Confirm and Small(er) Church Youth Ministry

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Confirm Student GuideOn August 11, the United Methodist Publishing House hosted a gathering to introduce new United Methodist endorsed confirmation curriculum. Initiated by the Confirmation Project of Princeton Theological Seminary in 2014, Youth Ministry Partners (Abingdon Press) joined the process to develop new Methodist confirmation training. The new curriculum, Confirm, hopes to offer a fresh approach to assist churches in the disciple-making process.

Confirm is designed to address the fullness of learning for middle school students when it comes to matters of the church, denomination, and faith. Instead of primarily focusing on getting students to make a decision about their faith or membership to a local church, the new materials seek to be part of the discipleship path. The curriculum includes 39 customizable lessons and guides for the leader, mentors, students, and family. Within the lessons, there are whiteboard videos to help increase understanding and retention. Each lesson seeks to create opportunities for concrete experiences, reflective observations, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation (Kolb’s Learning Cycle). The lessons will be available as traditional books or can be purchased as an online resource to make the lessons more customizable for your group’s needs.

The Confirm curriculum is currently being tested by 36 United Methodist churches of varying demographics and sizes and expects to be released to the public in December 2016. Go to http://www.youthministrypartners.com/confirm to find out more information.

Following the presentation about the Confirm curriculum and an explanation of the process for its development, Brad Fiscus, Director of Next Gen Discipleship for the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, shared about his upcoming book and the Small(er) Church Youth Ministry Initiative (SCYMI).

Brad Fiscus Smaller Church Youth Ministry August 2016Fiscus began with statistics that revealed that 59% of Protestant churches in the US are smaller congregations that have an attendance of 99 or less. He also shared that in the Tennessee Conference, 82% of churches worship 99 or less. As a denomination of mostly smaller churches, the question of “how do we get them what they need?” becomes important. In the area of youth ministry, Fiscus explained how it cannot be a ministry for the church or to young people, but instead it must be a ministry with young people. The difference between “small church” and “smaller church” is not the number in attendance but the mentality and attitude of the people. Small church says, “Because we’re small, we can’t…” The smaller church says, “Because we’re smaller, we can…” “This is an important shift,” Fiscus says, “because it moves churches from a mindset that is limiting to one that is empowering.”

The cohort for SCYMI is made up of two churches from each of the TNUMC seven districts. Each church that is accepted into the cohort brings the pastor, a youth, a youth parent, a leader of the church not directly involved in the youth ministry, and a few leaders from the youth ministry to four Saturday gatherings. Coaches are assigned to each church and they check in with the leadership throughout the yearlong commitment. A retreat is also included as part of the process. Not only is this a time for the group to develop the best way forward for the youth and the church, but it also gives churches in the district a chance to partner in ministry.

Fiscus’ book, Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem! will be available in December 2016. The book will share insight into building ministries that are team-focused, sustainable, and disciple forming. It will  share personal stories of those who are in ministry in smaller congregations as well as tips to get your ministry moving forward.