What is Orange?

What is Orange?

This week starts the beginning of ORANGE WEEK. It is that bi-annual event where those of us invested in the Orange strategy spread out and seek to engage and encourage our peers to develop an intentional strategy of partnership between the church and family.

Throughout the week, I will, along with some of my good friends, be sharing our thoughts and reflections on the strategy and support that Orange provides.  If you use Orange and are looking to connect, lets do that, if you are not an Orange person, then I would love to know how you intentionally leverage the church and family toward greatest impact on students.

I am continually thankful for the resource Orange is for me and for our church.  If you have never used Orange or they are not on your radar, their strategy for connecting the church and the family is head and shoulders above anything else out there.

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An Easy Way to Pick the Brains of the Top Leaders #thinkorange

An Easy Way to Pick the Brains of the Top Leaders #thinkorange

The people over at ORANGE have some great deals in their store this week.  Over the past 3 or 4 years our church and my ministry have been dramatically impacted by the sharp thinking and practical helps of the Orange crew.  They have, hands down, the best comprehensive philosophy for ministry and for leveraging the combined efforts and resources of the church and family so that children and students may come to be life long followers of Jesus.

If you are looking for some new books to read, to be encourage and equipped in your ministry, or just love deals, then check out this new offer:

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Parenting Beyond your Capacity: Book Review

Parenting_Beyond_Your_Capacity_Connect_Your_Family_to_a_Wider_Community_OrangeThis last week I read a really helpful book by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. This is a straightforward book that offers a clear roadmap for parents who want to connect their family to a wider community of faith. And for parents who think that going at it alone is best, Joiner and Nieuwhof offer a compelling argument for the need to invite others into the circle so that our kids have the widest safety net possible as our kids grow into adults and explore a faith separate from ours. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity is kind of like a primer for parents to understand the Orange concept of parenting. Being an orange parent is understanding that "a parent's influence is best realized in partnership with a wider community." And that community is the church. If you are looking for a book to share with parents to help them understand the orange model of ministry than this book is for you. This book highlights 5 family values that are key for the long term spiritual health and maturity of kids and students.

Family Value 1) Widen the Circle: Pursue strategic relationships for your kids.

Family Value 2) Imagine the End: Focus your priorities on what matters most.

Family Value 3) Fight for the Heart: Communicate in a style that gives the relationship value.

Family Value 4) Create a Rhythm: Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.

Family Value 5) Make it Personal: Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.

If you are an "Orange" church than this book is key to helping parents understand what the orange philosophy is all about. "When you combine the light from a faith community (yellow) with the heart of a caring family (red), you exponentially expand your potential to make a difference in the life of a child." This is a book that outlines, inspires, and helps parents maximize their part.

Whether or not you or your church have bought into the orange philosophy, strategy, or curriculum, I have found that this book is a great resource for parents. Not only do the authors make a compelling argument for partnering intentionally to a faith community, they offer clear and straightforward guidance about majoring in the majors. Caring for the heart, quality time, creating rhythms and habits that communicate love and value toward their children.

And the best chapter is the chapter on making it personal. It is a kick in the pants for all parents and ministry professionals to make sure that it is real and alive in you as well. You can't pass on what you don't have, and if parents are going to maximize the potential for their own kids to love and follow Jesus some day, then it better be true in their lives as well.

To communicate these points, the authors share a ton of personal stories. They seem to have find that importance balance between sharing stories of struggle and failure so we know they are real parents and can relate to them, as well as stories of joy and success that inspire and give great ideas for parents to try within their families.

I think the best resource orange has put out there for parents is the family time chart. This chart is highlighted in family value 4, creating a rhythm. The basic idea is that parents can be intentional by using the different opportunities throughout the day to communicate different truths in different ways.

The break down the day into four times with each time having a distinct communication style, a unique role as we share a specific goal.

Time: Meal Time. Communication: Formal Discussion. Role: Teacher. Goal: Establish Values Time: Drive Time. Communication: Informal Dialogue. Role: Friend. Goal: Interpret Life. Time: Bed Time. Communication: Intimate Conversation. Role: Counselor. Goal: Build Intimacy. Time: Morning Time. Communication: Encouraging Words. Role: Coach. Goal: Instill Purpose.

