What Is Orange Tour?

OT15_TwitterProfile_500x500If your in ministry to children or youth, you have probably heard of the Orange Conference. However, if you may not know about the Orange Tour. Think of the Orange Tour as a mini Orange Conference in a regional version.

Who should attend Orange Tour? There is a common misconception that the only people that should attend the Orange Conference are those that use the “Orange” curriculum. The Orange Conference is put on by the reThink group. It is true that these folks also produce curriculum for preschool, children and youth as well as a number of other resources. However, this does not mean that the Orange Conference, or Orange Tour are exclusive for those that use these products.

Isn’t it just a big sales pitch? For those that use Orange curriculum or products there are opportunities to learn more about these products. There are also opportunities to purchase some of them, often at a discounted rate. However, Neither the Orange Conference, nor the Orange Tour is a sales pitch. If you use the materials they produce there are breakout sessions aimed at helping you get the most to of them. But, there are also sessions aimed simply at helping you do the best you can at reaching and ministering to preschoolers, children and youth.

So, what IS Orange Tour? Big, national conferences can often be hard for people to attend. The cost of the conference, plus travel,lodging and meals can be too much for many people. The Orange Tour is designed to fill the gap for those that can’t afford a big, national conference. There are 14 stops on the schedule for Orange Tour 2015. With this many stops they are able to spread them all over the country. As a result there is a good chance that there is an Orange Tour stop within a reasonable drive of your location. This reduces the cost of travel and, for many, eliminates the need for lodging. The reduced cost also provides an opportunity for more people from a given church to attend.

Ok, that still doesn’t really answer the question of what Orange Tour is. For starters I would recommend checking out the official website at HERE. In the mean time let me give you a brief description…

Imagine some of the top names in ministry to children and youth. Imagine you in a venue with just a couple hundred other people while that person shares some of the lessons that have learned. Imagine a smaller group in a breakout session where you can actually ask questions of some of the brightest and best minds in ministry. That is Orange Tour. Of course there is also the excitement and energy that comes from being with a group of people that are just as passionate about reaching the next generation as you are. That’s the sort of thing that can’t really be explained, but has to simply be experienced.

What questions do you have? As a ministry leader and simply a child of God we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. As a result we all aim to be careful in how we spend money on things like conferences. I know that some may still have questions that I have not answered here. I would recommend that you check out their website. However, I would also invite you to leave me a question in the comments below. I will do all I can to answer your questions from my own personal experience. I also have some direct connections with the people that put on the Orange Conference and produce the curriculum and other materials. What I can’t answer I’d be glad to reach out to them to get answered.

In case you’re curious, I’m planning to attend the Orange Tour stop in Ocala, Florida on November 10th. If you’re in Florida I’d love to see you there. If you are going to be there, let me know. I’d love to meet you in person.

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Orange is the New Black, or Something Like That

Apparently there is a hugely popular show that called “Orange is the New Black.” I know almost nothing about it. And, I don’t intend to talk about it here. But, I do want to talk about Orange. Many in children’s ministry have at least heard of this movement that is called Orange. However, many have not. Still others have heard of it, but may not understand what it is all about.

It’s not about a curriculum. If you talk to some children’s ministry people they will refer to Orange as a curriculum. True there is a company called reThink(LINK) that produces curriculum for preschool, children and youth. They also happen to be the company from which the book that started the Orange movement came from. One of the founders of reThink is Reggie Joiner. He is also the author of a book called “Think Orange”. (LINK) BUT, the concept of Orange and the movement that it has become are not directly connected to the curriculum.

It ain’t nothing new. The basic principle that the foundation of the Orange movement is a partnership between the church and the family aimed at having a greater impact in the lives of children and youth. This is not a new concept. When I was a child my Sunday School teachers worked with my parents with a common goal of impacting my life. However, this was not a formal part of the strategy of the church. At that point it was just something that some teachers did. It came down to a matter of teachers that had a natural leaning in that direction did it and those that did not, probably didn’t.

So, what’s the big deal. The big deal is this. When the church and the family work together they can have a greater impact than either one working alone to influence children. This is a pretty big deal to me. After all, it’s why I do what I do. It’s why I get up in the morning. It’s the thing that draws me out of the house and into the community or into the office.

