best practices youth ministry

The Struggle With Confirmation Sponsors

I am a sponsor for several young people I have encountered in life. Unfortunately, some of these invitations came at the last minute due to the unavailability of others. Nonetheless, this role has been placed in my life, and I hope I can serve as a great example of Jesus Christ in their lives.

I have met numerous families and parishes struggling with the sponsor role. People either cannot find someone to sponsor their candidate, or they choose someone who is grappling with deep questions about their faith. In many ways, the role of the sponsor has been reduced to an honorary position. But what if it could be more?

If we are going to assist people in selecting a sponsor, we need to:


It's interesting to observe the responses when you ask people, "What is the purpose of a Confirmation sponsor?" Most of the time, the responses I receive include:

  • Someone who can guide the candidate through the preparation process.
  • A resource for the candidate when they do not want to or cannot discuss matters with their parents.
  • Similar to a godparent.

Our faith teaches us:

"The sponsor is responsible for ensuring that the confirmed person behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent in this sacrament." (CIC 892)

"The sponsor brings the candidate to receive the sacrament, presents them to the minister for the anointing, and later assists them in faithfully fulfilling their baptismal promises under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." (Rite of Confirmation 5)

So, what does all of this mean? It means that a sponsor must be more than just a guide or a resource; they must embody the role of accompaniment. We cannot fully dissect this concept in this post, but as ministry leaders, we must delve deeper into clarifying this role to ensure sponsors are not chosen randomly.

When it comes to the role of a sponsor, we must effectively educate and inform people about their decision, so they can choose someone capable of journeying with their young person through life. This is why we also need to:


All too often, we assume that our candidates are surrounded by men and women who qualify as sponsors. Unfortunately, the pool of family members and friends is becoming limited. However, your parish is home to numerous men and women who could potentially be sponsors. We simply need to identify them.

While this is a newer idea in my experience, whenever a parent or candidate tells me they lack a sponsor, I ask them if they know someone at the parish. This person might be the individual they see every Sunday at Mass, an usher, their small group leader, or a Eucharistic Minister. Chances are, they meet the requirements (Baptized Catholics, over 16 years old, and not parents), and more.

To make this a reality, we must first plant the seed for future sponsors. Begin with catechists and volunteers in youth and children's ministry. Inform them that a young person might ask them to serve in this official role. Next, involve parish leadership and volunteers, encouraging them to establish relationships with families. Let them know that while they may not be involved in youth ministry programs, they should be open to becoming sponsors.

Then, find ways to introduce candidates and parents to other adults in the parish. It may feel a bit awkward initially, but this approach immediately addresses the challenge of finding individuals deeply committed to their faith. Additionally, these are local men and women who can easily meet with their candidates in person.


Whether sponsors are recruited or selected by candidates, the parish must support this role. Every parish should offer adult formation programs beyond RCIA. By providing adults with education, we not only give sponsors opportunities to grow, but we also show teenagers that their catechesis doesn't conclude after Confirmation.

It is crucial to communicate to sponsors and parents how they can continue to nurture their faith and grow alongside their young people. Introducing them to books or podcasts is a good start, but fostering a sense of community is essential. Encourage them to join a small group or engage in ministry. Help them discover tools for active listening and praying with their young people. The stronger the sponsor, the more effectively they can accompany the young person.

We must extend our efforts beyond Confirmation preparation to strengthen the role of the sponsor. Let's not treat it as an afterthought and instead, provide clarity on what a sponsor does, where to find one, and how to support them. Everyone needs a fellow traveler on their faith journey. Let's continue to empower the disciples who can fulfill that role.

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