a singular word, but on the idea that our faith is rooted in God’s living and breathing Word. Helping young Lutherans become more Biblically literate is the bedrock of every confirmation program. That said, my hope is that ONE WORD will serve a practical purpose for these teens as well. By referring to the one-word theme throughout the teaching time, I believe kids will retain more of what is taught. The hope is that the ONE WORD will function like a trigger for young minds in the weeks and months to follow. When kids hear the word “Covenant” they might be more likely to recall the activities and discussions that took place during class time than if they were on their 3rd week in an 8-week series exploring the Letters of Paul.

Of course, that’s all pretty idealistic. That's why we're still in the "idea phase" of planning.

As an additional disclaimer, this is a highly-contextualized tweak of a unique confirmation ministry that already exists where I work. I’m looking forward to fleshing it out and exploring new wrinkles with the pastors later this week. Of course, like all ideas, it’s possible that this one won’t come to fruition. I post this in the hopes that someone might find this helpful for their context…or for people to offer their own Confirmation Ministry thoughts on koinonia.

(I think if we end up running with this idea, our ONE WORD on the first night should be...are you listening? PLASTICS!)


  1. I'm fascinated by your concept, can you flesh out the structure of the five years? First year goals, second, etc. In which grade do you start the catechetical process?

  2. Entitlement, generosity, responsibility, duality.

  3. Ryan - great words to add to the list!

    Paul - *sigh*...the five year structure.

    It consists of two 2-year cycles (5th & 6th, 7th & 8th) with those two grades combined for class time.

    5/6 gr Year 1 - Intro to Bible (12 weeks)
    5/6 gr Year 2 - Church History (12 weeks)

    7/8 gr Year 1 - Catechism Big Three (20)
    7/8 gr Year 2 - OT (6), NT (8), Sacraments (6)

    The 9th graders do a lot of closure activities for 8 weeks in September & October before Affirmation of Baptism. Faith justice..."what now?" discussions...good stuff.

    Clear as mud?

  4. Hey! I find this intriguing ... for very classical Lutheran theological reasons. Back when Luther was translating the Bible into German he wrote short introductory prefaces to guide the reader. In his Preface to Romans he says that you really can't hear its message unless you understand the basic vocabulary of sin, grace, faith, etc. It's not that he thought his audience would have NO understanding, but a distorted or legalistic understanding. So, he offered brief, evangelical definitions of the basic vocabulary of Christian faith. Wesley's famous experience of having his heart "strangely warmed" supposedly happened when he was reading this preface. Powerful stuff (by the way, it's in Luther's Works, vol. 365, pp. 365ff, among many places, if you want to read it).

    Marcus Kunz

  5. Thanks for dropping the knowledge, Marcus. I love that the One Word idea was unintentionally a Luther hat-tip. I'll have to spend a little time in Luther's Works this week.

  6. Nicole VanderMeulenFebruary 24, 2016 at 1:07 PM

    Hi Erik! I'm intrigued by this concept of one word confirmation. Did you ever take the idea any further? We're re-building our confirmation ministry and I just don't find much of the curriculum out there helpful. I pull together my own, but it's silly to start from scratch when there's partnership potential. I'd love to connect via email


Thank you for taking the time to be a part of "koinonia"