How Innovation and The Orange Conference Help Our Churches

The Orange Conference 2017

It’s Orange Week, which is a time when a bunch of leaders and bloggers write posts related to The Orange Conference and the Orange Strategy. I’ll be at the Orange Conference again this year. If you plan to attend, you’ll want to register right away before the price increases on Feb 17.

One Of My Favorite Things

The thing I love most about Orange, other than the people, is how they are constantly innovating. They’re always looking to improve, add, tweak, change, and create in order to help churches win with families. I don’t know about you, but our team does not have enough time to do all the things Orange does. However, we do benefit from it.

The Orange Conference is just over a decade old,  yet I can point to numerous innovations over the years from Orange that were released at the conference. All of them have been helpful to our church.

Partnering With Parents

Partnering with parents wasn’t a new idea, but the innovation of Orange made it the priority it is today in many churches. They did that by teaching about the importance the influence of parents, creating resources for parents, and creating curriculums that are based on the value of parents leading their children.

Family Experience

This was an innovation of Reggie Joiner while he was at North Point, but Orange helped it spread to churches everywhere. The purpose is an extension of the previous innovation, the desire to help parents learn with their children and lead them in matters of faith.

Lead Small

Lead Small” is a phrase coined by Orange to emphasize the importance of having kids and students in small groups with consistent, weekly leaders and peers. Small Groups have been a strategy in churches for some time now, but Orange helped emphasize their importance for kids and students. Our church has small groups for kids from age 3 all the way up through high school, and Orange has helped us tremendously with that effort.


Phase is one of the biggest and most recent innovations of Orange. It is a collaborative, ongoing, effort assembling classic and innovative research, with practical application for parents and church leaders that can help them understand and lead kids best at every phase of their life.

What’s Coming This Year?

Every year, I’m excited to see what’s released at The Orange Conference. This year will be no different. There are a couple things related to equipping parents and helping us grow as leaders that I can’t wait to hear more about.

Will you be there?


100 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

100 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

If you’re like me, you always feel grateful for every volunteer who serves in your ministry. We know we can’t do anything we do without them. They don’t serve for us and they don’t serve for our church. Ultimately, they serve to be a part of God’s mission to reach the world and use the gifts and talents he gave them in the process. While they don’t serve for us, we certainly want to show appreciation to them regularly.

I don’t know about you, but we’re always looking for creative ways to appreciate volunteers. I never feel like we do it enough. In some cases, we can spend some money and other times we have to get real creative. To help all of us, I put together a resource with 100 different ways we can appreciate volunteers. Just fill out the form below and you’ll get an email with the PDF resource.

100 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

What has been your best appreciation idea recently (comment below)?

Are Your Children & Youth Ministry Staff/Volunteer Ratios Healthy?

How Many Children's & Youth Ministry Staff

An important question that comes up often in children and youth ministry conversations is:

Do we have enough staff to lead this ministry well?

Another closely related question is:

Do we have enough volunteers? 

Now, many of us would simply assume we don’t have enough of either because we’re busy and there are holes to fill. However, I think it’s really helpful to know what a healthy ratio is for staff and volunteers and there aren’t a lot of guides out there for children’s and youth ministry. Ministry Architects does have some helpful guides and this podcast features Anthony Prince as he and I talk about those benchmarks.

Children & Youth Ministry Staff/Volunteer Survey

In order to help us all have some context and benchmarks to look at when asking these questions, I’m asking you to fill out a survey to indicate the staffing and volunteer ratios at your church. The goal is for hundreds of leaders to take the survey so we have a large enough sample size to make the results reliable and helpful.

Win Free Stuff!

Yes, I’m going to bribe you with prizes! Awesome ones, too. All told, there are 26 prizes worth $2,711.00.

The Survey Is Now Closed – Check back for results

These Competing Things May Be Hurting Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Competition

I have been a part of two churches in my life. My home church I grew up attending and the church I’ve been on staff with since we started it over 10 years ago. As a young adult in my home church, I volunteered in multiple areas. I never knew I would eventually work for a church, but I always intended on volunteering in a big way.

Our church was like many others in that we did too many things. We also fit the commonly known issue where 20% of the people did 80% of the work. Despite knowing those issues, we did not make the hard decision to change things. Because of that, the volunteer shortage continued and everything we did was understaffed.

The Competition

Make no mistake, there are a lot of things competing for the time and attention of potential volunteers. When someone considers volunteering at your church, they have to think about what they will give up in order to give that time to their role. The last thing we want to do is add competition within the church for that time.

Here is a list of things we might have in our churches that will compete for people’s time and negatively impact volunteering. If you are struggling to reach volunteers I would challenge you to consider making the hard decision to remove the competition.