Ok, but what’s Orange got to do with it? Well, Orange is simply a clever way to illustrate this relationship between church and family. The Bible states that we (the Church) are the LIGHT of the world. So, yellow represents the church (yellow = light). Red is used to represent the home/family as this is the center of love in a child’s life. When you add yellow and red, you get something completely different. The same is true when you combine the influence of family and the influence of the church. You get something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. The potential impact in a child’s life when these two come together is far greater than the two could get on their own or even if they were both working to impact the child, but not partnering.

Forget about the curriculum. Over the past couple years I have become very familiar with the folks at reThink (Orange). I have used their curriculum and probably will again. BUT, more important than their curriculum these are people that really want to help you reach kids. There are some curriculum companies that are in it for the business. Sure they are run by Christians and their goal may even be to expand the kingdom, but at the end of the day the dollar matters more. Don’t believe me try this. Call that curriculum company, explain to them that your church LOVES their materials, but can’t afford to pay for them this year. Tell them that you really believe that you will be able to next year, but simply can’t this year. See what they do next. Now, I have not actually done this with any other curriculum company, but I did with Orange and their response was a bit overwhelming in it’s generosity. I say all that to say this.

Forget about the curriculum.

You don’t have to use their curriculum to be ORANGE. You don’t have to do go to their conference to be ORANGE. You don’t have to buy anything, know anybody or anything else. In fact if you’re a church leader and have a desire to partner with parents then you are already ORANGE. If you are a parent and have a desire to partner with the church to have a greater impact on your kids, then you are already ORANGE.

You see, ORANGE is not about what many people think it is about. It is simply about church and family working together to have a greater impact in the lives of preschoolers, children and youth than either can have on their own. So, let me ask you:

Are you ORANGE?

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Yellow and Red Make Orange

I remember when I was a kid Ziploc did a series of commercials promoting their newly developed product that they said would help you ensure that the contents of their bags stayed in the bag. Their new bags had one side of the zipper that was yellow and the other was blue. When you put these two together you get green. Their claim was that if you closed the bag and the strip turned green, then you could count on it being closed. Mixing yellow and blue to make green is a very basic color concept that we learn at a vey early age. Another similar combination is yellow and red which gives you ORANGE. I believe that this knowledge is a key in successful ministry to children, youth and their families.

Ok, if you have not been following be very long you may be thinking that I have lost my mind. What could these colors have to do with ministry? Well, this is the basis for a movement in ministry that is often described as Orange. The company behind this movement is reThink. In an effort to be open here, this company does produce curriculum for preschool, children, and youth. If you are interested you can check it out HERE.

This is not about curriculum.

I have used the curriculum that this company produces and there is much I like about it, but that is not what this post, or this movement is about. This is about having the greatest impact possible in the lives of children. I have used a number of different curriculums and regardless of what curriculum you use, the goal is to have the greatest impact possible in the lives of those you serve.

Yellow is the Church. Jesus said that we, the Church, are the light of the world. We are here to shine the light of Jesus into a dark and ever darkening world. That is why we exist and, when done right, it is what we excel at.

Red is for family. Red is the color often associated with love. The family is the center of love in our world. For children the home and family should be the place where they experience the most love.

Yellow and red make orange. When mixing paint the goal is to get something different than you started with. You mix red and yellow paint to make orange paint. When you mix the LIGHT (yellow) of the church and the LOVE (red) of the home, then you get orange. The idea is that when we work together we can have a much greater impact than either of can have on our own. A grey family and a great church will have a great impact on the lives of children, but when they work together the impact will be even greater.

What does this look like? Well I would love to say that there is a formula for making this happen in your church, but it simply doesn’t work that way. Each church, family, community, ministry is different. As such the way that this works in your church will be different. The specifics of how this works is not important. It’s about an intentional and determined move towards partnership between the church and the family. Spend some time thinking about this. Talk with other leaders in your church. Talk with key families in your church about beginning to build this partnership. Talk with other ministry leaders outside your church and see what works for them. How you do it is not as important as simply that you do it.

Do something. I have a problem where I tend to want to plan stuff to death. In fact sometimes I plan to the point where I end up DOING nothing. I just plan and plan, never starting for fear of not having every detail addressed. Here’s the deal YOU WILL NEVER HAVE EVERY DETAIL PLANNED OUT. So, spend a some time planning, but then jump into it. Focus on consistent evaluation and improvement and get to work.

How do YOU partner with families?

I’d love to hear how you are currently partnering with families to have a greater impact in the lives of children.

