The Professing Our Faith Toolkit

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Since the CRC opened the Lord’s Supper to all baptized believers in 2011, many young church members have made age-appropriate professions of faith. This is a blessing! But in each believer’s life, there comes a time when it is important to make a more mature profession of faith and embrace all the joys and responsibilities of full participation in the life of the church. This toolkit offers resources to help your church craft relevant, welcoming profession of faith practices that will encourage members of your congregation to affirm their baptism by publicly sharing their love of and commitment to Jesus with the community of believers in Christ.

What’s in This Toolkit

In this toolkit you’ll find ideas for

  • building a culture of commitment in your congregation.
  • encouraging and inviting people to profess their faith.
  • preparing people of all ages to publicly profess their faith.
  • celebrating professions of faith in worship.
  • considering how to usher people into the full responsibilities of confessing membership.
  • celebrating other milestones of faith.

These ideas are drawn from many sources: best practices of CRC congregations, good books, articles, blog posts, and more. As we discover new resources, we’ll add them to this toolkit, so check back often!

We’re here to help! For a personalized introduction to the resources in this toolkit or for assistance with faith formation challenges in your church, contact one of our Regional Catalyzers.

If you have questions about any of the resources in this toolkit, please contact us at [email protected].

Background Info

  • Check out this fascinating brief history of confirmation/profession of faith practices in the Christian church as compiled by the folks at The Confirmation Project.
  • Read Frequently Asked Questions about the impact of the decision to open the Lord’s Supper to all baptized members, as answered by the synodical Faith Formation Committee.

Quick Reference

CRC Forms

CRC Church Order

 

User's Guide

To get you started, we've provided a free user's guide to this toolkit. You can view the user's guide here.

 

 

Building a Culture of Commitment

We live in a culture that is committed to being uncommitted. Yet we know that making commitments is key to the flourishing of our faith. So how do we encourage church members to make and keep commitments along their faith journey? Here are some resources that can help.

Articles

Worship Service Plans

Milestone Ministry

Celebrating milestones of faith formation is an important practice in developing a culture of commitment in your congregation.

  • Celebrating the Milestones of Faith: A Guide for Churches by Laura Keeley and Robert J. Keeley. This handbook is filled with practical, do-able ideas for celebrating faith commitments such as baptism, first celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and profession of faith, in addition to many other life events. Laura Keeley also serves as one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers.
  • Read the Reformed Worship article Stones from the River by Laura Keeley about celebrating milestones in worship services.
  • Learn more about milestone ministry and 5 Stages of Milestones on the Milestones Ministry website.
  • Read the article Milestones of Faith: Creating Rhythms through Rites of Passage from the Sticky Faith Leader blog.
  • Read the article From Confirmation or Profession of Faith to Multiple Milestones of Faith from the website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
  • “Year of Yes”: At the time of this writing, Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catharines, Ont., is planning a year-long journey to look at faith milestones, which they define as “the moments when we discover that God has said yes to us, and we in gratitude have an opportunity to say yes to God, in our lives and in our communities.” Pastor Woodrow Dixon is working with the staff team to identify milestone points under each staffer's purview (children's ministries, youth and young adult, young family, middle age, retirement, “post-retirement,” end-of-life). An articulation of milestones will be incorporated into the preaching, and the congregation will experiment with new milestone initiatives.

 

Encouraging Profession of Faith

 

Part of our responsibility as the body of Christ is “taking the temperature” of those who have not yet affirmed their baptism with a public profession of faith. No one should be cajoled or pressured into taking this step until the time is right. But we should always be encouraging each other to grow in faith, deal with doubts and fears, and take next steps of commitment.

The following ideas and resources will help pastors, elders, children’s ministry and youth leaders, parents, and others to graciously invite children, teens, and adults to affirm their baptism with a public profession of faith.

