I am so excited to get to share a bit about our church’s story with you. We’re part of a small, but growing number of Catholic churches, who are using Orange Strategy and curriculum to prepare kids and students for lifelong faith. While we may be unique among Catholic churches in our area, we find that we have much in common with the thousands of other churches using Orange around the country. Regardless of denominational differences, we hold fast to a common belief in Jesus Christ and a commitment to leading kids to lifelong faith in Him.
Six years ago, our parish began a series of initiatives to bring new life back to our church and ignite our members for evangelization and discipleship. This has brought about many changes to our weekly worship such as the use of projection screens, contemporary worship music, new hospitality ministries, offering a café after Mass, and preaching in message series. Throughout this process, we have been open to using any resources available, Catholic or not, that can help us to further these goals. In my focus on reshaping our kids and youth faith formation programs, I discovered Orange. I immediately knew that we had found a partner in ministry.
As we began transitioning our middle and high school programs to a small group format, we started using the five principles of Lead Small with our middle and high school small group leaders. We were using a different curriculum, but very quickly saw how focusing their attention on those key strategies helped them to form better relationships with their few, connect with the parents and grow deeper in their own spiritual walk with Jesus. Our leaders hungered for more and so we dove deeper into the other resources Orange has for leaders, including started to subscribe to Weekly. Even setting aside the curriculum pieces, there are so many amazing resources that we were able to use for our volunteers, and then eventually our parents as well.
When the time came to make a curriculum change for all our K–12 programs, Orange became the obvious choice.
Our church chose Orange because of the core belief that parents and the church are meant to work together to form kids in lifelong faith. In fact, this is a core tenant of our church’s teachings itself. It’s the basis for the large system of Catholic schools across the country as well as a growing home school movement. Our practice of infant baptism, relies on the belief that parents have the primary responsibility to raise their children in the faith, and godparents—and the entire community in fact—are to support them in this commitment.
Pope Paul VI in a document called, “Declaration on Christian Education,” wrote:
“Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.
“The family which has the primary duty of imparting education needs the help of the whole community. . . .
“Finally, in a special way, the duty of educating belongs to the Church. . . .”
As you can see, Orange Strategy, is a natural fit for our church. The heart of the home and light of the Church working together is central to the vision seen in the above quote. In practice, too often parents turn over this responsibility to the “experts” at church, or the church doesn’t provide enough support to parents leaving them lost in the ever-changing culture that surrounds family life today. But in Orange, we have found a great balance and natural fit that empowers both parties—parents and the church—to be the best versions of themselves for the betterment of the spiritual growth of our kids.
As we launched Orange curriculum, we held a series of trainings for our small group leaders and parents, so that both could understand the reason for our change and take full advantage of the resources provided. It was time well spent, and over the past few years we’ve seen how that dedicated time of preparing our church has primed us for maximum impact using Orange.
And the impact has been undeniable. The depth of conversations happening in small group, the increased biblical literacy, and the equipping of parents to be the primary educators of their children all speak to why Orange has been such a natural fit for us. Our programs have seen a growth in numbers, but more importantly a growth in our parents’ confidence in guiding their kids to Jesus. The weekly Parent Cues provide ways for parents to continue delving into each week’s Big Idea on their own. The blog articles and podcasts linked in our weekly emails empower them to be the primary educators in the faith that we believe they are called to be. A deeper relationship with their kids’ small group leaders’ helps them to work together and double their impact.
It’s always a work in progress. We continue to challenge our small group leaders to focus more on building relationships with their few and less on “getting through” the activities. Due to our physical set-up, and old habits, getting small group leaders and parents to connect weekly in person is still difficult. We continue to push ourselves to create physical environments that reflect each series in a better way, and we hope in the future to have live worship leaders instead of relying on videos. And it’s a continual effort to keep the best of the curriculum while also infusing important teachings and practices from our own faith tradition into it on a regular basis.
We are excited for the future as we continue to go deeper in our goal to combine the efforts of our parents and church to lead kids to Jesus. Orange has become an invaluable part of our church culture and a fantastic partner.