Youth: Learning and Living the Faith
Endowment Inc. Funded Research Project
Summary and Design
Summary by Katherine M. Douglass and Richard R. Osmer
The Christian Youth: Learning and Living the Faith Project (CY: LLF)
seeks to learn the extent to which confirmation and equivalent practices (CEP)
in five Protestant denominations in North America are effective for
strengthening discipleship in youth. These denominations include the African
Methodist Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the United Methodist
Church. It seeks to provide Christian leaders with examples of good practice
and with strategies that are effective in helping young Christians grow as
disciples of Jesus Christ. Strengthening discipleship includes nurturing faith
in Jesus Christ and facilitating youth encounters with Christian traditions
(Scripture, creeds, confessions, and practices) to support lifelong Christian
Leadership for the
grant includes two co-directors and a steering committee made up of five
practical theologians representing the five denominations.
Katherine M.Douglass, Princeton Theological Seminary, PC(USA)
Richard R. Osmer, Princeton Theological Seminary, PC(USA)
Garret Evangelical Seminary, AME
Virginia Theological Seminary, Episcopal Church
Terri Elton, Luther
Princeton Theological Seminary, PC(USA)
Princeton Theological Seminary, UMC
Graduate Research Assistants:
Shonda Gladden, doctoral student, Garret Evangelical Seminary, AME
Kate Obermueller Unruh, doctoral student, Princeton Theological Seminary, UMC
Peter Bauch, doctoral student, Luther Seminary, ELCA
Kate Sibernas, Masters of Divinity candidate, Virginia Theological Seminary, Episcopal Church
Sylvia Bull, Masters of Divinity candidate, Princeton Theological Seminary, PC(USA)
Jacob Sorenson, doctoral student, Luther Seminary, Confirmation camp ministries
study will carry out empirical research on CEP across five denominations
through two waves of quantitative data collected from ministry leaders,
parents, and youth participants. It will supplement this quantitative research
with qualitative data gathered through focus groups and participant
identify examples of CEP that are innovative and formative, with the aim of
discerning insights and practices that might be transferred to other
identify congregations of best practice for further study.
develop new pedagogical approaches and resources for CEP that take account of
the challenges of the new media, social networks, and other developments
impacting young people.
offer new theological thinking about CEP, inviting congregations to think in
fresh ways about the nature of Christian discipleship, vocation, and the nature
and purpose of the church as a community of disciples called to participate in
the mission of God.
serve as a catalyst of discussion, virtual communities, and peer relationships
for practitioners involved in CEP.
disseminate the findings of this study through articles, monographs, webinars,
conferences, and an interactive website.
This research is targeted to benefit practitioners and ministry leaders
in congregations. It strives to offer them an accurate picture of CEP practice,
to clarify the theological purpose of CEP, and to offer new resources and
examples of good CEP practice. The overarching goal is strengthening
discipleship formation through CEP.
In addition to ministry practitioners leaders, we believe this research
will benefit leaders of denominations providing guidance to the educational
ministry of their church and professors in seminaries and divinity schools
teaching in the area of CEP, as well as Christian education generally.
First, two waves of quantitative data will be gathered through surveys
of youth, parents, and ministry leaders in order to (1) create a map of current
practices, (2) compile a list of resources being used, the frequency of their
usage, and the level of satisfaction youth, parents, and ministry leaders have
with these resources, (3) identify congregations that exemplify best practices,
(4) gather data regarding congregational involvement, and (5) measure the
extent of discipleship strengthening. Data will be collected from ministry
leaders in the first wave only.
Second, qualitative data will be gathered through focus groups and
interviews in twenty-five congregations, five from each denomination of youth,
parents, and ministry leaders in order to (1) gain further insight into the
motivations for participation in confirmation programs, (2) determine the goals
and outcomes of confirmation programs, (3) assess their effectiveness in
forming disciples, and (4) collect information regarding the kind and type of
resources that would be most beneficial to youth, parents, and ministry
Third, we will identify twenty “best practice” congregations
representing the five denominations who will be paired with a GRA.
Congregations will then work with GRA’s to share their confirmation programs
through our website. We anticipate the sharing of these practices will take a
plurality of forms including curriculum, narrative, and video interviews.
First, this research will
be used to gain greater understanding of confirmation practices within
congregations and across denominations. It will also assess the motivations,
expectations, and levels of satisfaction that youth, parents, and ministry
leaders have about practices of confirmation. Second, this research will be
used as a foundation upon which to build research-based literature, including
books, curriculum, and online resources, and training events for those teaching
about or leading confirmation. Third, this research will serve as the basis
of a fresh discussion of confirmation and other practices supporting
discipleship formation of youth. This
discussion will be inaugurated by the steering committee through writings,
presentations at conferences and guilds, and the project website.