What is the Orange Strategy? That's the question I hope to answer in this post, but it is a simple one and a complex one at the same time. Put simply, the Orange strategy is all about churches partnering with parents to pass the faith on to the next generation.
It's more than that, however.
The Orange Strategy centers around the 5 Orange Essentials, which I'll share here. I'll also include a great resource to assess your ministry around the essentials and some other helpful posts.
Align leaders to lead with the same end in mind with a common language and a common strategy.
Aligning leaders starts with aligning staff. Our family ministry team meets weekly and we use that time to share stories, look at the calendar, communicate, and learn together. I remember years ago hearing Reggie Joiner talk about the importance of meetings in aligning leaders. I'm weird because I typically love meetings, but most people don't. Regardless, we have found it to be true that a regular team meeting is necessary in order to truly be aligned.
Refine the Message
Craft core truths into engaging, relevant, and memorable experiences that correlate with the faith formation of each phase.
At the core of this essential is the idea that we don't have time to teach kids and students the entire Bible and the entire Bible is not equally relevant to their stage of life anyway. In addition, repeating content in fresh ways helps it stick. At our church, we have partnered with Orange for our children's curriculum from day one because they do a great job of creating content and supporting elements that are engaging, relevant, and memorable. Our student ministry uses XP3 as well and supplements it with their own content to create different series.
One thing I have learned from practicing this essential is how true it is. We have seen the power of refining the message as children really do learn the basic truths and virtues we teach. One basic truth is “I need to make a wise choice”. We've seen time and time again how kids are actually thinking about that outside of the church.
Engage parents to have a positive influence in the spiritual development of their own kids.
This may be the most difficult essential to succeed in as a church. In some ways, it is like trying to change an entire culture and mindset that has been in place for a long time. Many parents in our churches agree with this and live it out. However, many of them do not live it out whether they agree with it or not. It is a challenge as a parent to be intentional about leading our own kids spiritually and therefore it is a challenge as a church to help parents thrive in that role.
Orange has created tons of resources to help churches partner with parents, some of which is built into the curriculum and the rest of it can be used regardless of the curriculum you use. Resources such as:
- Just a Phase
- Books such as Don't Miss It, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, and more
- The Parent Cue Blog, Podcast, and App
- Parent Cue Live
I've written a lot about partnering with parents on this blog and you can read about our 5-Part Strategy here. You can also see all the articles on this site about partnering with parents here.
Give every kid a caring leader and predictable and safe community where they can grow spiritually.
Studies have been done that show the importance of having multiple adult influences in a child's life. Even apart from faith, studies have shown that teenagers who have more adults in their lives do better in every area of life including school, friendships, and avoiding pitfalls. In our churches, it is easy to have adult volunteers serving with kids and students, and think we are practicing this essential. Here are some questions we wrestled with to see how we were doing:
- Do we have small groups or classrooms?
- Are children and students seeing the same leader every week?
- Do our leaders know the parents of our kids and students (and vice-versa)?
- Do our children and students miss their leader when they are not there?
We could not have said yes to many of those questions when our church first started. The reality is, switching to a model that elevates community and connects kids and students with specific leaders consistently is difficult. It requires more administrative work, more commitment from volunteers, and more alignment throughout the church. However, in our experience, it's completely worth it. Everything you hear from Orange and at the Orange Conference about the benefits of elevating community is true.
You can read more posts about elevating the community and the “Lead Small” approach here.
Create consistent opportunities for kids and teenagers to serve.
I grew up attending church and if I were to list the 3 most pivotal experiences in my faith journey they would include:
- Serving at a Christian day camp
- Serving on a student ministry mission trip
- Some conversations that happened on that same mission trip
All 3 involved experiencing personal ministry, which is what this essential is all about. I remember going to the very first Orange Conference in 2007 and hearing them talk about the importance of having students serve and experience personal ministry. Because of my experience, I was easily convinced of how important it really was.
