Think Orange Group Blog Project – Chapter 4: Orange Glow

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Carl C)

Today we are taking a look at chapter four of Think Orange entitled “Orange Glow.” The contributor for this review is Matt Guevara. Matt is proud to be outnumbered in his house by his wonderful wife of seven years, Noel, and two daughters, Isabel and Sofia. Matt has served in children’s ministry since 2003 and is currently on the KidsWorld staff at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL. Matt completed his Masters Degree in Children’s and Family Ministry at Bethel Seminary in May 2009 and he is currently working on an iPhone app for family devotions. You’ll often find Matt laughing at his own jokes, eating Chipotle, or goofing around on his iPhone. You can also find Matt blogging over at the Cory Center.

At this point in the book, Joiner has combined both influences (church and family) and given the Biblical background from Deuteronomy 6 and shared the biography of Moses. Now it is time for the overall thrust of the book to be put into action.

Joiner defines the Orange Leader as “any leader who connects other leaders and parents in order to synchronize their efforts to build faith in the next generation” (79). This synchronization requires leadership effort to eradicate obsolete thinking about family as sacred or building bigger and better churches. The reality is that we should combine both influences to maximize their influence.

The caveat with this leadership effort, which Joiner addresses brilliantly, is that before leaders, families, and churches get into practicing what it means to “Think Orange,” they must first establish a common ground, or a shared pool of meaning before establishing programming.

Joiner offers several honed principles to form the common ground:

  • Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God.
  • No one has more potential to influence a children’s relationship with God than a parent.
  • No one has more potential to influence the parent than the church.
  • The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent.
  • The parent’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when that parent partners with the church.

The other key component to establishing the common ground is actually defining what family ministry is. Joiner writes, “Family ministry [is] an effort to synchronize church leaders and parents around a master plan to build faith and character in their sons and daughters” (83). In other words, family ministry = Orange leadership. Clever.

The last half of the chapter provides support, both research and story-oriented, to Joiner’s common ground principles. In summary:

  1. Kids need their parents to get involved in their spiritual formation.
  2. Most parents are not even talking to their kids about spiritual issues.
  3. Most churches are not helping parents fulfill their role.

When we start working together, change will happen. Kids will get the feedback they need to grow in Christ. Parents will have a specific plan to put into immediate action. Churches will reorganize resources and time to partner with families.

Let me break my response down into four short pieces:

  1. Have the Conversation: If the only thing this book accomplishes is encouraging and moving hundreds of churches to start having conversations about working together with families, it will be one of the most influential books this decade. I was reminded acutely of the need to have these types of conversations and think about establishing common ground before implementing a new program. The churches in my ministry context are engaging in this process right now and it is incredibly exciting.
  2. Know that conversation’s length may last several months: Joiner presents a compelling argument for having the conversation about going Orange, but the book provides very little support or information on the realities those conversations open leaders up to. If I were in my first few years of ministry and I read this book, I would leave with the impression that going Orange could happen tomorrow. Moving organizations of any size into new paradigms takes time, leadership, and effort. In the case of our ministry, it has taken several months. Rob Reinow of Wheaton Bible Church and Visionary Parenting often talks about how his church spent years honing the theology behind their family ministry before they implemented a single program. Think Orange is not Think Fast.
  3. I’m on the bus, show me where I am supposed to go: One of the issues I have with the book in general is that it spends so much time emphasizing the importance of the partnership between church and family without really saying what is supposed to happen next. If you want a roadmap to having the conversations necessary to achieve a family ministry shift, you will not find it in this book. You will find out a lot about what happens if you combine influences, but now how to do that. I have found a lot of practical help to engage in this kind of conversation through the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
  4. Character: I am absolutely convinced that the partnership between family and church is critical. I am devoted to helping kids meet Jesus and become more like Him. Here is where I hit a snag when I read Think Orange. While Scripture is clearly valued throughout the Orange philosophy, it’s primary application is to build character in the lives of kids. Building character is featured in Chapter 4 and seen throughout the entire book. It is also clear in the way 252 Basics is organized. This presents a problem because I do not think the Word of God was delivered to make people more virtuous. There’s more to it than that. And I have a hard time orienting ministry in such a way as to teach kids that the primary purpose of the Bible is to make them more responsible or friendly.


