Inviting Sponsors to Confirmation Retreats

Paul Masek's picture

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There is a relatively new trend developing in the retreat ministry of the REAP Team, and some church leaders are pretty enthusiastic about it.

More and more, whenever possible, parishes are inviting sponsors to attend Confirmation retreats with their students - and if the sponsor cannot attend, a “sponsor substitute” like a parent or older sibling is asked to attend in their stead.

There are several reasons why many of us think this is a great idea:

  1. Student/Sponsor relationships are strengthened - not only through the shared experience of a retreat, but also because they are given opportunities to share faith with one another through meaningful discussion.
  2. Sponsors get evangelized, too.  I think we all know that sometimes sponsors are chosen based upon factors other than being an outstanding, exemplary, saintly role model of faith.  And, if a sponsor is a rock star for Jesus, even the best of us need to be constantly evangelized, right?
  3. Crowd control becomes a non-issue. Anyone who has ever worked with a group of teens knows that sometimes the crowd can become restless or rowdy; having an adult sitting next to every teen basically eliminates this problem.
  4. Staff workload is lightened.  Not only are fewer parish staff members needed to help with crowd control, but the task of recruiting and training small group leaders is eliminated.
  5. It’s a call to excellence.  We try to be excellent at all of our events, and knowing that adults will be in attendance reminds us to honor everyone’s valuable sacrifice of time by doing our very best for God & His people.

There are a couple of downsides to this trend:

  1. Students don’t experience the benefit of small group discussion with their peers on retreats, which can at times be very powerful.
  2. Team members don’t have as much interaction with students in mingling and small group discussion, making it harder for us to know what’s happening in their lives.

To offset these downsides, I suggest:

  1. Teachers and catechists could facilitate peer-to-peer discussions in the classroom after the retreat has ended, perhaps utilizing the discussion questions from the retreat itself.
  2. Retreat leaders could gather relevant background information about the teens from adults leaders before the retreat begins, which has the added benefit of helping them to pray and prepare in a more focused way.
  3. Remembering that although as a youth minister I really enjoy getting to know teens on retreats, I will only be a part of their lives for a short time, while the relationship between student and sponsor is supposed to be lifelong.

I understand that including sponsors on Confirmation retreats is not always an option, especially for parishes that have retreats on weekdays.  And yet, many parishes have started having mini-retreats in the evening for students and sponsors in addition to a daylong weekday retreat for the students.   A mini-retreat is a great way to enhance the traditional “Confirmation information meeting” and make it into something more.  For suggestions on how to do this, feel free to contact the REAP Team directly http://www.reapteam.org/contact

Whether or not you utilize the REAP Team for your retreats, I hope and pray that you’ll prayerfully consider how to help Confirmation sponsors become more involved in the Confirmation process. The potential benefits for both the candidate and the sponsor could be eternal.

Check out this awesome message we recently received from a mom about one of our student/sponsor Confirmation retreats:

I just wanted to let you know that my sister (my son’s Confirmation sponsor) just LOVED the retreat last Sun. She informed me everything they did and just enjoyed all of it. She runs a weekend camp and was worried about sitting all day but she said it was the most exciting retreat she has attended. She also said my son really enjoyed it as well (although he won't admit it). The best part they both said were the small conversations the sponsor was supposed to have with the child. I sat and cried when she told me all the things my son said to her. Very inspirational!!! So I just want to say thank you!!! A job well done. 

Paul Masek is the coordinator of the REAP Team, a Catholic youth retreat ministry of the Catholic Youth Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is married to Lisa, and they have four kids - Jacob, Audrey, Kyle, and Dominic. You can follow Paul on Twitter: @clasekmasek, and you can contact Paul via email: paul@reapteam.org