By Amy Fenton
When you work for a company whose name is a color, you get questions (and occasionally weird looks). Sometimes people think I work for the fitness place with a similar name . . . nope. Sometimes people think my boss, Reggie Joiner, likes that color. He does like it, but that is not why we are called Orange. For us, Orange is the company name because it reflects our strategy.
We recently celebrated our 11th year of the Orange Conference, and as I stood in the back of the room on our last day, I thought about a question that had been posed to me: How has Orange changed the face of children’s ministry and curriculum? What a perfect place to begin to think on that: standing in the back of an arena watching 8,000 people—individuals who believe in this strategy for kids and families in their churches—worship together and learn from each other! I was inspired.
Our team members at Orange like to wrestle with, talk about, and cast vision for five big-picture ideas to change the face of kid’s ministry as we meet with leaders around the country and the world.
1. Partnering with Parents Is Key
Parents will have 5,000 waking hours this year with their children. We, the church, on average will have around 40. If we want to be a key influencer in the life of a child, who best to partner with? The parents.
We say it this way: Red represents the heart, the family, and yellow represents Jesus. Scripture tells us Jesus is the light of the world. When you combine red and yellow, what do you get? Orange. That is how we got the name.
With this realization, we began to create resources that not only provide a great experience for kids on Sunday, but also encourage kids and parents to keep the momentum going all week long. My kids love our GodTime cards. It provides them with four short devotions to do during the week. And I love the Parent Cue that I bring home. It dispenses with the “What did you talk about today?” question in our car. I already know the answer from my cue and I can speak into what they learned to keep the conversations going at home. We want to set up the parents to win!
2. Life Change Happens Through Relationships
Think about your own relationship with Jesus and how you came to know him personally. I imagine some names and faces come to mind. We believe for kids to know God, they need to know people who know God.
Before a kid will listen to what you say, they need to know you care about who they are. For that reason, we create curriculum that is designed for small groups. This most likely is a change from church when you and I were little. We want kids broken into smaller groups than a class grade. We want to see kids assigned a permanent adult leader and a small group of 8 to 10 kids.
Our hope is that the adult small group leader will become the shepherd of their little group. If every kid in every church in the United States were divided into small groups of 8 to 10, guess what would happen. Every kid would be known! We want every kid to feel known, loved, and cared for in a personal way, which happens only in small groups. In fact, we want that for their entire family. We believe life change will happen in that kid and in their family when they are in relationship with others in the church.
3. We Teach for Application, Not Just Information
We love telling kids the stories of the Bible! They are the amazing, inspired words of God. But we want kids to do more than just learn the stories. We want kids to see that trusting in Jesus leads to total life transformation. We want to help kids understand how these truths found in God’s Word matter in their lives. We want kids to see how relevant Jesus was and is and will be in their future. We want to raise a generation that has obtained more than just biblical knowledge, but one that is living out a faith that shows just how relatable Jesus is.
Jesus summed it up well: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). Love God and love people. It seems so simple, doesn’t it?
If you look at the context of that Scripture, the religious leaders of the day were trying to trick Jesus by asking him what mattered most. They knew the Bible, worked hard to keep the rules, showed up at the temple with great frequency, and prayed longer and harder than anyone. I dare say, it’s possible no one knew Scripture as they did. But I think Jesus was pointing out to them something they lacked. Their lives were missing the “Love your neighbor as yourself.” They missed the life application!
We want to set up the church to share God’s Word with kids in a way that shows them how to live it out.
4. Everyone Doesn’t Need to Know Everything
I’m often asked why our curriculum doesn’t match up from birth to college. It’s a great question! Whenever you add up the actual amount of time you have to influence the spiritual direction of a kid’s life, it could make your task seem daunting and even impossible.
In most “best-case” scenarios, you will have only about 40 hours in a year to share with kids everything they need to know about God, Jesus, faith, forgiveness, grace, love, life, and eternity.
At Orange, we believe you should design your ministry strategy to make the most of the limited time you will have at every phase of a child’s life.
You don’t want a child to miss that the foundation of their faith is a relationship—not information. That is why we have organized our content to reinforce their relationship with God. And we have done it with great intentionality—prioritizing content around how kids learn and what we believe will reinforce this principle in each phase of life. And for each phase, that looks different.
5. The Gospel Is Best Received When Presented by a Caring Adult
The message of the gospel can be taught through a great lesson, but it has the biggest impact when an adult who has a relationship with a child and their family lovingly shares it. This ties in with my earlier point. Life change happens through relationship.
In his book Everybody Always, Bob Goff said two things that relate to this: “We grow where we are loved” and “The best way to show people that God is everything we say He is—is for us to be everything He says we are.”
I’m often asked why we don’t present the traditional gospel every week in our curriculum. In response, I invite people to dive a little deeper into the Orange strategy with me.
In our small group material and our training for small group leaders, over and over we ask those leaders to be living and loving like Jesus. We ask them to be ready at any moment. We help them think about their own Jesus story and how to sense when to share it with kids and their families. The Holy Spirit speaks so loud in those moments, doesn’t he? We encourage small group leaders to make it very personal. I don’t know anything more personal than choosing to give your life to Jesus forever. That is always our goal—to see kids and families changed for eternity!
Do we write the plan of salvation into our curriculum—absolutely! But we also know someone can start following Christ while hanging out, watching the Dukes of Hazzard. (OK, yes, that is my story. It was the best commercial break ever!)
Here’s my point: When the Holy Spirit was telling me it was time to give my life to Jesus, I knew it was time and nothing could stop me. I hope and pray we teach leaders and parents to be that sensitive to what God is doing in the lives of their children.
Amy Fenton serves as an Orange specialist, coaching and consulting with Orange churches, helping them implement the Orange Strategy. Amy is also the executive director of Orange VBS. She has been in kid’s ministry for more than 20 years.