Confirmands in Ogallala put their ‘talents’ to use for church

David Burke


Seven young men began their confirmation journey at Nebraska’s Ogallala United Methodist Church on Sept. 23, when they were each handed an envelope containing $30.

It’s become a tradition for the church’s pastor, the Rev. Chuck Rager, and his wife, Roberta, for about 13 years to make the donation to the confirmands in the spirit of the parable of the talents in the book of Matthew.

“I remind them that their charge is to be stewards of those talents, or ‘seed money,’” said Rager, in his ninth year in Ogallala. “They have to use that seed to develop and grow it.”

Rev. Chuck Rager presents envelopes with $30 to each of the seven confirmation students at Ogallala UMC. Photos by David Burke

During the 5½ months of confirmation, the students find ways to raise money.

Rager recalls confirmands who used the money to buy gas and oil for a mower and raise money mowing lawns. Others made soup kits in Mason jars. Others made mistletoe to sell at Christmas. One hosted a baked potato bar after Sunday services.

“I’ve seen a lot of different ideas,” Rager said. “We’ve had a lot of bake sales.”

Last year’s confirmation class included only four students. One of them, Grace VanBorkum, found barn wood and used nails and string to create crosses and United Methodist cross-and-flames to sell.

“The longest it took me was 30 minutes to make one, and they all went really well, and people really liked them,” said the Ogallala High School freshman, who sold about 60 of her creations.

VanBorkum said the experience strengthened her faith journey.

“It was amazing to see all these people wanting to help out with the church, especially wanting to help these young people,” she said.

It’s also encouraged her to stay involved in church. The day the newest confirmation class received their “talents,” VanBorkum was the liturgist.

“You start out, and you want to do more in the church,” she said.

Two of the confirmands are twin brothers, Cedric and Mason Knudsen. They watched their brother go through the confirmation experience and already have some ideas of what they want to do with their money.

“We get a ton of walnuts from California every year, so he candied them and sold them,” Spencer said.

“I think it’s pretty cool, and it gives money to the church,” Mason added.

Rev. Chuck Rager explains the confirmation "talents" project to the congregation.

The project ends in May during the confirmation ceremony, Rager said. The confirmands put their newly gained money in the offering plate, where it is taken out of the room and counted.

Last year, the $120 given to four confirmands resulted in a $2,880 return.

“That’s pretty good,” Rager said with a laugh. “It’s great to see the announcement and the congregation burst into applause.”

Not only is money raised, Rager said, but so is communication. Between the sales and another of Rager’s rules – to prove attendance in church, each confirmand must produce a bulletin signed by a non-relative – the congregation is encouraged to get to know the youth, strike up conversation and find out what’s happening in their school and church lives.

“They get to know each other,” he said. “They get into conversation, and there’s a cross-generational bond.”

Every year with the seed-money talents is a new experience, Rager said.

“I’m really curious this year to see what these seven boys will do with their talents,” he added.

David Burke, communications content specialist, can be contacted at

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