October 4-5, 2018
Princeton, NJ

For the last 5 years the Confirmation Project research team has been studying confirmation and equivalent practices within the United States. The findings provide a hopeful exposé regarding the faith of youth who participate in confirmation and equivalent ministries. The significance of parents, mentors, camp, strong leadership, and creative curricular design stood out among our findings. Join us to reflect on these findings as we imagine their implications for making disciples of Jesus Christ. In addition to the US findings, we will be hosting Friedrich Schweitzer, the leader of the European study on confirmation, for a vibrant conversation comparing European and American youth.

About the Confirmation Conference

The Confirmation Conference will gather youth ministers and volunteers around the findings of three years of research on best practices for Confirmation in churches. This conference is the culminating event of the research and will host a book launch from the Confirmation Project: a five-year grant through the Lilly Endowment, Inc. that studied the practices of five denominations in North America (the African Methodist Episcopal Church [AME], the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA], the Presbyterian Church (USA) [PCUSA], and the United Methodist Church [UMC]). The Confirmation Project points to how ministry leaders can help young Christians grow as disciples of Christ.

The Confirmation Conference will draw together experts and practitioners from the project’s research team. Participants will receive a copy of the book Cultivating Teen Faith: Insights from the Confirmation Project.


Richard Osmer is the Ralph B. and Helen S. Ashenfelter Professor of Mission and Evangelism (Emeritus) at Princeton Theological Seminary. His current interests include church planting and revitalization. At present, he is working on two books—one on Evangelism in dialogue with Karl Barth and another on children’s fantasy literature as a way of communicating the gospel. He is the co-director of the Confirmation Project.

Katherine M. Douglass co-directs The Confirmation Project. She is Assistant Professor of Educational Ministry and Practical Theology at Seattle Pacific University. Her research focuses on the role of the arts in faith formation as well as rites of passage. Katie served as a pastor at the American Protestant Church: An International Community in Bonn, Germany. Her current passions include issues of equity in academic research and learning communities.

Friedrich Schweitzer is Professor of Practical Theology and Religious Education at the University of Tübingen, Germany. He is the leader of the European studies on confirmation work (2006-2018), as well as author or editor of the 11 volumes from this major confirmation project conducted in nine different countries. In 2017, Dr. Schweitzer was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Faculty of Theology in Helsinki, Finland.

Reginald Blount is Assistant Professor of Formation, Youth and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He teaches in the areas of youth ministry, Christian education and congregational leadership. He further serves the seminary as Co-Executive Director of the Garrett-Evanston Freedom School Program, Program Director of the Garrett Young Adult Initiative, and Coordinator for the D.Min. in Strategic Leadership in Black Congregations. He is also Pastor of Arnett Chapel A.M.E. Church in Chicago. He speaks and teaches nationally and internationally, helping faith communities envision new and creative ways to minister to, with, and on behalf of young people. Reggie is a contributor in Making God Real for a Next Generation: Ministry with Millennials Born from 1982 to 1999 (Discipleship Resources, 2003) and Educating For Redemptive Community (Wipf & Stock, 2015).

Kenda Creasy Dean is a United Methodist pastor and the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. The author of multiple books on youth and the church, Kenda graduated from Miami University, Wesley Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. She has been a pastor and campus minister in Maryland and New Jersey. In 2013, she and Mark DeVries founded Ministry Incubators, an education and consulting group to help faith leaders engage in social innovation and missional entrepreneurship. Her current ambition is to catch up on This Is Us.

Terri Martinson Elton is Associate Professor of Leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Passionate about rethinking church in the 21st century, Terri is developing a contextual approach to faith formation and helping ministry leaders innovate and rethink organizational structures in today’s networked world. Her latest book is Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World: Platforms, People, and Purpose, a book she co-authored with Rabbi Hayim Herring. For more see her website:

Lisa Kimball is the Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning and Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary. Her research, teaching, and writing focus on faith transmission in a hyper-connected digital age and how religious pluralism and declining religious affiliation are opportunities for re-imagining being church. She is currently Project Director of Baptized for Life: An Episcopal Discipleship Initiative, using the pattern of the ancient catechumenate to form courageous Christian lives of meaning and purpose. Committed to deep listening in diverse cultural contexts, Lisa prioritizes collaboration, working closely with local congregations, ecumenical bodies, and being outdoors whenever possible.