At our church, students have been involved in experiencing personal ministry since day one. Our pastor was a student pastor previously and service trips were a huge component of his strategy for student ministry. Students have also served in regular volunteer roles in our church but that is one area we are really hoping to grow in. As Orange promotes, we want to make the percentage of our students serving a key metric in how well we're doing in student ministry. We have a ways to go but I like our progress.
Other Helpful Posts on Orange Strategy
Here are a few other posts that are great reads when it comes to the Orange Strategy.
- The Orange Essentials
- What Makes Orange Strategy Unique
- How to Lead Up and Introduce the Orange Strategy
- Easiest way to explain the Orange Strategy to Your Team
The Orange Strategy is excellent, but no strategy implements itself. It takes hard work, commitment, and patience because it also won't happen in a month. We've used the Orange Strategy in our church since the church was planted in 2006. With well over a decade of history, we have countless stories of how the strategy 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:
- Help parents be more present with their family. Churches should look to help parents connect relationally with their kids and lead them well.
- Help parents connect in the 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!
Orange is a non-profit organization that helps churches by creating strategies, curriculum, resources, leadership training, conferences, and more to help them serve families. Registration for the 2018 Orange Conference has been open since fall and the price goes up this week (Feb 16). In this post, I’ll share how our church has been implementing one of the best collections of resources Orange has created, It's Just A Phase.
The Phase Project
The Phase Project is a collaborative, ongoing, effort assembling classic and innovative research, with practical application that's all designed to help parents lead their kids through every phase of their life. There are tons of great resources for parents and church leaders, including summaries for each age group, books for each age group, graphics for churches, and more.
Ever since the Phase Project was announced, our church has been making plans to share the research and resources with our parents. Our plan includes more than that, however, as it's part of an overall strategy to serve parents. You can read about our 4-part strategy for partnering with parents here and the best partnership we have here. Ultimately, this aspect really turns that into a 5-part strategy.
We're in the middle of rolling out our plan now and here's a look at what we're doing.
Step 1: Share Phase
We shared Phase with parents by hosting a parenting event and bringing in guest speakers from Orange to share the Phase concept and materials. The format was simple:
- It was on a Saturday morning from 9 am-12:30 pm
- There were 3 sessions: Phase Intro, Phase Deep Dive, 6 Things Kids Need Over Time
- We gave away the Phase Summaries
- Parents could purchase the Phase Guides
We had a clear next step for everyone who attended, which was to sign up for more information about Phase Classes.
Step 2: Phase Classes
The next step for parents was to invite them to classes for each phase (preschool, elementary, middle school, high school). These classes are something we have offered previously, but we've integrated the Phase content into them. It's also an opportunity for us to go more in-depth within those phases, including all of the content that is broken down by age group. Parents love the classes and it gives them a taste of something we want them to experience more of, community.
Step 3: Small Groups
After parents experience a class, the next step is to plug them into a small group with other parents. Typically, this would be a 12-week or so small group focused on a specific parenting study. Groups can be made up of parents who are in a similar stage in their parenting or mixed up with parents of all ages and stages. There are advantages to both. In the classes, parents are informed about groups and given the opportunity to express interest or sign up.
Step 4: Tweak, Improve, Rinse, Repeat
There are other elements to the plan, including one-off seminars for parents, possibly a parent orientation, and more. In general, though, this is the core strategy and we'll repeat it regularly to help new parents take the same steps. We'll find different ways to kick off the cycle, but the concept will remain the same. Moving them from larger groups to smaller circles in order to help them create community and learn how to make the most of the time they have with their kids.
Why You Should Go to the Orange Conference
This is just one of many reasons why you should go to the Orange Conference. Orange is constantly innovating and resourcing church leaders to help us win with kids, students, and parents. The work we're doing to implement this plan would be nothing without the content and ideas Orange provides. I've written before about how Orange helps us help parents, and this is a detailed example of what that looks like.