This book is chalked full of clear helps and strategies to help parents maximize what the things that are already in their lives and come up with a realistic plan to incorporate the ones that are missing or lacking. As a parent who worries about instilling faith into my own kids and as a parent who doesn't do it well, I never felt shamed or beat up as I read this book, rather I felt encouraged and actually incorporated some of the tools I learned immediately.

I really enjoyed reading Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. As a parent I found it straightforward, clear, and convicting. But instead of being crushed by all I am failing at doing, this book offered great reflection questions and tips to pull it off. And the entire point of the book is that parents alone can not carry the burden of faith development all by themselves, they need others, they need the church.

My capacity is limited, but by implementing these values the capacity greatly increases. I look forward to passing this book on to parents in our church, and if you are a parent, I think this is a must read. As a youth worker, this would also be a great book to highlight or pass out at a parents meeting to help parents understand the importance of what you are trying to do at youth group and why they should help their kids get and stay connected.

For $10 it is a no brainer. (Especially when you make your church buy it)

What do you think of the orange philosophy? Have you read this book? What other books are out there that you have found as helpful resources for parents?

Orange ConferenceI am honored to partner with Orange in this philosophy of ministry.  If you would like to know more about this philosophy and the tools that are used to leverage these two spheres of influence for the sake of our kids, check out whatisorange.org.  And if you really want a taste, clear your calendar and join us in the ATL this spring for the annual orange conference.  I hope to see you there!

 

 

Need a partner in building a sustainable youth ministry?

Screen shot 2013-10-02 at 6.41.32 AM Most youth workers I know have gotten into student ministry because they love Jesus and they love kids.  Their heart and passion is often overflowing.  And this initial fire brings excitement, growth, and even some fruit.  If there is one thing youth workers are known for it is starting strong.  And on the flip side, the other thing youth workers are known for is flaming out!

Building a sustainable youth ministry takes a team.

Your initial love and passion can honestly only get you so far.  After about 6 months you have used up all your greatest talks, greatest games, greatest gimmicks, and you can see the fruit of your greatest work is starting to have diminishing returns.  Building a student ministry that lasts takes more than passion.  It takes an intentional plan to build a student ministry that will survive the waves and winds of this crazy job.

Like all buildings, the strongest and most stable are the ones who have the strongest infrastructure.  These buildings are not simple shelters, but they are highly engineered structures that require a team of experts to work together to draw plans and actually build.  And like a complex building, a sustainable student ministry needs much more than your passion and our expertise.

We get for a building project there must be engineers, architects, construction workers, contractors, interior designers, electricians, plumbers, and on and on.  But do you really get that your student ministry needs a team as well.

Orange as a vital partner in sustainable student ministry.

For me, Orange has been an incredible partner in developing a complex and sustainable student ministry.  If you think of all that needs to be done to build an infrastructure, build a program, communicate to students and parents, and intentionally walk with students through life and faith, Orange provides expert counsel and support for all of it.

  1. Orange provides a strategy!  It is rather simple, but profound.  Orange wants to combine the critical influences of the light of the church (yellow) and the love of the family (red).  The Orange strategy shows a generation who God is more effectively than either could alone.   Be the church, partner with the family, sounds good to me!
  2. Orange is a curriculum.  What I love about the Orange curriculum is that it is so much more than a talk sheet.  It is an intentional scope and cycle that engages students spiritually, engages with their families, and actually has an action item that is designed to restore the world.  It is big and bold, comprehensive, theologically deep, and culturally relevant.  The curriculum is called XP3 and they will even give you free sample if you want to try it out.
  3. Orange is an interior decorator.  I have no style.  If it were up to me, I would still splatter paint my youth room, sit on bean bag chairs, and listen to DC Talk.  Orange adds to their amazing communication and curriculum style that is slick and relevant.  They provided power point slides, videos, and music that work with students and helps old guys like me keep it fresh.
  4. Orange gives you the templates.  Writing talks, emailing parents, coming up with creative tweets, finding games and activities that work with bringing everything together all takes time.  And many youth workers spend half their time doing these things.  Orange provides templates for all of it!  How cool if you could copy and paste, add a few specific details of your own, then send a well crafted email to all your parents.  With minimal effort you have now partnered with parents in ways that builds their confidence in you, and opens up all sorts of communication lines with them.
  5. Orange is a consultant.  Lets be honest,  this all sounds good on paper, but implementing it can be difficult.  What is so great about Orange is they provide support.  Jeremy Zach and his team will walk with you through the implementation of this strategy and curriculum.  But what is even more amazing is Jeremy and his peeps genuinely care about your soul and the souls of your kids.  You will find a friend, partner, and pastor in their support staff.

