Some of today’s best leadership thinking comes from a group called Orange. They are primarily known for working with children’s and student ministries, but Orange thinking is easily transposed for leaders in any kind of organization.
Orange tours the country. I highly recommend taking your church’s children’s, student and small group teams to see the Orange Tour. Check here to see cities and dates.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – ORANGE TOUR 2013-14
Our church had the honor of hosting the Seattle tour stop. Here are some key takeaways from what they presented.
Lead small: We have gone too far buying-in to “bigger is better” (more friends in real life and in social media). Our greatest influence happens when we invite a small number of people around us and focus our energies on them. What we do for a few will always have more potential than what we do for many. Regular availability to a small number of people creates trust, the building block of relationships. We provide healthy influence to our small group of people, who in turn model and pass those healthy influences to the people around them.
Time matters: It’s wise to consider the ramifications of time. Calculate how much time you have left (with your kids, in your job or with your life). This makes you more serious about the time you have left and encourages you to find ways to use time better. It helps you properly prioritize. There is additional benefit to healthy behaviors done consistently over time.
Detailed notes on these conference themes can be found below.
ORANGE TOUR NOTES
Lead Small – Main Session – Mike Clear
Over half our kids walk away from faith in college because they have a weak faith. . . one that is not tested and not ready for the real world. It’s not just that they encounter professors or other students who challenge their faith. This is our challenge. A small group leader growing an authentic faith in the student is the answer.
Lead small. We get too infatuated with “big”. We like having hundreds of Facebook friends or followers on Twitter.
What if big things are actually accomplished by doing things small? What you do for a FEW will always have more potential than what you do for MANY.
If you are a small group leader, it’s just as important that you know what you ARE NOT as it is that you know what you ARE.
When you lead small you choose to be present. Being present connects people to authentic faith.
1. Show up predictably. You can’t gain trust without it.
2. Show up mentally. Get off phone and text. Be engaged with people face to face.
3. Show up randomly. Surprise people from time to time by showing up randomly in their life. Never underestimate the value of a phone call, text or birthday card.
Create a safe place. Clarify people’s faith as they grow.
1. Lead the group. Let them know that what we talk about in here is safe . . . it’s confidential. Manage the tensions, don’t solve the problems. Show them love.
2. Respect the process. Your group is made up of different people at different levels of belief. Your job is not to change your group members. There is nothing we can do to change them. Love them (don’t change them). The bible doesn’t say change your neighbor as yourself.
3. Guard the heart. Set up boundaries and policies that help you lead the small group time. It protects the leader.
Partner with parents. This is how you nurture everyday faith.
1. Cue the parent. Say to them, “Here are a few of the things were talking about this month.”
2. Honor the parent.
3. Reinforce the family. Family time is important time, protect it (humorously extreme example: no group sleepover on Christmas Eve.) Don’t have “the talk” (about any subject the parents should appropriately have) with kids before the parents do.
Make it personal. You inspire their faith by your example.
1. Live in community. What you do for your few, you also need to do for yourself. You need to be in community, too.
2. Set priorities. Let them see that your time with your spouse is important to you. Set priorities. Be authentic. Be who you are.
3. Be real. You don’t have to be cool to influence kids and students. Kids aren’t looking for coolness; they want people to show up in their lives.
Move them out.
1. Move them to someone else – the next small group leader.
2. Move them to BE the church. Be the church of tomorrow, not today. Let them have responsibilities.
3. Move them to what’s next. Set up good transitions between elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college. Give them lots of information that will help them transition well.
Your people are not problems to be solved; they are your people to be loved. Give them a place to belong and someone who believes in them.
TIME MATTERS – MAIN SESSION – REGGIE JOINER AND JEFF HENDERSON
1. Time matters. When you see how much time you have left, you tend to get serious about the time you have now. Wisdom is connected to knowing how many days you have left. This is a biblical principle.
2. When you see how much time you have left, you tend to make what matters matter more.
3. When you see how much time you have left, you tend to value what happens over time.
What you do this week matters. At the same time, you can’t do it all in a week. There is something special about the collective momentum when you are there every week. (This is why long term leaders have a different kind of influence). You make history when you consistently repeat your presence in people’s lives.
Words have power. Words over time can change the direction of someone’s life.
Words over time create an influence direction. The words you say can ultimately impact someone’s direction and destiny.
Words over time = direction. This includes positive and negative words.
