I’ll return tomorrow to our series on ADHD and Spiritual Development, but I wanted to share some thoughts on a movement that’s dominating the children’s and student ministry blogosphere for the next week.
Setting aside for a moment my volunteer position as President of Key Ministry, I’m a husband, father of two girls of whom I’m very proud, a member of the Board of Elders in my local church and a physician specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry in an upper middle class “exurb” of Cleveland. My job affords me a view of the kids and families in our community that most people, including our children’s and student ministry leaders never get to see. And I can’t accept what I’m seeing.
I’ve had this burden for several years that the kids and families in our community won’t get healthy until and unless our churches take the lead in becoming the catalysts for change. Chagrin Falls, Ohio is the type of place parents move to with the interests of their kids in mind. We have outstanding public and private schools and a rich array of athletic, artistic and intellectual opportunities for kids. It’s a place where parents don’t want to deny their kids any experiences that could help them grow. The problem is that far too many of our kids live lives that are experience-rich and relationship-poor with parents who have no idea of how to teach their kids about the things that matter most.
I became familiar with Reggie Joiner about five or six years ago when I used a video series he developed with Andy Stanley (“Parental Guidance Required”) with a small group I led. I came across his book “Think Orange” the summer before last while poking around the local Christian bookstore and knocked it off in two days. The principles that Reggie articulated in the book have led to a movement among church leaders to reconsider the strategies used to help kids grow spiritually, emphasizing the importance of partnering with parents and merging the heart of a caring family (red) with the light of a faith community (yellow), resulting in a combined influence (orange) that will have greater impact than either influence alone.
Here’s my source of frustration. We know that there are lots of things that parents can do to significantly enhance the likelihood that their kids will grow up to be passionate followers of Christ who are actively engaged in a faith community with fellow Christians and intentional in using their gifts and talents to serve others. Most parents would want that for their kids. They just need someone to show them what to do. Apologies to the ministry staff at my church, but I get very impatient that that we’re not doing enough to help the families in our community fast enough because of the volume of kids and parents who show up in my office crashing and burning.
My first thought after reading the book was to question whether our church staff would also need someone to show them what to do. I’ve found from personal experience that my entire style of communication has to change when I’m speaking in a church as opposed to doing a lecture for 200 physicians. There’s an entirely different skill set involved in communicating with high school kids at a worship service compared to the skills involved in first building credibility with parents and then equipping them. I know how difficult change can be from working in the medical field. As a leader in my church, I want our staff to have the best support we can provide to help them navigate the change.
Last Spring, I had the opportunity to attend the Orange Conference with our Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, Elementary and Middle School Pastors, along with the person now serving as our Small Groups coordinator. I left with the impression that, like our work with Key Ministry, leaders in the Orange movement are still sorting out the “best practices” those serving in the ministry trenches need to know. The value of the conversations occurring across the blogosphere and at conferences like Orange is in increasing the slope of the learning curve for leaders in children’s, student and family ministry who need to implement the change. I’d anticipate the content of next year’s conference will represent a vast increase in collective ministry wisdom that’s resulted from the Orange movement.
I’ll be devoting the first two weeks of November to a series of blog posts discussing the importance of the Orange principles and strategies for churches seeking to serve families of kids with disabilities. The role of parents in guiding the spiritual development of their children is even more vital in families where one or more kids have conditions that may impact their style of learning and social interaction while the challenges to staff and volunteers in overcoming the barriers that exist between church and family are more imposing.
Keep up the good work, guys! The kids who cross my path have great need for what parents can offer in partnership with their church.