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Confirmation Class of 33 Ponder Faith, Christianity

“On the Hot Seat”: The position of someone who is being asked many difficult or embarrassing questions.
One doesn’t often equate Covenant’s confirmation classes with the hot seat, but at two of the church’s five meetings this spring, 33 student participants got the chance to ask anything they wanted of Covenant leaders on the hot seat. Covenant Youth Ministry Director Jake Pluenneke and Director of Missions and former Youth Director Whitney Bell took the hot seat at separate meetings.
“I love the hot seat,” Jake said. “It gives the kids a chance to ask Covenant leaders about their faith — from really hard questions to super simple.”
Jake described the confirmation group of 33 kids as “ginormous.” We haven’t been able to do confirmation in so long, and it’s super fun to have this many kids. We wanted to make sure we do it in person so we’ve got three years’ worth of kids. There are seniors, juniors, sophomores and a couple freshman.”
Whitney was on the hot seat during the “My Faith” section of the curriculum. Jake explained that the confirmation class was divided into three parts. First, kids talk about “The Faith.” During this segment, they discussed Christianity as a whole. “We talk about the big, key components of the Christian faith,” Jake said.
The second topic future confirmands studied was “My Faith.” During this time, they discussed what it looks like for them to explore their own reality with God. They met with their mentors and heard about what faith means to them, Jake said. 
It was during this class session that Whitney answered questions about her faith. “The kids asked questions like: ‘What does your faith look like on a daily basis? What does your prayer life look like? How do you struggle with idea of evil in the world?’” Jake said.
The final section was “Our Faith.” Students discussed how to participate in the church and to be part of a bigger body of believers. They talked about how their faith plays out in the community.
The goal for confirmation participants is to talk about the big ideas, and for the kids to make them practical. “That is how it becomes real for us,” Jake said. 
As an example, the students talked about baptism and attended a Covenant baptism. “We want the students to get a glimpse of what Covenant is all about. Baptism is really special in the church, and we got to see the practice done.
“A lot of kids wait until confirmation to get baptized,” Jake added. “Baptism is a way for the kids to confess their beliefs and make the church their own.”
No matter the topic, Jake said that the Youth Ministry team really wanted the kids to dive into the ideas. “We want them to have open communication with their mentors; to be able to ask questions and talk about the ideas they are processing and where they are struggling.”
Mentors are all past elders and deacons, and other leaders in the church. “They are people who have been involved at the church, who know Covenant and what we believe. They are leaders in our community and in their faith. They volunteer to walk with our students to help them build their faith, to figure out their faith,” Jake explained. “By watching others do that, our students get a glimpse of what it looks like to follow God, to know that it’s okay to not have it all figured out. Our mentors are super familiar faces to the students, and we see them pour back into our kids.”
Covenant member and deacon Russell McFarland served as a mentor to three high school boys. Russell said when Jake asked him to serve, he knew he was uniquely qualified. “Having been a D-Group (youth ministry small groups were formerly called D-Groups) leader, I am specially equipped to be a confirmation leader. I’ve also been through confirmation at Covenant myself and have served as a deacon for the last four years.”
Russell enjoys the kids. “I find their personal take on reality refreshing because it’s often more raw or honest. They are less willing to disguise their opinions.
“I think the boys’ curiosity stems from their ability to see themselves in me,” Russell said. “They have questions about their own future and ask me what my faith walk was like, knowing that theirs might will be similar and different. ‘What was your faith walk like in college? What was an easy time versus a hard time in your faith journey?’ These questions are instigated by the process of talking about their personal faith and where it will lead them.”
Russell said the jury is out on how successful his mentorship has been. “The heart of the question is connection and community,” Russell explained. “Will the confirmation mentorship experience be meaningful for the students in such a way that they are able to come back later and say ‘this had meaning; it inspired me on my faith walk?’”
The mentors helping with this spring’s confirmation class include many different voices and personalities. Russell said the room is filled with people who display a variety of styles and approaches. “This definitely isn’t a personality cult,” he said. “In fact, that doesn’t work. Our strength is in the variety of people helping with confirmation.”
For Jake, leading the confirmation class was rewarding. “It’s been such a joy to see God connect with kids. I loved to see the kids connect with their mentors as they embark on a lifelong journey of following Jesus. I’ve been able to hear conversations and see them process really big ideas, and realize that at the end of confirmation, they won’t have it all figured out. They know it’s a lifelong journey.”
Covenant members and friends will get the chance to celebrate this class of 33 when they are confirmed at the 9:30 a.m. Sanctuary service on May 15.
 