Joy L. Arroyo is a lecturer in Princeton University’s writing department. She is a practical theologian who investigates spirituality and faith in the United States using qualitative and interdisciplinary methods of inquiry. Her dissertation investigated how vulnerability, narrative, and communal response may form and transform maternal spirituality. Currently, she is researching congregations that incorporate fantasy fiction and film in worship and education to illuminate moral and social concerns.

Shonda Nicole Gladden is the first female lead pastor of The St. Paul AME Church in Indianapolis and is the visionary founder of Good to the SOUL, a social enterprise specializing in resources and experiences that promote human flourishing. Energized by the Spirit, Shonda is a scholar practitioner immersed in work that cultivates and curates goodness at the intersections of faith, art and intellect.

Kate Harmon Siberine is the Curate at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua, New Hampshire. In her work with the Confirmation Project and in her congregational context, she finds great joy in empowering people at every stage of life to claim their discipleship and live their faith. Kate graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Virginia Theological Seminary and co-authored a chapter in Cultivating Teen Faith: Insights from the Confirmation Project.

Jake Sorenson is the founder and director of Sacred Playgrounds, a ministry offering research and training to camps and congregations. He has a Ph.D. in practical theology from Luther Seminary, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and more than fifteen years of experience in camping ministry and congregational youth ministry. He served as the camp consultant and quantitative researcher on the Confirmation Project. He has authored numerous articles on camping ministry, and he has presented at colleges, seminaries, and camps across the country. He lives in rural Wisconsin with his wife Anna (a Lutheran pastor) and their two boys, Elijah and Nathanael.

“Kate-O” Unruh worked as a Graduate Assistant on the Confirmation Project during the first few years of her doctoral program at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her forthcoming dissertation focuses on findings about confirmation practices in the United Methodist Church. She also co-authored a chapter in Cultivating Teen Faith: Insights from the Confirmation Project. Currently, Kate serves as the Managing Director of the Youth Ministry Innovation Lab at The Center for Youth Ministry Training and is an adjunct professor at Memphis Theological Seminary. She lives in Nashville with her husband and two young children.

Event Schedule

Day One

Registration will begin at 12:30PM in the Entry Hallway of the Princeton Theological Seminary Library.

12:30PM Check-in and registration – Entry Hallway, PTS Library

2:00PM Welcome and Introduction, Katherine Douglass – Theron Room, PTS Library

3:00PM Elective A – Erdman Center
– “Communicating the Gospel Anew,” Richard Osmer & Terri Elton – Jack Cooper Conference Room
– “Learning in the Image of God,” Gordon Mikoski – D.B. Clarke Lounge

4:45PM Plenary Session I, Reginald Blount – Theron Room, PTS Library

6:00PM Book Release Banquet – Atrium, PTS Library

7:00PM Round Table Discussions – Atrium, PTS Library
– Facilitated by: Joy Arroyo, Shonda Nicole Gladden, Kate Harmon Siberine, Jacob Sorenson, & Kate Unruh

8:00PM Wine & Dessert Reception, Book Signing – Atrium, PTS Library

Day Two

A light continental breakfast will be served prior to Plenary Session II in the Entry Hallway of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

8:30AM Plenary Session II, Lisa Kimball & Kate Siberine – Library, Theron Room
– “Confirming Mentoring: Mutual Experiences of Incarnation”

9:30AM Coffee Break – Erdman Center

10:00AM Elective B – Erdman Center
– “The Logic of Camp in Christian Education,” Jacob Sorenson – Jack Cooper Conference Room
– “Learning From Each Other: Confirmation in Europe and the US,” Friedrich Schweitzer – D.B. Clarke Lounge

