At the heart of Orange is the family, which is represented by the color red. While there are many influences out there (media, celebrity, friends, school, etc.) shaping children, the greatest influence still is the family. We have to be careful, though, of what we think of when we think “family.” Most of us in church world, immediately have a picture of a mom, a dad, two kids and a dog (because they’re better than cats) living in a single family home with a two cars parked out front (one, most likely, being a minivan). We conjure up images of soccer games, homework, and family outings. It’s not a perfect family, per se, but it is a happy family.
This image we have of family colors our interactions with the families we minister to at our churches. This image dictates our expectations of the families we minister to. This image dictates the programming we plan and the curriculum we choose. This image colors our view of families who don’t fit that image. Is it any wonder that most of us are disappointed by parents?
Families are at the heart of what it means to be Orange. Before we can move forward with becoming more Orange in our approach to ministry, we need to get a more accurate picture of that heart. Families come in all shapes and sizes: families with single parents, blended families, multiple families living under one roof, grandparents raising grandchildren, ethnic families, traditional families, families with two moms or two dads… and that’s just the beginning of a list of the many types of families we have the privilege of ministering to.
Once we have a better picture of the heart of Orange, we need to stop beating that heart up and begin to build it up. When I first began working in children’s ministry almost twenty years ago as a volunteer, I quickly learned that parents were the problem. If there was a challenging kid, we’d meet the parents and tell ourselves, “Yup! That it explains it!” For the years that followed, including my first few years as a full time children’s pastor, I was frustrated with parents and how clueless they were about putting God first and making sure their kids came to church regularly. Then eleven years ago, something changed… I became a parent.
In the months and years that followed the birth of my oldest son, I began interacting with other parents. I began listening to their hearts, their struggles, their desires… I began to see parents who loved their children dearly. I began to see parents who were doing the best they could with what they had and still feeling like they were failures. I began to see parents who were being told by every parenting magazine, TV show, expert, and even the church that what they were doing was, at best, not enough and, at worst, damaging their children. I began to see parents who were willing to sacrifice themselves to meet the demands of all these messages even if, in the end, it meant they were still miserable failures.
When pursuing an Orange approach to ministry, we need to remember that the family is the heart. It is a fragile, broken and beaten up heart. It’s a heart that deeply cares for it’s children… much more than we could. It’s a heart that needs to be picked up from the dirt, brushed off, and restored. Parents need to know what they are doing right when it comes to passing on faith, even if the only thing they are doing is bringing their kids to church! They could choose to simply forego God altogether. We need to encourage them in what they are already doing. We need to build relationships with them. We need to see them as fellow humans who are trying to figure out what this God-thing is all about. Imagine the potential impact on families in our communities if we become the one place where parents aren’t beat up and told they are screwing up their children if they are doing A, B and C. Imagine the influence we can have if we become the one place in our communities where parents are affirmed, encouraged and then equipped in realistic ways to become better.
Family is at the heart of being Orange. It’s time we stop trying to replace that heart with an artificial one.
- What are some ways this week that you can begin to build real relationships with parents?
- What are some ways we can build parents up rather than tear them down?
- Most parents already know they are doing “it” wrong. What can we do to point to the things they are doing right?