I remember standing in a mall bookstore looking for some new reading material to challenge me to the next level as a leader. I was drawn to the bright, strangely shaped book called, “Think Orange.”
At the time, I was not a youth pastor but was serving as a young adult pastor in a very large church. My heart has always been for youth but I took the job to serve young adults largely because—after being a youth pastor for about 10 years—I was frustrated at two things. First, I was frustrated that it seemed like students graduating out of high school were just falling off the map. It was around this time that the much-quoted Barna report came out that said 70 percent of students were leaving the church and not coming back. I was scared, sad and mad all at the same time about this issue.
The other issue that I was concerned about was that, no matter how good or bad we were doing in the life of the student as a church, what really mattered was how healthy and engaged the parent was that made a huge difference in the life of the student. I ended up putting the book back on the shelf that day partly because I didn’t have enough money, and partly because I was looking for some resources that would immediately help me understand and lead a group of scary Generation Y-ers. However something about the book stuck with me. I was so glad that someone was thinking about church in similar ways to my own thinking. Success in the church needed to morph into a new way of thinking about ministry that included not just doing great ministry to the students but somehow needed to include ways to support, encourage and equip the parents to join the process of impacting their kids for Jesus.
Let’s fast forward a few years. I returned to my passion of serving youth, and although I carried some of these frustrations mentioned above, I still didn’t know what to do about it, so I just kept loving and serving, and working hard. The senior pastor at this church is a huge fan of Andy Stanley, and he told me I should read a book called the “7 Practices of Effective Ministry” that Andy wrote. Being a guy that loves to talk about strategy, specifically youth ministry strategy, this book took root in my heart and mind. I started to listen more to the stuff that the authors had to say. I started to look for more books from these two authors. This lead me to, “The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders” by Andy Stanley and “Think Orange” by Reggie Joiner.
The thing that was so encouraging to me was that I wasn’t alone in my observations about these problems in ministry. I was so excited to have some other pastors recognize the problem but also to offer solutions to the problems. I immediately bought copies for my staff and we read them together. This was a special unifying process for my staff and gave us tons of ammo to rebuild our entire ministry in our church. First, I personally started to apply the 7 practices of effective ministry in how I lead the team. Then we started to teach each of the seven checkpoints in the messages we gave to the students. I’m sad to say that the thing that ultimately made the most difference was the last thing we started to apply.
“Think Orange” had the best answers and solutions to our problems but also meant that we had a lot that we needed to undo or restart in our church. The other changes didn’t really affect anyone outside our team but in order to become an Orange-thinking church, we had a lot of work to do that affected a ton of other people. Slowly, we started to apply the principles and affect change.
Let’s fast forward again another five years. Today, we are a church that not only has the youth ministry team thinking Orange, but also the children’s ministry and adult ministry teams. We have taken many steps to align our ministries, and together we made an OJT—the Orange Juice team—in which the children’s, youth and adult ministries departments get together weekly and work through “The Orange leaders Handbook,” so that we can continue to get better and better at partnering the church with the family to make the biggest impact on the students.
If you are reading this and you want to see if there is a better way to make an impact on your church and community, I highly recommend you start with “Think Orange.” I also recommend that you hang on, because it’s about to become an amazing ride!
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