Pastors

  • Daily relationship building. Build strong relationships with the children and teens in your congregation so that they will be open to ongoing conversations about their faith journey.
  • Weekly opportunities to remember our baptism. In the Reformed Worship article The Wetter, the Better, Ron Rienstra calls for continual reminders of baptism in worship.
  • Annual sermon series. Consider an annual sermon series on professions of faith in the Bible or what it means to be a committed Christian. Finish the series with a service of recommitment and an invitation to make a public profession of faith. This service plan by Ryan Faber includes a focus on renewing our commitment to God and renewing our baptismal promises.
  • Young adult coffee time. Each year, invite the young adults in your congregation who have not yet publicly professed their faith to join you and an elder or two for an informal coffee time to talk about public profession of faith as a milestone that blesses the entire church community.
  • Lenten reflection. Invite the congregation, especially those who have not publicly professed their faith, to use Lent as a season of reflection on their faith commitments.
  • Children’s professions. Children’s Profession of Faith: A Guidebook for Pastors and Elders is a helpful resource that outlines a suggested four-step procedure for children’s profession of faith, provides helpful tips for meeting with the child and his or her parents, and gives ideas for preparing for the public profession.
  • Children's messages. Whenever there is a profession of faith in your congregation, invite children to consider making this faith commitment.
  • Regular faith-sharing opportunities. Incorporate testimony regularly into worship services. Building a practice of sharing faith stories will help lay the groundwork for public professions of faith. See our Faith Storytelling toolkit for ideas.
  • Networking. Ask your ministry colleagues about their best practices, and share your own with them.

Elders

  • Coffee duty. Use your church’s coffee hour to develop authentic relationships with the young people in your congregation. The simple question “What was the best and worst part of last week for you?” can give you excellent insight into what makes them tick. Lesli van Milligen’s article “Coffee Time: Keep or Toss? 3 Ways to Form Faith During Coffee Hour” has additional suggestions for using coffee time for faith formation.
  • Elder visits. Elder visits provide an excellent time to encourage those who have not yet professed their faith to do so if they are ready. If your church is not in the habit of conducting elder visits, invite people in your district out for an informal coffee to talk about the joys and challenges of their faith journey. For more, see 10 Ways to Talk with Someone About Their Faith and 10 Ways to Be a Caring Elder.

Children’s Ministry Leaders

Youth Leaders

  • Informal conversations. During youth group gatherings, make mental notes about who might be ready for profession of faith. Talk with them one on one to encourage them to reaffirm their baptism. Ask about any fears or doubts that might be preventing them from professing their faith.
  • Annual high school meeting. Each year, meet with the high school juniors or seniors in your church and talk about the milestone of profession of faith. Talk about the importance of making faith commitments, and describe your church’s process. Encourage them to consider taking this step before they graduate, if they are ready to do so. Invite them to affirm their baptism in the presence of the people who have loved and guided them throughout their lives. Discuss the opportunities available for them to give their time, talents, and resources to the work of Jesus Christ in your local context. And consider inviting students who have already professed their faith to tell what the experience meant to them.
  • Storytelling help. Help teens discover different ways to tell their faith story. For ideas, visit Faith Formation Ministries’ Faith Storytelling toolkit. Working on this as a group helps “prepare the soil” for a public profession.
  • Intergenerational interaction. Because faith grows in community, be intentional about forging connections between the youth group and adults in your congregation. Read The Church Sticking Together: The Vital Role of Intergenerational Relationships in Fostering Sticky Faith and visit our Intergenerational Church toolkit to learn more.
  • Connection with parents. In the article Silence Is Not Golden, Kara Powell encourages youth leaders to support parents in their efforts to talk with their kids about their faith.

Friendship Groups

Parents

  • Background reading. If you have questions about children and profession of faith, read Nurturing Your Child’s Faith: Leading Your Child to the Lord’s Table.
  • Family devotions. If your young child is ready to take the initial steps toward profession of faith and participation in the Lord’s Supper, get a copy of You’re Invited. This booklet offers a week of kid-friendly family devotions on the meaning of communion.
  • Open conversations. If your teen is delaying making a public profession, have an open discussion about the reasons why. Ask questions and listen well. Remember that having doubts is a sign that your teen is taking faith seriously. Share how other people’s public testimonies have blessed your faith life. Express your deep longing that your teen will affirm his or her baptism to your church family.
  • Recommended resources. For more on building a lasting faith in your family, check out Sticky Faith family resources.

 

Preparing for Profession of Faith

 

Though pre-profession of faith classes vary widely in content throughout the CRC in North America, all contain some combination of the following:

  • an overview of the basics of the Christian faith
  • an overview of the Reformed creeds and confessions
  • a discussion about the responsibilities of church membership
  • help with writing one’s personal testimony or statement of faith
  • a spiritual gifts inventory
  • an explanation of the church’s specific profession of faith practices

The resources listed here will help you craft strong preparation practices for those in your church who are ready to profess their faith.