Encouragement. Each of us has a ratio of words of encouragement to words of criticism. The average person experiences one word of encouragement for every seven words of criticism. This explains why there are so many dysfunctional workplaces, poor marriages, insecure children, and poor churches.
We can change this ratio.
He who refreshes will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)
If we will breathe refreshment into others, we will be refreshed. Encourage people more than criticize them.
We live in a world where people are suffocating from self-doubt. As a church, no one is better positioned to help with this.
Every man wonders: Do I have the right stuff to be a leader? Ladies, don’t underestimate the value positive words can have on your husband.
Ladies ask: Do they notice me? Do they think I’m pretty? Men, tell your daughters and wives how beautiful they are (over and over and over and over again).
We get it right at funerals. We say all positive things about a person and nothing negative. Don’t wait until the day of the funeral to gives words of roses.
Ask your employees/volunteers “How are you doing?” at least twice as much as “What are you doing?” This will give you permission to speak positive things into them.
Are you a feared leader or a followed leader? In the business world the feared leader has been respected for years. This is a joke.
A followed leader knows how their staff is doing.
Write three thank you notes a day. Send it by snail mail. Use these lines to start a thank you note: I remember when . . . (you started you were nervous, look at you now) . . . I have noticed . . . I hope you know . . . I’m really glad . . . I’ve been thinking . . .
Write a note of encouragement to your kids/wife every week.
Many people don’t feel good enough about themselves to let you feel good about yourself. You have to go first when encouraging people. Replenish others and you will be replenished.
You can encourage someone so many times that when you are gone your voice is still in their head.
REVISITING THE IDEA OF LOVE – REGGIE JOINER – MAIN SESSION
What do you want someone to BECOME? You can begin teaching with that end in mind.
If the kids who grow up in your ministry get baptized but don’t get the concept of love, they won’t have anything more than religion. Sometimes we, as leaders, don’t think through this lens.
Love has been talked about so much that it has lost its zing. Love really is the one thing that matters most.
Your theology without love is religion.
Your teaching must connect back to a love relationship with the Father.
Kids don’t walk away from relationships. They walk away from religion (religion is teaching without love).
It’s sad that some of the harshest critics are those who claim to know Jesus.
Do you think you would have liked hanging out with the Pharisees? Today kids feel judged and guilty. Kids think things like, “The church discriminated against my friends.” Some see the church as being run by a bunch of Pharisees. But when love is in the mix it changes everything.
Are you operating out of love or as a Pharisee? Do you teach kids the bible or teach the bible to kids? If I have a relationship with you, I will take an interest in making sure you understand the meaning of the bible.
Do you fight to win an argument or do you fight to win a heart? You can win an argument and lose the heart.
Since when has God called us not to be messy? Jesus was so engaged in humanity that it caused the Pharisees to have a crisis. If you look at how God changes, it’s by love.
If we don’t talk about love enough it discredits the truth. People don’t believe because we don’t care. If Jesus maximized it (love) and you minimize it, you are probably wrong.
Jesus answered the question, “What do I want kids to become?” with the great commandment.
God proved to us that He loves us through time. He proved it over and over and over again. People kept messing up and God keeps trying to redeem us. God created time as a platform so his consistency and predictability proves that He loves us. You prove to a kid you love them over time.
Love over time equals worth. When you love a kid over time you instill in them a sense of worth and of value.
The way you love kids while they’re kids can dramatically affect their future.
You may be the best chance a kid has at knowing they are valuable to God. The best way for kids to know they are loved by God, is for them to be loved by someone who loves God.
Maybe the best way for kids to learn how to love God is for them to learn how to love the people who God loves.
This is the reason why love over time is so important. God says, “I am going to demonstrate who I am through the people I created in my image.”
Tribes. The power of organizing your ministry around relationships.
Tribes matter. They give everyone a sense of belonging.
There are TWO TRIBES that are strategically positioned to help kids know they belong: the family and the Church.
If kids or teenagers only show up one time, experience one environment, or participate in one activity every week in your church where would you tell them to go? Many churches say it’s in a small group. Make sure your church answers this question seriously. If your church is about small groups, make sure it is happening. All age groups should be experiencing relationship like this. Does your church act like relational small groups are important?
Answering these questions changes how you do programming (programming should be a step to get people into small groups).
Should I stop doing something so other things can work better? We have got to prune some branches (even non-dead branches) so the strength can go to the important areas.
Create a stop doing list.
You will never have to work as a team at getting misaligned. (You have to work on being aligned).
