What is confirmation and why do we do it? How must we adapt youth ministry—and church in general—to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world? These are the driving questions that have shaped my ministry in recent years.
Two months ago, after I preached on the final confirmation Sunday of my foreseeable future—keeping in mind that God may well bring me back to congregational youth ministry—it occurred to me that confirmation sermons have been one of my favorite ways to reflect theologically on faith formation with young people. Ideas and articulations that first surfaced in confirmation sermons became raw material for blog posts, academic writing, and public speaking on youth ministry and the wider church. Gathering these sermons together feels like an appropriate way to bring closure to this season of ministry as I transition into my new call as Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Yet my motivation for this collection is not primarily nostalgic. I have a youth ministry book in me that needs to come out and these sermons represent the contexts from which that book is emerging. Think of this as a prelude—prolegomena, if you will—to a practical theology of progressive and post-Christendom youth ministry yet to come.
In fourteen years of congregational youth ministry I preached the twelve confirmation sermons assembled here. They bear witness to my evolution as a youth pastor, as a practical theologian, and as a preacher. In particular, looking back at these from the vantage point of my current thinking about youth ministry and church in general, I can trace my developing understanding of post-Christendom as the most helpful way to make sense of the radical changes we are experiencing in the relationship between church and culture in North America.
Self-publishing this book was fun and I’m happy to see it in print. It’s available at amazon.com for just $10 in paperback and $5 on Kindle. If you’re interested in youth ministry, confirmation, or the future of the church, I invite you to check out these sermons.