With Orange as your strategy, curriculum decorator, template provider and consultant, you are now free to do what you are called to do!

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You got into this gig because you love Jesus and love students.  When you do it all on your own, most youth workers have little time to actually do the thing that brings them the most joy.  Consider handing over half your hours to a partner that will provide the infrastructure and design to a theologically deep and culturally relevant student ministry.  Then invest those hours in actually connecting with and caring for students.

Programs are not the end all, be all.  But they do provide the structure, the context for ministry to happen.  With a strong program you are now free to be relational and pastoral.  Consider partnering with Orange.  Consider joining me and some of my favorite people in ATL this spring.  And let us all work together to combine the influences of the light of the church with the love of the family so that students may come to know Jesus and sustain that love into adulthood.  

See you in the dirty south April 30-May 2

 

 

Playing for Keeps!! What can you really accomplish in 40 hours?

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How Many Hours Does the Church Get With Kids and Students?

I know that this video clip talks about children's ministry and sunday mornings, but the message is just as clear for those who work with students.  In children's ministry the church is luck to have kids for 40 hours a year.  For those of us working with students the numbers at best double.

If you include youth group, sunday school, and big church there is still no way that we are even close to having 100 hours a year of ministry with our students.  And this 100 hour figure is being generous with our most committed students.  No matter how you slice it, the church is lacking in the amount of face time we get with children and students.  This necessarily isn't a bad thing, unless those of us in vocational ministry think that our time with children and students is the most important and most valuable spiritual formation that happens in the life of kids.

Who Passes Down Faith:

Depending on the tradition you find yourself in, the pendulum is always swinging between the church and the parents as the primary person passing on the christian faith from one generation to the next.

For a long time the church held the distinct role of teaching children the tenets of Christianity and shaping the spiritual lives of its kids.  Traditions like confirmation and CCD (catholic catechisms) were seen an invaluable classes for making sure the christian faith was communicated correctly from one generation to the next.  It was the church who passed on faith, and the family played a supporting role.

Some traditions have completely inverted this concept.  The family plays the main role of passing on faith from generation to generation.  There is a lack of trust in institutions and the institution of the church is no different.  Parents are the ones who will disciple and shape their children and the children's and youth ministry role of the church simply support these endeavors.

No matter what tradition you find yourself in, both are inadequate.  At least in our context families don't trust the institution of the church.  But at the same time, many of the families in our context don't feel equipped to provide the main diet of spiritual formation for their kids as well.  This is the worst of both worlds, no one is leading strongly and the children are missing out solid christian formation.

Instead of Competitors, We Should Be Partners:

It is too bad that there were and still are seasons where the church and the family are pitted against each other for the spiritual formation of their kids.  It doesn't and shouldn't have to be this way.  The church and the family are at their best when they cooperate and work together to combine their influences so that children and students will be able to have the best shot of developing a faith of their own.

It is for this reason that our church has jumped into a unique curriculum and strategy called "orange."  The basic idea behind this strategy is that you combine the two primary influences that impact a kid's life.  Orange synchronizes the light of the church with the love of the family to connect parents and leaders with the same strategy toward the same end.

If church leaders continue to see parents as the problem for all the lack of commitment and faith development that is happening with our kids then we have already established a hostile relationship.  If parents continue to see the church as glorified child care while they encounter Jesus and try to come up with a curriculum and plan for their children they will quickly run out of steam as the issues become more and more complex.

With orange, we have an opportunity to partner fully with parents, to see them as the primary care givers and faith developers of their children.  Parents have 3000 hours.  But the church does have a role.  Those 40-100 hours are incredibly important as well.  But when the church combines with the parents, many more of those hours get to be redeemed so that kids can grow in their faith  and be excited for what a life connected to Jesus is all about.

