NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Religious change from adolescence to emerging adulthood – Does confirmation training really matter?

Kati Niemelä, The Church Research Institute, Finland

Confirmation classes occupy a very special position as a form of activity in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland: no other form of Church activity reaches such a large proportion of its target group. Every year some 90% of 15 year-olds participate in confirmation training. In no other country do the confirmation classes of the Lutheran Church occupy such a position.

Most of the confirm ands have positive experiences of the confirmation training. More than half of the young people say at the end of the confirmation training that it has changed their attitudes of the church and its faith into a more positive direction. One in ten says that the effect has been negative. Also their religiosity (measured in terms of beliefs and practices) seems to have changed often into a more positive direction during the training. But what happens after the confirmation? How are the attitudes changed and how do the young people value the confirmation training five years later? Did the training really have a meaning?

This research is a longitudinal study of those who attended confirmation training in 2001 in parishes of Tampere (3rd largest city in Finland). The research data has been collected 1) at the beginning of the confirmation training in 2001, 2) at the end of the confirmation training in 2001 and 3) five years after confirmation (at the age of 20 in 2006). Nearly 400 young people have answered all three questionnaires.