Teaching the Bible in Confirmation Class

My congregation uses the wonderful Here We Stand confirmation ministry curriculum from Augsburg Fortress Publishers.  Though no curriculum is perfect, I like Here We Stand (HWS) because it is intelligent, engaging, and flexible.  I've used it with a large group of kids in a church that made great use of technology and enjoyed the silliness of the skits, and I've used it with a smaller group of learners in a church that had a much more traditional mode of teaching.  Yet HWS works for both.

I also like HWS because it is flexible.  Inevitably, many teachers – pastors and lay leaders alike – shape the lesson to include their own insights, experiences, or emphases.  Sometimes we do this to the benefit of the ministry, and other times to its detriment.  (My rule of thumb: trust the curriculum editors and writers – they're not perfect, but they're not dim-burning bulbs, either.  More on using curriculum, perhaps, in a future post.)  The core leader material is available as a downloadable .rtf document – completely editable.  Whenever I teach, I download the whole lesson and then edit away – cutting out what I don't want, keeping what I want, tweaking what I want to tweak.  It is marvelous.

One of the ways that I am editing the curriculum this year – besides my inevitable tweaking of the lessons that I'm assigned to teach – is that we are not going to go through the Bible portion of the curriculum in a straight forward, Old Testament to New Testament movement (as is suggested in their 2-year Scope and Sequence).  Instead, we will be reviewing Biblical content this year on a thematic basis, bouncing between Old Testament lessons, New Testament lessons, and Small Catechism lessons (which, of course, reflect Biblical themes and contain lots of Biblical content), hoping to show the unity of the Testaments in the process.  Our units are as follows:

  1. Introduction to the Bible (2 sessions)
  2. Creation and New Creation (4 sessions – 3 OT, 1 NT)
  3. Chosen by God, Promised by God (7 sessions – 3OT, 2NT, 2 SC)
  4. Way to Live (3 sessions – 1OT, 2 SC)
  5. Heroes of the Bible (12 sessions – 8OT, 4NT)
  6. Poetry of Faith (2 sessions – 1OT, 1 self-written lesson)
  7. Hope for the Future (1 session – 1NT)

To see which lessons we will use in each unit, download and view the Confirmation Calendar using the following link:
Download Confirmation Calendar.

After two weeks of introduction, my intention with the second and third units is to teach two broad and central Biblical themes that reach across the Testaments.  The following two units will help us reflect on the life of faith, especially through the diverse lives and experiences of various biblical heroes.  The Poetry of Faith unit is too short, but it will seek to connect the creative expression of faith in song and prayer with the creative juices of our young people.  We end with a hopeful look at the promise of the resurrection.  I hope my learners will see common themes connecting the Old and New Testaments, and come to view the Bible and our faith tradition as an integrated whole rather than as the sum of several distinct parts. 

Significantly, perhaps, our students will not directly study either the birth or crucifixion of our Lord.  I'm trusting that

  • our students will have learned these stories previously in worship and Sunday School;
  • they have reflected (or will reflect) on these stories in the Catechism year of our two-year Confirmation program; and
  • through their participation in the life of the church – it's liturgy and fellowship ministries – they are making meaning out of these stories.

Surely we could benefit from teaching the nativity and crucifixion stories, but there are other less familiar topics that I'd really like to address.  Even if the nativity or resurrection isn't the central lesson for a given lesson, my learners will have opportunity to reflect on these central stories through the topics that we'll cover in class and through participation in other ministry settings.

Also, the lesson outline is Old Testament heavy (16 OT, 8NT, 4SC, 3 "other").  I believe that our children (and our church, in general) are much more familiar with the New Testament than they are with the Old Testament, and that many view the Old Testament as if it were some sort of a wrathful bogeyman (many, quite unintentionally, fall into a Marcionite heresy).  My hope is, by teaching the Bible with a strong emphasis on the Old Testament, that our learners will see the whole Bible as an integrated book of faith showing us a way of life and giving us hope for the world.

Besides a Sunday School-style "Learning Faith" class during which these lessons are shared, our program also includes a Sunday evening "Living Faith" program.  The "Living Faith" portion of the ministry consists of of three units of five consecutive Sunday evenings (one unit each in the fall, winter, and spring) where learners will gain some experience in a hands-on, "Living Faith" activity – worship leadership in the fall unit, planning and executing a service project in the winter unit, and practicing spiritual disciplines in the spring unit.  More on the "Living Faith" unit, perhaps, in a future post.