  • For those who have already made the shift and started/implemented the process of partnering with parents – What did you do to make those conversations successful?
  • What mistakes have you made?
  • What would you do differently?
  • For those who are just getting started – What resources would you find helpful to start the process?
  • How long do you think it will take?

You can check out other posts in this project:


30 thoughts on “Think Orange Group Blog Project – Chapter 4: Orange Glow

  1. Emily says:

    We have just started these conversations within the past 6 months at our church. Although I am an optimist and hope that all parents will see how great this partnership can be in impacting their children's lives, I know that this is likely a process that will take several years to see results. The majority of our parents are of the mindset that it is the church's responsibility to lead their child to Christ, and that by coming to church every week, that is all their child needs to become a Christian. They also see the moment of salvation as the goal, rather than a point along the path. Unfortunately, the Church (capital C) seems to have been feeding that train of thought up until this point.

  2. Henry Zonio says:

    My whole view on partnering with parents began when I became a parent ten years ago. Before then I would say what I hear too many people repeating, "Parents think it is the church's job to lead their child to Christ." Once I became a parent, I was initiated into the secret society of parenthood and began talking with other parents about how they raise their children. I would hear parents talk about how they didn't know how to teach their kids about God. I would hear how they were discouraged about doing family devotions because of time and lack of resources and, for some, the sense that family devos were boring. I began asking what they did do… how did they live their lives from day to day. I soon found out most parents DID have spiritual conversations with their kids. Most parents DO teach their kids about God. Parents simply did not know that they were doing those things. For some parents, it was just a matter of being aware of all the opportunities they had to point to God. A lot of parents simply needed permission to not be the "model family."

    So how do I go about empowering parents? I affirm what they are already doing. I affirm that their presence in church, alone, is one way they are passing on faith to their children. I affirm that as they live out their walk with God in front of their children everyday, they are passing on faith to their children. I affirm that they don't need to have all the answers. I encourage them to be aware of how they can point to God at least once a day through "everyday" circumstances. I encourage them to allow their children to freely express their experiences with God. I encourage parents to walk with their children through the story of the Bible using age-appropriate resources like children's Bibles, etc. I empower parents by respecting and understanding the busyness of their lives. I empower parents by caring about who they are as people and not necessarily as parents or volunteers or church attendees.

    I think the biggest change that needs to happen as we seek to come alongside parents is a change in ourselves. We need to become champions for parents. We need to see them as our greatest allies, whether or not they volunteer in CM. I think that if we can change our attitudes towards parents and how we talk about them, then that breaks down most barriers to helping parents become the primary faith model for their children.

  3. Tom Bump says:

    Henry, I'm so glad you brought up this idea. I was thinking that as I read this chapter. I am just starting out in the "thinking Orange" journey. I am totally on board with encouraging and empowering. We must encourage our parents to take simple little steps. If they have never really thought about spiritual discussions with their children, they never will if we only put up the "Gold Standard." I want to help my parents START doing something, anything. What I don't want is them getting discouraged and feeling like a failure if they don't make their children sit down every night and ready 4 chapters of Song of Solomon. I try to help them just realize that they can take advantage of those moments during the day to speak a word of truth into their children's life, to pray with them, to hug them, etc. I totally agree we must not look as if the parents are totally missing the boat when we have to rely on them to make the change as much as we have to make a change. I hope that my parents know I'm one of them, I struggle to find the time to do things with my kids too, I'm not at the "Gold Standard, yet" maybe someday. I'm just try to do my best to take the opportunities when my Lord gives them to me. Great Thoughts, this is fun!

  4. I’m glad that Matt pointed out that the book provides you with plenty of reasoning as to why you should Think Orange, but is low on the actual how-to’s. I have read many blogs posts looking for “what worked for us” type entries. I haven’t found a lot yet. I think that would be the most helpful thing for me. To see what others have done, that have worked. I did read Brian Haynes book, Shift, which has so much “how-to” in it! It was an awesome book. Though his entire process is probably a bit too structured for our church culture.

    I hate to admit it, but it does take a lot longer than I wish to put this into practice. We are hoping to be more “orange” by this summer.

    • henryjz says:

      I hear what you are saying about "how-to's." It would be so much easier if we could just see what others are doing. I think the hard part with putting down the how-to is that it looks so different from one place to another. As we have become more connected and have more access to information, we've become more diverse in our contexts and cultures. We can so easily customize and adapt, so we do. There are some who are very structured and some who are more organic. I think the biggest thing is that most of us are simply experimenting from year to year.