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Consider Coming to Atlanta and See For Yourself:

Because we are still new to the Orange family, our entire children's and student ministry team is heading out to Atlanta for their annual conference.  If you register early you save $80.  It might seem pricy, but of all the curriculum that is available to those of us in the church, there is none better in taking the partnership between parent and church worker more seriously.

Being orange is a value for our church, for our team, and for our parents.  As church leaders it is foolish to put too much stock in our 40 hours.  The more we maximize our time, equip our leaders, and partner with parents, the more likely that the children and students coming through the doors of the church will actually stick around long into adulthood.

Hope to see you at Orange 2014!

Orange is the new Black

maxresdefault Ok, this blog post isn't about the new Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. But it is about Orange and how all over the blogosphere Orange leaders are spending the week promoting Orange!

What is Orange? That is a good question. Orange is a ministry philosophy, a curriculum / strategy resource, and an epic conference designed to encourage and equip those who are like minded in ministry.

Throughout this week some of my friends and I will will be writing about some of the many facets of Orange and the upcoming Orange conference. There will be product reviews, give-a-ways, and general encouragement towards the Orange strategy. Below is a list of the bloggers who are participating this week. I highly recommend you take a look at them and even add them to your RSS feed.

Children’s Ministry Jonathan Cliff, JonathanCliff.com Matt Norman, It’sPastorMatt.com Yancy Richmond, YancyNotNancy.com

Middle School Ministry JC Thompson, JSisOnline.com

Youth Ministry Austin Walker, YouthMin.org Benjamin Kerns, AverageYouthMinistry.com Jonathan Cliff, JonathanCliff.com Michael Bayne, MichaelBayne.net Ryan Reed, RyanReed.me Tom Pounder, YMSidekick.com 

NextGen / Family Ministry Joe McAlpine, JoeMcAlpine.com Jonathan Cliff, JonathanCliff.com Michael Bayne, MichaelBayne.net Nick Blevins, NickBlevins.com Pat Rowland, PatRowland.com Tom Pounder, YMSidekick.com 

Technology Matt McKee, MattMcKee.com

For me, this week will be spent reviewing some products, talking about Orange as a strategy / philosophy for ministry and seeing if you want to room with me when I go to Atlanta this spring!

But before we get to those things, lets do a quick catch up:

WHAT IS THE ORANGE STRATEGY / PHILOSOPHY?

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WHAT IS THE ORANGE CURRICULUM?

XP3 is the is the most comprehensive scope and cycle of curriculum for student ministry out there.  It is theologically solid, culturally relevant, and easy to use.  To learn more about it, check out the XP3 link as well as check back for some XP3 highlights later this week.

WHAT IS THE ORANGE CONFERENCE?

This is the conference that puts it all together.  For a week in April you have the opportunity to surround yourself with some of the smartest people in the field who want nothing more than to make the gospel come alive for children and students.  And they, like you, are convinced that this happens most effectively when we partner with parents and have children, student, and college ministries link up.

Registration begins soon, so make sure to mark your calendar, save your pennies, and join me in ATL for the orange conference.

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This is Orange week!!  An this means that this week, I will, along with some of my good friends, be sharing our thoughts and reflections on the strategy and support that Orange provides.  If you use Orange and are looking to connect, lets do that, if you are not an Orange person, then I would love to know how you intentionally leverage the church and family toward greatest impact on students.

I am continually thankful for the resource Orange is for me and for our church.  If you have never used Orange or they are not on your radar, their strategy for connecting the church and the family is head and shoulders above anything else out there.

As you think about how you will be trained this year and how you will train your staff, why don’t you consider joining me in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family.

If you use something else and/or something better, would you be willing to share.  We as youth workers continually need to be sharpened, so sharpen away.

Think Orange, Read Orange!