Preparing Children

Preparing Teens—Pre-Profession Class Model

  • Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., calls profession of faith “Affirmation of Baptism” in recognition of the fact that many of their younger members have already professed their faith before participating in the Lord’s Supper. They offer a three-session class each spring for 7th and 8th graders. This practice has significantly increased the number of people publicly affirming their baptism. They invite a council member or two to share their own faith stories. Then they divide into small groups and write a faith statement.
  • Cornerstone CRC in Chilliwack, B.C., offers an eight-week profession of faith class organized around the abbreviation “CRC”:
    • Christian (three sessions on the main aspects of the Christian faith)
    • Reformed (two sessions on Reformed distinctives)
    • Church (one session on what it means to be part of a church community)
    • During this class participants also create a personal faith timeline and write their testimony.
    • Here are a number of resources developed by CRC pastors for use in their own churches. They’ve given us permission to share these resources, but please credit any sources you use.
      • This outline describes the preparation practices of Long Beach CRC in California. Written by Rev. Brent Wassink.
      • Pastor Daryl DeKlerk and others at Ebenezer CRC in Jarvis, Ont., have developed a comprehensive document to guide their profession of faith practices, from the preparation class through the celebration in the worship service. You can view that document here.
      • This four-session class is based on four questions asked of people who are professing their faith. Written by Rev. Joel Vande Werken of Sussex (N.J.) CRC.
      • This 14-session class explores the teachings of the CRC, examines what it means to live as a Christian in light of those teachings, and encourages participants to articulate their own faith journey and write a personal testimony. Written by Rev. Bob Loerts of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ont.
      • Brookfield (Wis.) CRC created a four-session class to help teens understand the story of Scripture, what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be the church, and what it means to be Reformed. Written by Rev. Brandon Haan. View course outline; View disciplines take-home; View elder interview take-home; View hermeneutics take-home; View personal testimony take-home
      • Check out SparkHouse’s resources on the Reformed tradition. Every re:form Traditions session follows a three-part sequence: Encounter, Engage, and Respond. In each session, youth gather to watch a humorous animated video, tap their creativity for activities that involve doodling, science experiments, and painting, and then share what they’ve learned.
      • Visit FaithAliveResources.org for a variety of courses for teens on the Heidelberg Catechism and the Reformed Creeds and confessions.
    • Consider offering a spiritual gifts inventory like Discover Your Gifts as part of your pre-profession classes. Talk about opportunities to use our gifts in service to God and our neighbor. When people publicly profess their faith, talk about the gifts God has given them.

Preparing Teens—Retreat Model

  • Georgetown CRC in Hudsonville, Mich., offers a retreat called “Going Public” for young people who are ready to publicly profess their faith. Five group sessions are followed by one-on-one sessions between participants and mentors. The materials, which are edited by Eric De Young and based on I Believe: Getting Ready to Profess My Faith by Jessie Schut, include a participant booklet, an info packet, and a letter to the congregation. You have permission from Georgetown CRC to modify these materials for use in your own church setting.

Preparing Teens—Mentoring Model

  • NEW! Here's a great blog post from Building Faith on best practices for profession of faith mentoring programs (they call it "confirmation, but the ideas apply to profession of faith as well).
  • Read the story of how Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., prepared young people for profession of faith by pairing them with sponsors, a Reformed version of godparents.
  • I Believe: Getting Ready to Profess My Faith. This eight-session mentoring course by Jessie Schut is designed for middle school kids but can also be used with high schoolers.
  • Georgetown (Mich.) CRC’s retreat model mentioned above also includes a mentoring component.

Preparing Adults New to the CRC or to the Christian Faith

  • Brookside CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., uses a mentoring model in addition to a new members class to prepare people who are new to the CRC or to the Christian faith. Consider adapting one of the two mentoring models above in your setting.
  • At Faith CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, many new members come from a background that is other than CRC. The church has combined its new member class and profession of faith class into one four-week experience. The first two sessions cover Reformed distinctives. The third focuses on the Faith CRC community. In the fourth session, participants take a spiritual gifts inventory.
  • Resources that can be used with adults whose background is other than CRC or the Christian church:

Preparing People with Intellectual Disabilities

Jesus invites everyone to come to him in faith. Church members with intellectual disabilities should be welcomed into full membership and participation in the sacraments. These helpful resources will prepare you to understand and serve all members of your church better.

