As I do every fall, back in October I travelled to Waco, Texas for Baylor Homecoming. Each year I manage to catch up with a few friends, learning about changes in family life, location, occupation, etc. This fall I ran into Todd Ferguson, a guy a bit younger than me who works with children and youth at Willow Meadows Baptist Church in Houston, TX. Among the many things Todd and I discussed while the parade rolled by, he mentioned that he truly enjoyed creating moments that could serve as "rites of passage" for the young men in his ministry.
From time to time I've thought of that conversation while interacting with students at Resurrection West or while learning about and analyzing our culture. In the Christian community, where do we create space for young people to grow up? In my local church, the obvious answer is confirmation. But aside from taking on the title "Christian" and knowing that one is "confirmed," how does that occasion serve as a transition point in a young person's journey of faith wherein the confirmand now holds a greater sense of belonging and purpose within the community?
In other words, do our confirmation programs do more than affirm individual faith? Do they bring students in to the body?
I grew up in a "believer's church" tradition. I can remember being taught that the Lord's Supper, or communion, was taken by those who had decided to follow Jesus Christ. If you had not committed your life to Christ, you did not take of the bread and the cup. I cite this example only to show that once I had made that decision and been baptized, I also knew that I could partake in the Lord's meal. I had moved from one sphere of belonging (welcome guest and interested observer) to another (part of the body).
Of course, this rite of passage only brought me so far--I wasn't given any official leadership position or authority. But it did give me a sense of place within the church. I had affirmed a personal relationship with God, while also being initiated into a corporate practice of the church. Something had changed.
For my friends that have grown up in traditions with confirmation as part of the process of discipleship, how did that moment serve as a rite of passage for your sense of belonging within the church? What, if anything, changed?
I ask this question because I am curious: how do our rites of passage work in an individualistic culture? Other than confirmation, what other spaces do we create in our ministries for people to transition from one way of being to another? Those two questions are distinct, but related.
What do you think?