      When it comes to being Orange, I believe, more than anything, that it is more of a shift in ethos and philosophy rather than actual curriculum.

      • Barbara Graves says:

        I think it is more important to bring the "thinking" part of Orange into place first. There is no doubt that everything you do in your ministry processing will be affected by that philosophy. But taking what others have done, or are doing, and adapting that to fit the culture of your church is sometimes easier than trying to start from scratch in every single aspect of your ministry. While its true that rarely can anything be transplanted exactly "as is" from one church to another, those practices can be a starting point to brainstorm applications that would fit wherever you serve.

      • henryjz says:

        True… I think what I'm trying to say is that most of us are probably hesitant to share what we do because much of what we are doing is an experiment. Also, we might not want to share what hasn't worked for us. So, I guess the encouragement would be to everyone to share what you've tried whether it's worked or not. Or whether it's tried and true or new. Sometimes we only want to share what is working, and most of us don't think we have things figured out… Ha! So, let's just share since we are all trying to figure out what works where we are.

        Thanks Barbara.

  5. Mike Burns says:

    Henry said, "I encourage them to be aware of how they can point to God at least once a day through "everyday" circumstances." Well said! This is HUGE. It allows the children to see God, but it also keeps us, as parents, on our toes looking for God everyday. Love it!
    Henry and Matt, do you use 252 Basics? If so, do you supplement it? …or just teach the philosophy of "scripture over character" to the group leaders?

  6. Tammy says:

    It seems so much more difficult to empower parents of teens versus parents of middle school and high school students. Anyone out there with thoughts / ideas on really coming alongside parents of teens?

    • henryjz says:

      I am, by no means an expert, but I think one thing that parents of teens need to know is that their kids DO want to be able to talk with their parents about stuff including spirituality. The trick is that the terms on which to discuss things need to be renegotiated. By that I mean, the relationship between teen and parent need to change from simply parent/child. There needs to be more of a mentor-type of relationship. So there's a bit more give and take and mutual respect happening. That can be somewhat empowering to a parent of a teen. It can also be discouraging because there is on real handbook on how to accomplish that. One other thing is to encourage parents of teens to approach other adults in their teen's life who their teen might look up to and encourage parents to "recruit" those adults to be mentors/aunts/uncles to their teens. But I would still encourage the parents to find new ways to converse with their teens because sociological studies show over and over again that teens, overall, do want to be able to talk with their parents. They just don't want to be patronized and are looking for more grown up ways to interact that aren't cheesy, forced or weird.

  7. Kristie McCollister says:

    Hey Matt, thank you for reviewing the book. You post is sparking some great dialogue! I do want to let you know that this is very much a “work in progress” and we consider ourselves to be on this journey with you. Reggie and his staff are constantly dialoguing about the Parent Initiatives and how we can help bridge the gap between home and church. The Orange Strategy is not a one size fits all but is intended to help provide churches the vision and tools to custom fit it to their church. It is conversations like these that help us figure out how to help you. Another heads up, reThink has just released the Think Orange handbook (… Hopefully this will help churches participate in more strategic conversations on how they can move forward to make the changes they feel are necessary to become more “Orange”.

  8. @CaraMartens says:

    What a great conversation– wanted to send you to a link on Orange Leaders where this a good dialogue about whether 252basics is teaching kids to reflect God's character or teaching virtues.… Another place where you can talk face to face with lots of people in different ages and stages of going Orange is the Orange conference. It's an awesome mix of thinkers, bloggers, creatives and implementers from all over. Thanks for leading the way in reaching the next generation and encouraging parents!

  9. @CaraMartens says:

    What a great conversation– wanted to send you to a link on Orange Leaders where this a good dialogue about whether 252basics is teaching kids to reflect God's character or teaching virtues.… Another place where you can talk face to face with lots of people in different ages and stages of going Orange is the Orange conference. It's an awesome mix of thinkers

  10. Wendy says:

    You said much of what I have been thinking. That I want the parents to be encouraged and not discouraged. That I want them to know that it doesn't take hours of Bible study with their kids to show their faith. That it may be in the little moments that they lead their kids too.
    I have to agree on the frustration of not knowing what to do next though. I will be purchasing the Orange workbook and attending the Orange conference in hopes of some pointers.

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