Small groups change how you recruit volunteers.
Small groups change the way you see teenagers. Put them in small groups together and have them lead a group.
Small groups change how you create environments. What happens in the small group after the sermon is more important than the sermon.
Small groups change how you partner with families. Other adult voices becoming increasingly important to kids as they grow up . . . the church can provide those voices through small groups.
Remember it’s harder, not easier to create a small group culture. It will always be messy (because you are inviting leaders to be in relationship with kids.)
Some will probably get mad. Anytime you change something someone is going to get mad.
Changing to a small group culture will take you longer than you think. You will never be done. It will be worth it.
WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE FUN – REGGIE JOINER – FINAL MAIN SESSION
It’s ok to have fun with kids, just for fun.
The joy level measures how strong your home and church is.
There is a spiritual issue at a church where there isn’t fun and celebration. Maybe it’s a sin not to have fun.
When you have fun over time something unique happens. Fun over time = connection.
Fun over time convinces kids you actually like them; it is one of the first steps in showing you love them.
When they know you like them they will better listen to what you have to say. Having fun connects what has been disconnected. Don’t underestimate the power for fun.
We Christians have a rap for not having fun.
Fun fosters resilience.
Kids will encounter a degree of pain (divorce, break up, etc.). A merry heart does good like a medicine. There is a healing quality when around people who love life.
Fun authenticates forgiveness. Have you ever had fun with someone you haven’t forgiven? If you say you have forgiven me and you still won’t hang out, I think you haven’t forgiven me.
Fun over time makes friendship grow deeper.
What you do every week in a kid or student’s life will matter more than you think it does. You can’t see the spiritual growth in a seven year old . . . because it’s spiritual. You can’t predict which moments are going to be big moments. You can’t measure progress because it’s gradual.
Each marble in the jar represents one week remaining with your kids until they leave home. When the jar is empty, your kids are gone.
If you start imagining the future of a child, you will start investing more in them now.
What you do every week in a kid’s life now will matter more than what you do (for them) as adults. The earlier you begin making investments, the more return you will have (like compounding interest over time).
Your greatest work, your most important investment, should be in kids and teenagers.
What you do every week in a student’s life will keep your church from dying. Creating environments for kids will force you to learn, as a church, and keep you up to date.
It matters because it will last longer than you will. You are going to die, sooner than you want to. You will be forgotten. You are only about 100-200 years away from being forgotten.
Time over time leaves a legacy. You aren’t trying to make a name for yourself. You are trying to give kids a relationship with God. Let the next generation know that God loves them and they will pass that on to future generations.
You will only be remembered by those who are with you now.
One day your kids will be packing their bags to leave home. What things do you want to be in those bags? Put them in while you can. Don’t underestimate the power of the weeks you have.
RE-IMAGINING CHURCH – REGGIE JOINER AND JEFF HENDERSON – BREAKOUT
The two ways you improve yourself are the books you read and the people you interact with.
Create an annual reading list for yourself.
Create a personal advisory board for yourself.
Read all kinds of books from all kinds of areas, including non-Christian books. All truth is God’s truth.
Don’t let the church outgrow you.
Only compare yourself to your own potential.
What we do is important. We must improve ourselves to lead. Learn and grow (the other guys are).
Humor shrinks the gap and draws us closer. Thoughtful audio interview on this: Jerry Seinfeld on Comedy.
The average person thinks a sermon should be 24 minutes. They would rather do yard work than listen to a sermon. (It’s worth the work to do an engaging, short sermon.)
Tip: Practice your sermon or presentation out loud. Video record it on your iPhone and watch yourself give the talk BEFORE you present it in public. This isn’t fun, but it will improve your presentation dramatically. I have preached some really bad sermons in front of nobody (only my iPhone).
Our crowds can tell when we are prepared and when we are not.
If we were to go out of business, would the community even know?
Many people know what the church is against but not what it’s for.
We worry that if we embrace it, the messiness of culture will hurt us. It’s better to have a conversation than to make a statement.
The children will decide what they think of your church based on how you treat their parents.
We will sabotage the discipleship of a generation if we don’t give young people a chance to serve.
You aren’t discipled by sermons, you are discipled by doing ministry. The younger generation wants to serve. Re-imagine your church using teens to serve.
If a teen has 3-5 adult Christian’s active in their life, they will be 10 times more likely to keep their faith.