Sunday School

This is a controversial one, but the reality is Sunday School is usually one of the biggest things preventing people from volunteering in our churches. In order for someone to volunteer in children’s classes, they must decide to not attend Sunday School. Children’s ministry, whatever that looks like in your church, is almost always the biggest volunteer need. How do we expect to serve kids well if potential volunteers are being told two different things about what to do with their time?

Mid-week Programming

If you have mid-week programming for kids and students, in addition to programming on Sundays, you have direct competition for your volunteer’s time. Only you can decide how critical mid-week programming is for your ministry, but be sure you factor in the drain it has on your Sunday programming. As you evaluate, determine if the reason you have mid-week programming is simply to function as childcare for programming you have for adults.

One Service

Many churches only have one service, which is completely understandable. This competes for people’s time since serving during the service means they can’t attend. Churches work around this by having volunteers serve every other week or once every four weeks. One idea would be to start a volunteer-only service before your regular service so they can attend and serve each week. The volunteer service can be scaled back and include some vision elements not found in the regular service.

Other Ministries

In a healthy staff culture, everyone understands they are one team and they must work together when it comes to helping people serve. While it’s not easy, they celebrate when one of their volunteers moves on to serve in another ministry.

That’s a great thing.

However, most churches have too many ministries and too many programs to the point where, even with people serving on multiple teams, it’s impossible to have enough volunteers. Removing competition for volunteers may require cutting a good percentage of your programming.

The Hard Part

Once you have identified where you have competition for volunteering, it’s time to take action and remove the competition. That’s the hard part, of course, and it will require courageous leadership. It will also require a clear plan of action with careful attention paid to how you will communicate it. I recommend reading Carey Nieuwhof’s book Leading Change Without Losing It and using that as a guide.

What are other examples of things that compete for potential volunteer’s time?

How Orange Helps Our Church Help Parents

Orange Conference 2017

If you don’t know what Orange is, it’s a non-profit company that helps churches win with families. They help by creating strategies, curriculum, resources, leader training, conferences and more. You can find out more on the What Is Orange website. Registration for the 2017 Orange Conference opens this week, and in this post, I’ll share how Orange has helped our church serve families, along with some new things that are in the works.

How Orange Defines A Win With Parents

There are so many things churches can do to help parents win. In order to help churches focus on what’s most important, Orange has identified two primary ways in which churches can help parents win:

  1. Help parents be more present with their family. Churches should look to help parents connect relationally with their kids and lead them well.
  2. Help parents connect in community. Churches can help parents connect to their church, but even more, connect with other parents in the church.

Ever since Orange began as an organization, even before being called Orange, it has helped churches partner with parents. It has helped by providing resources, content, ideas, training, and more. They continue to grow and develop their offering and Phase is a big part of that.

A Yearly Plan To Help Parents Win

Our team is working towards creating a yearly plan to help parents win and Orange is helping us do that. Here are 5 components Orange believes should be included in a yearly plan, along with how they’re helping with each one.

Establish an Annual Orientation

New parents join our churches all the time and existing parents need an opportunity to re-engage each year. Plus, our kids are a year older and possibly in a different Phase. An annual orientation allows churches to equip parents for the year ahead. Phase is an excellent tool for this orientation and Orange is developing a kit to help churches do this well.

Offer Periodic Small Group Studies

This goes to the second way we can help parents win, by putting them in community with other parents. One of the most dangerous things in parenting is when a parent has nobody to talk to and believes the problems they are facing are completely unique to them. What’s even worse is we (parents) feel guilt and shame about it, thereby lessening the chance of talking to someone. Small groups would help break down those barriers, and Orange continues to create materials for churches to use in small groups of parents.

Develop a Weekly Cueing Strategy

Parents need to know what is important this year, but they also need to know what is important this week. Orange provides content and a plan through their curriculum, resources for parents, and Go Weekly. Resources include a parent blog, a podcast, an app, and more. This is one of the components we already utilize, but there is room to improve here as well.

Celebrate Critical Milestones

A yearly plan to partner with parents should include helping them make the most of the critical milestones in their child’s life. Milestones such as baby dedication, going into kindergarten, baptism, graduation, and more. Orange creates resources churches can use to help parents celebrate these milestones well.

Create Opportunities for Shared Experiences

Few things outweigh the importance of parents spending time with their children. In our churches, we want to create opportunities for parents and kids to experience something together. Orange provides ideas and resources to help churches do just that.

Want to Learn More? Come to the Orange Conference!

This only scratches the surface of how Orange helps our church helps parents, and we didn’t even touch on how Orange helps our church serve kids and students. If you want to learn how to do this better, the best way to start is to head to the 2017 Orange Conference. I’ll be there, and I’d love to see you there as well. Registration opens this week, so don’t miss out on the best price!

Register Here