I am always looking for new blogs to add to my RSS feed.  Below are some solid bloggers.  They are leaders in their areas of ministries and in their regions.  They are solid thinkers and they think Orange.  They always have solid content and this week they will be writing specifically on how Orange has impacted their ministries.  Please check them out and if you dig, add them to your blog roll. (And while you are at it, enjoy a cinnamon roll)

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Amy Fenton Lee, The Inclusive Church Austin Walker, YouthMin Ben Read, YouthMin Ben Kerns, Average Youth Ministry Cass Brannan Elle Campbell, Stuff You Can Use Henry Zonio, Kidmin and Culture Jared Massey, Small Town Kidmin Jenny Funderburke Jeremy Lee, Uthmin Joe McAlpine Jonathan Cliff Mary Carver, Giving Up on Perfect Matt McKee Matt Norman, It’s Pastor Matt Michael Bayne Nick Blevins Paul Mannio, Orange Dad Ryan Reed Sam Luce Tom Pounder, Ministry Blackboard Tonya Langdon, Kidmin 1124 and Special Need Kidz Wendy Douglas, Saved Sister JC Thompson, http://jcisonline.com

Don’t forget—register by February 14 to save $40 off regular registration rates, and earn a $50 Orange credit. For more information and complete offer details, please visitwww.TheOrangeConference.com. PEACE!!

How Orange has changed our Children's Ministry and our church:

Think Orange

One of the best decisions I have ever made in student ministry is to become good friends and colleagues with the children's ministry director.   Here at Marin Covenant Church I am honored to lead a great team and that team is spearheaded by Stacie Mancini.  As we wrap up Orange Week, I asked Stacie if she would reflect on how going Orange has changed our children's ministry, our church, and our team.  Here are her thoughts: Our Children’s Ministry went Orange last summer. And I am so glad we did. We had been writing our own curriculum and had found a rhythm that was working for us. And everything was going fine…I just felt like we were missing something. Orange’s appeal is evident when you first see their dynamic presentation. I wanted the clever, fun and engaging multi-media curriculum for our kids. But even more than that I wanted what Orange offered for our families. After implementing Orange I see how much we have truly gained.

Orange synchronizes the light of the church with the love of family. It has helped us articulate our vision, hopes and prayers for the families we shepherd. Parents are understanding that the spiritual growth of their children is something we get to work on together, and that assertion has catapulted our ministry into a whole new world of partnership with parents. By clearly stating we are working with the same strategy towards the same goal, we have been united in a way that feels more tangible. Parents seem more open to sharing what is happening with their kids, and because of that we feel more connected to them. We have been given a bigger window to speak into their lives.

With Orange we are able to provide awesome resources for parents. Parents now have incredible tools to truly engage their children. By watching each month’s virtue or perusing the weekly overview, parents can be on board with what their kids are learning. The questions they are given really work to start natural conversation. Another benefit of Orange is that we can easily encourage parents with excellent parenting podcasts, videos, articles and book suggestions. These resources have grown our children’s team and by simply suggesting resources to parents it has given us more credibility.

Orange is easy to teach. Even people who feel awkward around children can get past themselves to engage kids with Orange. Small group activities are designed to encourage relationships and build trust, allowing teachers to speak into children’s lives easier. It has been a subtle shift, but I see that teachers feel more connected to their kids by how they talk about them. And our wonderful kids are more transparent and engaged and with each other and their teachers.

There has also been a noticeable change in the young family core group in our church. They are reading Reggie Joiner’s book, “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity”. They seem to be embracing the idea of community not just for their sake, but also for their child’s as well. Volunteering and getting to know their peer’s children has value to them. Families want community, and are more open and invested than in the past. The vibe in this small community is evidence of the impact of Orange.

They say change is never easy. But what I love is that change can bring enthusiasm and a fresh sense of purpose. In our case going Orange brought both of those and a lot more. And believe it or not…going Orange truly was easy!

If you are unfamiliar with Orange, I would encourage you to check it out.  They are an amazing resource for youth workers and for families.  I can not wait to get out to Atlanta for the annual convention.  I hope you consider coming along.   Sign up this week and save some money.  No matter if you are an Orange Kool-Aid drinker like me or not, communicating with parents is a no-brainer and a must.