SMALL GROUP BLUNDERS – KRISTEN IVY – BREAKOUT GROUP
The most important things when leading a small group are to be present regularly and to create a safe place. Ten mistakes leaders make:
Mistake #1. Lead every kid the way you’d want to be led. THEY AREN’T ALL LIKE YOU. They don’t like the same things you do. Give them permission to not be like us. Preschoolers think you are amazing and will imitate you. Middle/High don’t idolize you like that, but you can have a lot of influence. Give them permission to connect to God in their own way. God has wired us as unique and we relate to God differently. The Naturalist sees God through nature. Some people like rituals and symbols and traditions. Some feel that activities draw them near to God and they love to serve. The Enthusiast . . . they love worship. The Intellectuals like to ask the deep questions. The way that you connect with God is okay . . . same with others. This doesn’t minimize what you do as a leader. Be comfortable with who you are and give them permission to be different.
Mistake #2. Create a group you would want to attend – right now. YOU AREN’T THEIR AGE. Be aware of where they are developmentally. Preschoolers . . . if it is not happening in this present moment it is not real. They can’t relate to something last week or something a week from now. Elementary school students ask questions and want the right answer. They are in “concrete” mode. 5th grade and higher students are into more abstract thinking. They ask questions just to throw it out there (testing the waters). When you take care of preschoolers physical needs you are teaching them that they can trust The Lord. It’s spiritual. Children want adult approval, then peer approval. Affirm them. Peer to peer comparisons are important to them. They are concerned about how they look in comparison to someone else. Be sensitive to where they are emotionally. Where they are at emotionally this week is not where they are next week. Every week become a student of where they are emotionally. Be open to where they are spiritually. They are on a journey. It’s okay that they don’t lead or accept Jesus or become a missionary. It’s okay if they don’t get there. You are together for a season. God will use this and the future leaders to form students. Celebrate the growth steps they take. They are on a long journey. Whatever you are doing in their life now is okay
Mistake #3. Lead the group as if they are all alike. THEY AREN’T ALL LIKE EACH OTHER. Find what they have in common. Don’t be too fast to throw out what they have in common. Desperate people can have a lot of people in common. Be interested in what makes them different (we are all parts of one body).
Mistake #4. Always give an answer. YOUR EXPERTISE IS IRRELEVANT. You shouldn’t always be the expert that you are. Encourage them. Have them answer their own questions. Recognize that some questions don’t have answers. It’s completely fair to ask why your dad died. You can say that you don’t have the answer . . . but I can tell you that God is good. God is going to see you through this. You can still trust him despite this. We are still going to be the body of Christ and support you through it. When you respect the process you ask more questions than you answer. Invite them into a relationship with a God that is bigger than your own understanding.
Mistake #5. Have a personal agenda. THEIR WORTH OUTWEIGHS YOUR AGENDA. Love them through their mistakes. The church is critical because it gives kids adults that will forgive them. Love them through their mistakes. Point them to the truths they need. Speak the truth in love. Trust that God will move in their life regardless of the sin or of their circumstance.
Mistake #6. Let them lead. KIDS ARE STILL KIDS. If you let them lead completely you will end up with chaos. Guide the conversation. Sit next to the talker and sit across from the one who never speaks. You can then put your hand on the talker’s knee and stop them while drawing out the person across the circle. Provide structure and purpose.
Mistake #7. Never chase a rabbit. YOU CAN GO OFF SCRIPT.
Mistake #8. Be really popular. THEY AREN’T YOUR SOURCE OF SECURITY
Mistake #9. Never interrupt them. YOUR GROUP IS PUBLIC. What is said in group will get repeated out of group . . . even if you say it is a safe place.
Mistake #10. Fix the mistakes the speaker made. THEIR ATTENTION IS LIMITED. Give them a chance to process what the speaker said. Don’t waste time fixing.
REFINING ENVIRONMENTS – MIKE CLEAR – BREAKOUT
Notes by Cheryl Kneeland, @CherylKneeland on Twitter
“We can create weekly environments where kids can trust in God’s character and live out God’s story.”
Prelude – Setting the tone for the experience.
> “It’s about controlling the things that we can control.”
> How does it look? Is it clean/not clean? Sound? Feel?
> Think about it through fresh eyes.
> “Your environment will start to tell your story before you even start to tell your story.”
> Social- Providing time for fun & interaction.
> Great opportunity for small group leaders to connect with their few.
> Who is welcoming the kids?
> Engage the kids, connect them to their small group leader right away.
> Create the tension, the interaction.
Transitions-Moving smoothly from one thing to another.