11:30AM Campus Worship in Miller Chapel

12:00PM Lunch – Mackay Campus Center

1:00PM Panel Discussion – Theron Room, PTS Library
– Featuring: Friedrich Schweitzer, Richard Osmer, Reginald Blount, Terri Elton, & Gordon Mikoski

2:30PM Plenary Session III, Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean & Rev. Dr. Katie Douglass
– “Swinging for the Fences: The Hope & Challenge of Confirmation Ministry in the 21st Century”


Sonesta ES Suites Princeton

Located five miles north of Princeton Theological Seminary on Route 1, these one- and two-bedroom suites include daily breakfast, wireless internet, parking, and guest access to a fitness facility. Please request ground level room if traveling with accessibility needs. Check-in begins at 4:00PM, and check-out is at 12:00PM.

Please click here to make a reservation in the Princeton Seminary room block with special rates for the Confirmation Conference.

The Erdman Center—SOLD OUT

Located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary and in easy walking distance to downtown Princeton. Guests may check-in any time after 3:30PM. Check-out is 11:00AM.

$60-$120 per night

Please call 609.497.7990 to make a reservation. Be sure to state that you are a participant at the Conformation Conference. You may also make a room reservation online using the reservation number and link provided in the event registration confirmation email.

Lectures and Electives

The Confirmation Conference will feature the research and work of The Confirmation Project team, including a copy of the newly released book, Cultivating Teen Faith: Insights From the Confirmation Project, for each participant. More information about the research and learnings of the team can be found here.

We will continually update this section as elective descriptions and lecture titles are finalized.


Plenary Session I
 Helping Young People Curate a Spirit-Led Life
Led by: Reginald Blount

Plenary Session II
 Confirming Mentoring: Mutual Experiences of Incarnation
Led by: Lisa Kimball & Kate Siberine
Description: Over half the congregations surveyed in the Confirmation Project incorporate mentoring, and young people who reported positive and impactful experiences of an adult mentor showed growth in believing and behaving. What fosters healthy mentoring? How do meaningful relationships across generations impact mentors and congregations?

Plenary Session III
 Swinging for the Fences: The Hope & Challenge of Confirmation Ministry in the 21st Century
Led by: Katherine Douglass & Kenda Creasy Dean
Description: Is confirmation about forming good church members or people who follow Jesus? And are these two mutually exclusive? Confirmation and equivalent ministries are uniquely positioned to foster a more articulate and engaged faith in youth than “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Confirmation and equivalent ministries are also positioned to connect youth to the body of Christ in a way that will last into young adulthood, resisting the “Rise of the Nones.” We will consider how our findings provide a hopeful vision of ministry in light of some challenging trends and also share how this research has shaped the way we parent for faith.  

Elective A:

Title: Communicating the Gospel Anew
Led by: Richard Osmer & Terri Elton
Description: This elective will bring participants into the overall findings of The Confirmation Project highlighting the quantitative and qualitative research, as well as the integrated learnings. Participants will hear stories of the ministries studies and have the opportunity to ask questions of the two of the steering team members.

Title: Learning in the Image of God
Led by: Gordon Mikoski

Elective B:

Title: The Logic of Camp in Christian Education
Led by: Jake Sorenson
Description: This elective will explore the deep rhythms of faith formation found in camps, conferences, and retreats. We will consider how the unique camp model supplements the ministries of the congregation and the home, along with providing practical wisdom for Christian education in a variety of settings. We will go beyond anecdotes to consider the new wave of empirical research on Christian camping, for which The Confirmation Project served as the watershed.

Title: Learning From Each Other: Confirmation in Europe and the U.S.
Led by: Friedrich Schweitzer
Description: This elective makes the parallel research projects on confirmation work in Europe and in the United States its starting point. For the first time in history, the two studies make available insights into the respective approaches and experiences in different churches and in different contexts. This is a unique opportunity for learning from each other—educationally, ecumenically, and internationally.