  • Expressing Faith in Jesus. This book and its companion resource kit from Friendship Ministries is designed to help churches prepare people with intellectual disabilities for profession of faith and church membership. Helpful resources include sample questions for the church council interview, tips for communicating with people who are nonverbal, and tips for including people with intellectual disabilities in ministry. Every congregation should have a copy of this book on hand.
  • Inclusion Handbook: Everybody Belongs, Everybody Serves, edited by Terry A. DeYoung and Mark Stephenson, emphasizes the importance of developing relationships and encouraging everyone in your congregation to use their gifts for God’s glory.
  • Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder, by Barbara J. Newman, is a helpful resource for understanding autism spectrum disorder and including individuals on the autism spectrum in the life of your congregation.

Much more information about enfolding people with intellectual disabilities is available through Friendship Ministries and Disability Concerns.

 

Planning a Welcoming Council Conversation

Persons who wish to make profession of faith are required to give “an appropriate testimony of their faith, life, and doctrine to the elders” of their church (Church Order, Art. 59-b). This is a rich privilege for council members, but it can be a scary prospect for those who are asked to give their testimony. To diminish the fear factor, churches are developing a variety of welcoming practices for inviting people to meet with council members. Here are some of their ideas.

Consider Your Practices

  • Talk it over. Discuss if and how your council interview practices invite and encourage people to publicly profess their faith.
  • Make testimony a two-way street. Build community and set people at ease by asking two or three council members to briefly share their own testimonies during the interview time.
  • Be flexible. Consider allowing people to bring a written testimony, a homemade video, or another expression of their faith to the interview.
  • For more, see the Network article Profession of Faith: Reimagining the Council Interview and 10 Ways to Reduce the Profession of Faith Fear Factor.

Develop and Share Questions

  • Prepare a list of possible questions and share it with anyone who asks for it. Whether your list includes five questions or 50, stick to those questions.
    • Questions used at Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catharines, Ont.
    • Questions used at Ebenezer CRC in Jarvis, Ont.
  • If the person you will be interviewing has an intellectual disability such as Down syndrome, adapt your questions to that person’s ability. The book Expressing Faith in Jesus includes a list of sample questions you can use.

Church Practices

  • Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catharines, Ont., has developed a unique practice. They set aside an entire evening for the profession of faith “interview” process. First those who are professing their faith meet informally with a mentor or a member of council. They give their testimony by answering these six questions, which they receive in advance. Later in the evening the mentors and/or council members share those testimonies with the entire council, with all who are professing their faith present. After that, the church’s tech person records each person’s answers to the six questions on video. Clips from those videos are compiled and shown during the profession of faith segment of the worship service. Plenty of time is set aside in the service for this. You can view one of the compiled videos here.
  • At Pleasant Street CRC, in Whitinsville, Mass., students, parents, and mentors have dinner together on the Friday night before public profession. They film the students’ testimonies for use in the worship service.
  • Pastor Joe Hamilton of First CRC in Thunder Bay, Ont., shares this letter with the elders of the church before they meet with people desiring to publicly profess their faith.

 

Celebrating Profession of Faith in Worship

We’re baptized in the presence of our faith community, and when we’re ready to say yes to God and affirm our baptism, we should do that in community too.

This is also an excellent time to express gratitude for the way our church family has fulfilled its promises to “love, encourage, and support” us “by teaching the gospel of God’s love, by being an example of Christian faith and character, and by giving the strong support of God’s family in fellowship, prayer, and service,” as promised in baptism.

In this section you’ll find ideas for celebrating a profession of faith in a worship service.

Quick Reference: CRC Profession of Faith Forms

Articles

The Reformed Worship article One Lord, Four Questions, and Three Stories by Roger Van Harn says that when faith in Jesus Christ is publicly confessed, three stories converge: the story of Jesus Christ, the story of the church, and the story of the individual confessor.