 

don't you wish chap clark was your friend?

chap clark

I do.   In fact, it would be pretty cool to call up Chap, grab a coffee and talk about life and ministry.  I would love to pick his brain about all things related to student ministry.  Since this is not my world, I have at least found the next best thing. Orange has put out a new DVD curriculum for youth workers and parents called, Parenting a New Generation: A Tool for Parents and Student Pastors to Understand and Lead Today's Students.  This 3 DVD set is worth its weight in gold.  (And Gold is doing really well right now)

Chap Clark spends 13 sessions unpacking the best of all his research, teaching, books, and trainings and presents it all High Definition.  The teaching is very natural and engaging, and for the most part, the viewer feels like a participant in the cohort style of lecture.  Throughout the 13, half hour sessions, Chap condenses his best teaching on adolescent development, parental responsibility, changing culture, and the role of the community in the faith development of teenagers into a format that is very accessible.

This DVD set is really the highlight reel of all that Chap and his colleagues has worked on during his time at Fuller and the Fuller Youth Institute.   There are 5 main sections that are explored in this curriculum.

Section 1: Widen the Circle

"Chap talks about the importance of inviting other adults into the life of your family - adults committed to your child for no other reason than because they care.

Section 2: Imagine the End

"Chap challenge us to rethink what the goal for our children is as parents and how we can encourage them as they discover their place in God's kingdom."

Section 3: Fight for the Heart

"Chap gives us insight into the developmental changes an adolescent goes through and urges us to parter with our kid as they spend these formative years figuring out their core identity."

Section 4: Create a Rhythm

"Chap gets really practical, unpacking, the importance of natural, organic practices we can engage in with our children that help them relate to God of the universe."

Section 5: Make it Personal

"Chap begins to draw some conclusions from earlier material and prompt us to ask the tough questions for what this new way of parenting will mean for our own families."

Why You Should Drop $129 For This Curriculum:

Over the years, I have taken a seminary class from Chap, heard him speak a dozen times, and read most of his books.  I figure I have spent in the thousands of dollars for the opportunity to have learned what I have learned from Chap.  So for 5-10% of that cost, there is a tool for youth workers and parents to have access to the very best of this information in a format that is really easy to consume.

For youth workers and parents, this information is amazing.  Chap's knowledge and passion are evident and keep the viewer engaged.  The discussion questions make this a tool that can and should be shared with the parents of students in your youth ministry.  And the practical suggestions offer a real way forward to carry out the ideas presented in these DVD's.

One of the reasons I am such a believer in the Orange strategy and curriculum is that everything is designed to be done in partnership between the church and the family.  If we really want our students to have a shot at developing a healthy faith and connection to the church, they must also have a healthy and strong relationship with their parents as they work this all out.

There is plenty of information presented in each session.  Chap reviews the topic and take aways from the session previously, before jumping into the next topic.  While Chap is teaching, there is a power point presentation that highlights the important points and significant quotes.  For being a highly produced curriculum, the total lack of graphics or attempt at making the power point presentation engaging was a little sad.  For the most part, it doesn't matter and the simplicity is actually kind of nice.  But when Chap explains how the task of adolescence and the illustration of a tightrope, the simplicity becomes a liability.

One of the new pieces of information that stood out to me as a parent is about the true desire adolescents have for relationship with their parents.  Chap, rightly, points out, that it is a myth that teenagers want less involvement in their life from their parents.  The truth is they want more interaction, more conversation, more empathy and compassion.  What they want less of is to be treated like babies and given edicts from on high.

As you consider this curriculum, check out some of the preview videos that are available here.

This curriculum gives any adult who loves students a broader understanding of the sociological, theological, and developmental issues that are surrounding adolescents and a map to help us, parents, and specifically students navigate through it.  I highly recommend it and have already passed on my copy to the parents group at our church.

Some day Chap might be my friend.  But until that day, I will take his HD face on my television and soak up all that one of the best practical theologians out there has to say.

need a new blog to read?

think orange

This week some of my online friends have been invited to participate in a blogger week for orange.  There are some solid bloggers on this list and would be worthwhile to read.  For this week, many of these bloggers will be highlighting orange curriculum and strategy.  And after this week will continue writing some inspirational and challenging blogs related to their ministries and context.  