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OC14 – Information Overload

If you have never been to a conference like this, then you probably don’t understand this. However, if you have been to Orange or other, similar events, then you know that trying to take it all in simply is impossible. Imagine someone wrapping your mouth around a water hose and then having someone turn it on. That is kinda what this is like intellectually. That is totally where I am: INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

If you are a children’s or youth leader, then you will also understand this, I LOVE MINISTRY. I am super passionate about helping children come to know Christ and grow in their relationship with him. So, to take 3 – 4 days fully focused on doing an even better job with this is like a dream. To take 3 – 4 sitting with other people who are at least as passionate as I am about this and, in most cases, better at it is like a dream.

But, it can be a lot to take in.

For this reason you may have noticed that I have not posted much (any) this week. Trust me, in the coming weeks I will make up for it. In the mean time you can find all of my notes from the conference HERE. I hope the notes are helpful. If there is anything in the notes that you have questions about please feel free to ask me. I’d love to talk more about any of these topics. Over the course of the next few weeks I will take some time to unpack these notes, to expound on them some, and to give some of my own thoughts on the topics.

If you were unable to make it to the Orange Conference then I hope you find these notes, and the future posts helpful. I would also encourage you to seriously consider coming next year. The tickets are on sale now and at the lowest price they will be. You can check out the pricing for next years conference HERE. If you decide to come, be sure to let me know. I would love to meet in person, it’s one of my favorite things about attending conferences.

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Getting Ready for Orange (or any other conference).

Tomorrow I will be driving to Atlanta for the Orange Conference. I look forward to this all year. It is always an amazing experience. Not to mention that it is TONS of FUN. However, I have to remind myself what this is really all about. Here is what I am doing to get ready. I hope this helps you to get ready as well.

  • It’s not about me: No person is at this conference by accident. It is not coincident that even a single person is in attendance. Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Jesus goes on to say, “…you are worth more than many sparrows.” If God’s will even covers a sparrow and we are of much greater worth than they, then certainly my involvement in an event like this is not to be ignored. God has a plan for each person attending the Orange Conference this week, including you.
    • My prayer: Lord, open my mind and my heart to receive the message that YOU have for me this week. Help me to keep my focus on YOU.
  • It’s really not about me: Ok, I know I said this already, but hear me out. Even as God has a plan for me that includes my attendance at the Orange conference, he also has a plan for all the other people. I might be part of that plan for some of them. For instance, 2 years ago I met a man named Dave while wondering through the halls at the conference. It turns out that Dave lives and serves at a church not far from where I live. Dave was going through a tough time in his ministry and was hoping that the Orange Conference could be the beginning of better days. I took time to chat with Dave and give some encouragement. Over the next could years Dave and I kept running into each other a different events. Each time I would ask how things were going and each time they were better than the last. I don’t believe for even a second that this chance meeting with Dave was simply coincident.
    • My prayer: Lord, help me to see the people that you would have me to connect with. Help me to see how you would have me to be a part of your plan for their life.
  • It’s STILL not about me: In my past experiences at this type of event God has brought me into contact with people who have helped me far beyond the end of the conference. In fact many of these people I count as friends and call on them when I need help. For instance, at my first Orange Conference I had dinner with Amy Fenton Lee. We have stayed in contact since then. Last year I was dealing with the death of a child in my ministry. Amy saw some of my tweets and blog posts related to this and put me in contact with her dad who is a pastor and has been through a similar experience in his ministry. This would never have happened if I had not be open to and looking for the connections that God wanted me to make. Amy has become a friend and has helped me in many other ways as well.
    • My prayer: Lord, help me to see the people that you would have me to connect with. Help me to look past my own agendas to see what YOU have planned for the relationships that are started this week.

It’s not about you either. I have written this post from my perspective. However, this all applies to you as well. Remember God has a plan for YOUR life and it is way better than any plan you might have. I think it is perfectly natural to enter an event like this with some thoughts of what YOU want to get out of it. Maybe there is some specific problem in your life or ministry that your hoping to find a solution to while your there. There will be lots of good information and the answer to your problem is quite likely to be at this conference. However, I recommend that you set your agenda aside. Remember God has brought you to this conference and HE has a plan for you. Set aside your own thoughts and desires for what YOU want to get out of this and ask God what HE wants you to get out of this. Ask God what HE wants you to learn. Ask God to reveal himself to you through this experience. After all it was HIS plan that brought you here to begin with.

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