> “Variety can be distracting if we haven’t spent the time to make sure we transition and take them on a journey.”
> Engaging Media- Music, Video, Countdown
> Strategic Leaders
> Host – Helps with transitions. Get the group hyped up, excited, be strategic to go into storyteller’s time to tell the story, and announcements.
> Needs to be someone who is lively, engaging, and not afraid of the microphone, the right personality.
> Carefully crafted words – Be strategic.
Stories over time give us Perspective.
> Story – Communicate God’s truth in engaging ways.
> Stories help us SEE
> Stories make us CARE
> Stories give us HOPE
> We have the greatest story ever told; our story is true.
> We need to communicate the story to the kids in an engaging way.
> Capture their imagination.
> Learn how to become master storytellers.
> “The worst thing you could do as a leader is to make the Bible boring and irrelevant.”
> What did it help a kid see?
> How did it help a kid care?
> How did it give a kid hope?
> How will you retell the story so a kid will remember it?
Worship – Helps the kids see what’s true about God.
> Worship lets kids see other adults respond to God.
> They need to see YOU worshipping.
> One of the most powerful things you can do as a small group leader is to be right there with them, worshipping.
> Group – Creating a safe place to connect.
> You can’t have a video small group leader.
FAMILY MINISTRY – MIKE CLEAR – BREAKOUT
Notes by Cheryl Kneeland, @CherylKneeland on Twitter
• The whole idea of Family Ministry is getting the people in charge of each area in the same room, on the same page. Strategy.
• If everyone has their own strategy, it can become confusing.
• Ask yourself . . . What is our strategy? What do we want to focus on?
• Get together to talk about the message, the curriculum.
• Make sure you have a comprehensive plan to go from cradle to college.
• Refine the message, what do we want to elevate?
• Jesus told us the greatest commandment.
• Elevate your message/strategy.
• Be careful that you don’t spend so much time on talking about and writing curriculum that you forget about the environment and the people.
• Partnering with parents will look different in each ministry area – preschool, student ministries, etc.
• Tell each other wins/stories; what’s going on in each area. How can we help each other (in terms of Family Ministry)?
• The first step is meeting regularly with your team. Weekly is best if you can, or bi-weekly.
• Integration with big church (How do you lead up?)
CUEING PARENTS – MIKE CLEAR – BREAKOUT
Notes by Trevor Lee, @TrevorMcLee on Twitter
Most parents don’t want more information, they want better information.
Sometimes we push too much on our parents . . . focus on equipping parents with resources that align with your strategy. Most parents don’t want more activity; they want their activity to matter more. Smart parents don’t want more to do, they want to do a few things better.
3 Key Influences for Parents
– Someone who can inspire (family pastor, lead pastor, etc.)
– Someone who knows their kid (small group leader)
– Someone who is in their life (support parents)
How can you cue parents?
– Use social media (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc)
– Implement a strategic curriculum (leverage your strategy)
– Create family experiences
– Host an open house
– Do a family sermon series
– Schedule a family vision Sunday
Develop a SEASONAL plan.
– Fall season (back to school . . . cast vision, host an open house, etc.)
– Winter season (family experience, parenting group studies, etc.)
– Summer season (more family experiences, VBS, etc.)
Develop a WEEKLY plan.
– Sunday (give out physical resources)
– Monday-Saturday (use digital resources, encouragements & reminders)
What do you cue parents?
– Cue them to know what’s most important
– Cue them to known what is happening
– Cue them to know what they can do this week
A PERSONAL WORD ABOUT ORANGE
Very few times in life do you come across an organization that you feel just “right” about. You know the kind . . . they’re well run, they have impact and you look forward to your association with them. But what really makes an organization special is what’s behind. There’s a special odor that permeates the organization’s people and the projects. For me, Orange is one of those rare and very special organizations.
Reggie Joiner and his team are leaders of leaders. They lead with infectious passion, intelligence and authenticity. It would have been easy for the Orange folks to simply keep to themselves. . . running a very successful mega-church ministry to children. Instead they created a mechanism to share what they’ve learned with the Kingdom.
The Orange team travels much of the year. They endure travel hassles and time away from their families. They do it only because they are sold out to God and to doing their part to strengthen churches. And in the end they will. Their legacy will be handed down by the children they influence. We will all be the richer for it.
Has Orange had an influence in your life? Leave your story below.
A special thank you to Cheryl Kneeland and Trevor Lee for sharing their breakout session notes with me.