You can check them out here:

 

Have a great week!

a great ministry practice made better

Is Zac Efron still relevant? No matter how great your ministry is now, or how hip and with it you are today, in just a matter of months, everything will seem so dated.  I had a moment like this recently when I noticed I still have an “I love Zac Efron” sticker in my office.  That joke was so cool 4 years ago. Sad.

In the same way, some of the practices of youth ministry that have proven to be really effective are becoming dinosaurs in this current age of student ministry.  If left to myself I would still be mailing out flyers with amazing clip art, singing my guts out to the Shine, and building community by having students play the human knot.  (although, I still love that game)

Thankfully, I have had the privilege of being around really amazing, young, and fresh youth workers who love me and speak into me and my ministry.  Even though I am old enough to be their youth pastor, and even was for a couple of them, They are the ones who are the future of student ministry and the ones who inspire me.   They are still un-jaded in their passion to love students and are un-cynical in the ways they actually expect students to meet Jesus and be transformed.  I have learned that these young guns are the ones that I need to be around, listening to their heart’s and practices in ministry.  I need to continue to weigh my current practices against theirs, and what I am finding is that more often than not, my practices are left wanting.

A welcomed wake up call:

A little over a year ago, I did just that.  One of the young guys that mentor me in student ministry is an amazing youth pastor from Modesto, CA. Erik Anderson is easily one of the greatest up and coming youth pastors I know.  He has a solid ministry that seems to balance perfectly; big fun and spiritual depth, as well as balancing a complex program with depth of relationship.  (You read about him here first)

Anyway, a little over a year ago I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t connect with parents as easily as I had before because our budget froze and we could not longer do our monthly mailings.  Erik proceeded to bring me into the 21st century and told me about email.  What Erik does, and I assume many of you do, is send regular emails to your parents to inform them about what is going on in your ministry.  Erik sends them out weekly, and as a good student, I followed suit.  For the last six months I have sent out weekly emails to parents and have saved thousands of dollars on stamps.

A great ministry practice:

Sending out weekly emails to parents has been the single most transforming thing I have ever done in student ministry.  With this one simple act, I have an opportunity to:

  • Inform parents on what is happening in our ministry
  • Inform parents about upcoming trips and events
  • Inform parents about the topics and lessons that will be discussed each week.
  • Share highlights of what God is doing in and through our ministry.
  • Remind parents that our church even has a student ministry
  • Keep the lines of communication continually open between parents and me.

A great practice, made even better:

All of this is so good and rich.  But, as I have been reading Reggie Joiner’s book, Think Orange, I continue to get my views of ministry challenged.  And like other areas of my ministry, the weekly emails have gotten a fresh look.  And while I thought I was doing a great job, I have realized that this great ministry practice could be made even better.

In one section Joiner says:

“If you think yellow (that is only thinking about church stuff), You promote what you want parents to know about your programs. When you think orange (that is thinking that combines the church, yellow, and the family, red), You focus on what you want parents to do at home.

I was so excited to learn about this new tool called email that I went right to work using it.  And the truth is that I have used it effectively to promote what I wanted parents to know about all the great programs I have planned for their children.  And now I get to go back to the drawing board and continue to tweak my ministry so that I can continue to be an effective youth worker.  The system is already in place with the emails.  Now all I need to do is change the focus.  Instead of me and my programs being the focus, I can use this tool to encourage and equip parents to continue the spiritual formation at home.

I am so thankful for my colleagues who speak into my life, especially the young ones.  I am thankful for authors who challenge me to think deeply and to do ministry better.  I am thankful that youth ministry is a continually changing target and requires youth workers who are life long learners.  And I am thankful that the vast majority of youth workers I have the pleasure of working alongside are life long learners who are driven, sharp, funny, and deep!

Come to the Orange Conference with me:

I mentioned in my last blog that I have been invited to blog about my experience at the upcoming Orange Conference.  If you are interested in wrestling with how to Think Orange and partner more closely with parents, then please consider coming to this conference.  If you sign up this week you will get $30 off.  And if you don’t mind going over/under, we could room together and save some money that way too :)

Thank you fellow youth workers for encouraging me to stay at it in this every changing ministry landscape and for spurring me on to richer and deeper ministry!