For quite a few years, I remember hearing complaints about how confirmation classes were required and there was no way to get out of them, barring serious illness or death. But recently it seems there are more excuses for not attending confirmation classes—like a required sports practice or a pile of homework as big as your refrigerator. The discussion often tends toward the ridiculous and stops right before large objects are thrown.

In order to build up attendance, our pastor, Father Patrick Toner, decided to try something new. Maybe it was his military background that inspired the idea of a “boot camp” theme. As he says, it is “basic training for soldiers for Christ.”

“I like it because it requires a commitment from the confirmandi,” Father Toner says, pointing out that, combined with the mandatory retreat, “it is a balanced approach.”

The first year we offered Confirmation Boot Camp, there were a number of differences from our past tug-of-war with parents and students over required attendance. For one thing, no one missed any classes. No one. Even though we are a very small parish, this was no small feat.

Father Toner says he’s “heard nothing but good things: It’s convenient, practical, meaningful, and well-adapted to busy schedules.” And again, it is no small feat for a pastor to only hear positive feedback.

The whole piece I wrote for RTJ’s Creative Catechist is over at their website. Enjoy!