What are the pros and cons, or things to be aware of/avoid, when seeking to bridge youth ministry with Confirmation preparation? Is there an expectation of involvement in youth ministry for Confirmation candidates?
I do not believe there is any cons to integrating Confirmation with Youth Ministry. However, I have a general rule that Youth Ministry is never mandatory such as Life Nights and Small Group gatherings. The only exception is if a teen misses too many Confirmation classes our Faith Formation Director asks them to attend Youth Group as a compromise.
We look at Youth Ministry as the doorway for young people to enter into the life of our parish. It is their next step after being confirmed. Our parish has the expectations that the young people will bring their gifts and talents forth and collaborate with us in mission. Additionally, if we receive a teen into ministry that has not received the sacraments, we will journey with that teen encouraging them to enter in to sacrament preparation through our Faith Formation program.
My diocese (Colorado Springs) confirms in the 8th Grade and requires one year of faith formation prior to entering Confirmation prep. In the past, we have kept 8th Grade separate from the Youth Ministry Program. This had the effect of Confirmation being something outside the natural maturation of Catechesis in Youth Ministry and making it feel very much like a class; no matter what program I used.
This coming year I am combining 7th and 8th Grade into a two-year program at the end of which youth will be prepared to receive the Sacrament. I am not sure how it is all going to work out.
The Cons: imposing standards for attendance and sacramental requirements.
Youth present who are bing forced to be there by parents
Pros: The sacrament is not something separate but incorporated into the lived experience of the faith
youth receive a taste of youth ministry style programming rather than classroom
Confirmation is the result of an organic development of the faith rather than a reward for attending the classes and getting the right answers
I believe it's very important to bridge that gap because you have teens that may never connect to the Youth Ministry programming that is happening because they are the teens who don't want to be in the Confirmation Program. So I feel that they should at least be exposed to the other Youth Ministry programming being offered. So we ask our youth in Confirmation to attend 7 life nights a year. These include the summer ones and some events such as Inspiration count as 2 nights since they are so long. The pro, is we have teens who might not otherwise be coming to life nights coming on a regular basis. Some even come way more than the minimum amount that we ask. The con, however, is I have seen that some teens stop coming after they are confirmed. So some just see it as another aspect of the confirmation program. The con, however, I feel has more to do with the parents, because many of the parents where I am at don't feel the need for them to come so the parents only supported it while it was part of the program and now that they are confirmed, the parents no longer support them coming even if they were one of the regulars who really enjoyed it.