Seniors
Confirmation is one of many things going on in our youth ministry. Jake said there will also be opportunities to celebrate high school seniors in our congregation.
“We have such a strong group of seniors,” Jake said. “It’s a really special class. We have a group of 25 senior girls who are so diverse,” Jake said. “These girls have rallied behind our retreats and trips, making time to attend them. Those shared experiences are where you form the strong friendships and bonds. It is where you really grow as a group.”
“I think we’re so tight-knit because many of us have grown up in the church together, and all of us are so open to welcoming new members into our group, and even re-welcoming old ones,” said senior Anna McClellan. “I’m honestly not even sure I could tell you why, but there is something super special about the sisterhood that we share. We all walk our own paths but are also able to lift each other up and root for each other along the way.”
The girls, along with 12 (or so) senior boys, will soon be recognized. First, on Wednesday, May 18, some of the seniors will talk about their faith journeys with the middle school group. “Middle school students love the older kids,” Jake said. “It will be great for the high school kids to share their knowledge with the younger kids.”
Later that same night, Jake has some fun and meaningful activities planned during the high school group time. Seniors will participate in games and again, Jake said they will have the opportunity to share about what Covenant means to them.
On Sunday, May 22, parents are invited to attend the last senior small group meetings during the 9:30 youth hour. Then at the 11 a.m. Contemporary Service, the congregation will celebrate all our high school seniors.

 

Summer
School may be out, but Covenant youth don’t stop! The Covenant Youth Ministry summer kickoff is Friday, June 3. Each month, our middle and high school students will have one worship night, one movie night and one pool party.
“Kids are all over the place, so we combined middle school and high school for our summer activities,” Jake said. “We’ll have good energy at all those events.”
The groups will be separate for their out-of-town excursions. High school students will travel just outside of Taos, New Mexico, in mid-June to participate in a Wilderness Trek backpacking expedition.
According to its website, Wilderness Trek uses “adventure as a spiritual catalyst in order to help teens, young adults and families grow into the people God calls them to be.”
“We lined this up three years ago,” Jake said, “but this is the first year we’ve been able to go. We were looking for a shared experience. I’m super excited to do a backpack trip, get out of Texas, and beat the heat, and especially for the kids to share this experience. They’ll get away from their phones and be disconnected, and experience God through the beauty of nature.”
Jake said this trip is hugely popular, and when we talked in mid-April, there was only one spot left.
Covenant’s 6th and 7th graders will venture to Kerrville, where they’ll attend Camp Chrysalis, a middle school extreme adventure camp. The trip is planned for mid-July, and according to the Chrysalis website, “campers share in Christian community as they play, explore and discover a deeper, personal faith while forming friendships and developing skills that last a lifetime. Chrysalis campers are immersed in fun and meaningful Christian community with interactive Bible study and camp-style worship as a part of each day.”
“During the day, our kids will do all the camp activities with their counselors and interact with different groups. But in the evenings, the group will be just our Covenant kids. There’s a hilly bluff that overlooks the camp with a big cross,” Jake said. “One of the nights we’ll hike to the bluff and camp out.”
Camp Chrysalis is for 6th and 7th graders with an unlimited number of spots available. 
 

What in a Name?
Covenant Youth Ministry is now the official name of our ministry for middle and high school students. “Kids take identity in what we call them, and we realize our kids are way more than just students,” Jake explained. “There’s no pressure to excel at being students. We just know our kids are way more.”
If you have questions about anything related to the Covenant Youth Ministry, contact Jake at jpluenneke@covenant.org.
Sunday Worship Times

Worship In Person
Traditional services at 8:15 and 9:30 a.m.
Contemporary Service at 11:00 a.m.

Worship Online
Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at covenant.org/worshiponline 

Office Hours
Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. -  6 p.m.
Friday,  9 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

 

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