Church confirms, affirms middle schoolers

David Wille congratulates 14-year-old Kiya Gates on graduating from Confirmation at Confirmation Sunday May 17.

David Wille congratulates 14-year-old Kiya Gates on graduating from Confirmation at Confirmation Sunday May 17.

By Mary M. Rall
Community Covenant Church

Community Covenant Church celebrated its youth May 17 at Confirmation Sunday, when about 30 middle schoolers were recognized for their progress through or graduation from Confirmation.

The nine-month Confirmation program was reintroduced this school year following a several-year absence of the curriculum from the youth ministry program, said Middle School Director Rebecca Loritz.

She said she expected a handful of middle schoolers to attend Confirmation the first year, but was amazed when more than 40 students in sixth through eighth grade initially expressed interest in participating in September.

“That just affirmed for us that’s what God wanted,” she said.

The students were broken down into two groups, with the sixth and seventh graders focusing on the first part of a two-year Confirmation program taught by Tamara Tanner and the eighth graders completing a consolidated one-year program taught by David Wille, Loritz said.

“The sixth and seventh grades focused on the Old Testament, while the eighth graders focused on the New Testament, the new covenant established by Jesus and the formation of the church,” Wille said.

Wille transitioned from working with the high schoolers last school year to teaching Confirmation Sunday evenings following middle school youth group this year, an opportunity he said he was grateful to take.

“There’s nothing more important than helping someone learn and grow and then follow the way Jesus taught,” Wille said. “He came so we could have life, true life, and have it to the fullest extent meant for us by God. What could be better than helping someone get a sense of what God has planned for them?”

He said that wasn’t a hard undertaking, as there were plenty of opportunities to share the good news with the students and to teach the foundations God laid through scripture.

“The main intent of confirmation is for the students to get a solid understanding of where our faith comes from, the foundational beliefs of our church, how the church was formed and begin practicing its ways, such as devotional study, reflection, prayer and acts of service in order to grow one’s faith,”

Wille said. “We want to help them go from being spoon-fed to learning how to feed themselves.”

Eighth grader Kiya Gates said she chose to attend Confirmation to gain a stronger understanding of her faith, which the study definitely helped her achieve.

“The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, I had no idea what they were,” Gates said, explaining they dug deeper into everything from the meaning of the creeds to understanding the significance of communion. “I kind of get it now, and it makes more sense.”

Participation in Confirmation required genuine effort on both the students’ and the teachers’ part, Wille said, noting the middle schoolers had daily homework assignments to complete, and there were challenges to teaching the curriculum.

“There were some rough spots and some discouraging times when I thought, ‘They don’t get it, or they’re missing it.’ There were a bunch of times I thought, ‘This lesson or this activity is going to be great,’ and then it didn’t work out,” Wille said. “But I learned to keep at it, to not quit, even when discouraged, and to keep following the inspirations God gives.”

Gates said she found the dedication the homework required rewarding, though, and it helped her maintain some long-term habits.

“The everyday Bible study was a really good help,” she said, adding it encouraged her to think more about the content of what she was reading and to continue studying the Bible.

“I’m using a devotional now and am trying to use it every day to keep up with devotions so I can stay strong in Christ,” Gates said.

Wille added he could truly see the Holy Spirit work in the class, which was reflected in the students’ responses to the curriculum, as well as how he was led to teach them.

“They asked hard questions that came from the heart that I couldn’t answer very well,” he said, “but with the help of the Holy Spirit, some answers came out beautifully and seemed to actually make a connection.”

Wille said he was thankful for moments like the baptisms and affirmations of baptism at CCC, as well as the hike up Mount Baldy the eighth grade Confirmation students participated in with the high schoolers the afternoon of Confirmation Sunday.

“It was such a great reward to see them confirmed, to see them choose to be baptized and affirm their faith. They were shown the way, and they took it,” Wille said, expressing he was grateful to be present for the hike as well.

“They talked about where they were in their faith, shared verses that mean something to them and why they were meaningful,” he said. “That whole day was beautiful. I felt joy watching them. It couldn’t have worked out any better, and I thank God for that.”