Worship Service Plans and Songs

Profession of Faith Practices

  • NEW! At Rehoboth Christian Reformed Church, those who make profession of faith or are baptized bring a stone to lay at the foot of a cross--something that all charter members did when the church's new building was erected.
  • At New Life CRC in Abbotsford, B.C., when professions of faith are taking place, those professions become the sermon as the congregation hears God’s Word proclaimed through them.
  • At Cornerstone CRC in Chilliwack, B.C., parents (and other significant people in the young person’s life) are invited to present a Scripture verse to their child during the profession of faith segment of the service.
  • Personalize the liturgy. Mention the person’s name during the children’s message, sermon, congregational prayer, and in the blessing/sending portion of the worship service.
  • To highlight that profession of faith is just the beginning of a lifelong walk with God, “commission” the individual to ongoing discipleship. Have the person kneel, and lay hands on the person as a prayer is offered for ongoing growth toward the goal of becoming more like Christ. Brookside CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., does this, inviting family, elders, and others involved in the person’s life to come forward and surround them for that prayer.

Celebrating with People with Intellectual Disabilities

Meaningful Mementos

  • A book. The devotional book Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year from Faith Alive Christian Resources is especially appropriate.
  • A certificate. Profession of faith certificates are available from Faith Alive.
  • A hand towel. Faith CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, gives special hand towels to persons professing their faith to remind them of their role as servants of Christ.
  • A signed Bible. New Life CRC in Abottsford, B.C., gives Bibles to people who profess their faith. Four weeks before the public profession, the Bibles are available in the church so that members of the congregation can highlight meaningful verses and write in the margins what those verses have meant to them.
  • The person’s testimony in a frame. At First CRC in Sioux Falls, S.D., people who are professing their faith write a one-page testimony. The pastor prints it out on parchment paper, frames it, and gives it to the people at their public profession.

 

Entrance into Confessing Membership

What Is Confessing Membership?

Since there is no minimum age for public profession of faith, it’s common for young teens to be ready to affirm their baptism but not yet ready to enter into all the privileges and responsibilities of confessing membership.

As defined by the Church Order, confessing membership conveys the privileges of

  • presenting children for baptism.
  • voting at congregational meetings.
  • holding church office.

In addition, the responsibilities of confessing membership “include full participation in the work, life, and mutual discipline of the local congregation and the universal body of Christ” (Church Order, Art. 59-c).

The CRC’s Church Order Article 59 clearly states that persons who make public profession of faith “shall be designated as ‘confessing members.’” But if a person publicly professes his or her faith at age 14, how and when do they make the transition to receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership?

What’s the Right Age?

The Church Order used to define age 18 as the time when a confessing member should be “accorded the full rights and privileges of [adult] membership” (Church Order 2010, Art. 59-b).  Synod 2011 amended that requirement, saying, “Each congregation shall determine the appropriate age at which a confessing member shall receive such privileges and responsibilities” (Church Order 2011, Supplement Art. 59-c).

If your church has not yet defined the age for receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership, this discussion should be a priority at your next council meeting.

We at Faith Formation Ministries suggest that churches consider age 16 as the minimum age for receiving the privileges and responsibilities of confessing membership. Here’s why:

  • By age 16, the gifts that God has given young people are evident. Churches should call and equip young people to use those gifts in service to God and others.
  • Setting age 16 as the minimum for confessing membership allows teens at least two full years of deeper engagement with their congregation before they finish high school and leave for college or embark on a career.
  • This deeper engagement could help reverse the trend of increasing numbers of young adults leaving the church.
  • Typical 16-year-olds are fully capable of understanding the issues addressed in congregational meetings.
  • Committed 16-year-olds are eager to put their faith into action.

Celebrating Entrance into Confessing Membership

When someone who has made a prior public profession of faith reaches the age your church has set for receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership, recognize that milestone publicly. Create traditions to celebrate briefly with them during the worship service.

  • Each month (whenever applicable), recognize all professing members who have just reached the age your church has set for receiving “all the privileges and responsibilities” of confessing membership. Encourage the members of your congregation to (1) recognize the gifts that these individuals have been given by God and (2) provide opportunities for those people to use their gifts in ministry.
  • Annually remind your church’s various leadership teams to extend invitations to new confessing members.
  • Present a copy of the book I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Ranier. The author writes from a Baptist background, but this book applies significantly to members of the CRC as well. Ranier encourages people to be functioning, unifying members who support their congregation and see membership as a gift.
  • Provide the person with offering envelopes, a church mailbox, and other things that are usually provided to confessing members with full privileges and responsibilities.