Have you ever thought about those orange traffic cones? You know, the things used in your parking lot to help direct traffic and show people where to go. It’s really amazing how a few pounds of orange thermoplastic and rubber can control the direction of a two-ton car. Hundreds of automobiles are guided every day by the strategic placement of those orange cones.
It’s kind of like your leadership. If you’re a church leader, you have been put in a position to lead families in a specific direction, and it’s probably a good idea to spend some time figuring out where you want to lead them. Whether you like it or not, a few misplaced parking cones can confuse a lot of people and lead to some nasty wrecks. You need to make sure that everyone who leads with you is leading in the same direction.
Nothing can cause havoc like multiple parking cones scattered across the pavement by independent leaders pointing people in different directions. Frequent communication between all those in charge is essential to avoid potential collisions. If we are going to be effective at creating synergy, we have to sometimes think like the guys who wear orange and know how to handle those orange traffic cones. They have embraced a couple of basic principles:
– Traffic cones exist primarily to show people where they should go.
– Traffic cones were designed to work together to have greater influence.
It’s the idea of integrated strategy.
As a church leader, you have a high level of responsibility for how you handle information. We often spend a lot of time debating whether what we say is right or wrong, but in the process we neglect to think about how we are going to say what really matters. If you are a writer, communicator, teacher, or leader, you have an audience to potentially influence. If you can craft something that isn’t true and make it believable, you can craft something that is true and make it applicable.
Up until the sixteenth century, carrots were grown in a variety of hues: red, black, yellow, purple, and even white. There were no orange carrots until the seventeenth century when some Dutch growers began feeling patriotic. In honor of their king, William of Orange, they married some yellow and red carrots to produce our modern-day orange carrots.
There must have been some orange-carrot skeptics in the beginning. They were probably overheard saying things like, “These can’t be true carrots,” or “Carrots aren’t supposed to look like that,” or “Those are not the kind of carrots my parents ate.” Nevertheless, the color of carrots changed forever. But here’s an important point: Changing the color of carrots did not alter the fundamental nature of the carrot. In other words, orange carrots were just as nutritious as black carrots. The only real difference between the two was that more people were willing to eat orange carrots than black ones.
If you knew more kids and students would engage in what you teach if you packaged it differently, would you? Would you color it orange if more kids would listen? Before you start using phrases like “watering down the truth” or “not deep enough,” just remember you can change the color of something without compromising its nature. It doesn’t mean you weaken your message just because you focus on what your audience needs.
If you want more people to eat carrots, then change the color. If you want more students to listen to what is true, change how you present it.
It’s all about refining the message.
Most families love Halloween. Right or wrong, there is something about October 31 that stirs the imagination of children and engages the hearts of parents.
Watch your neighborhood closely this fall.
Listen to the laughter.
Take a look at the generosity.
Taste the sugar.
Feel the energy.
See the glow in the children’s eyes.
Notice the parents walking with their kids.
And observe how families connect with other families.
It seems kind of … magical.
Why can’t church be more like that? Why can’t the church create the kind of atmosphere for the family that captures their imagination and incites a relational revival in the home? It can, if you think Orange. Halloween Orange! What if you started thinking differently about the family? Better yet, what if you started acting differently toward parents? Has it ever occurred to you that how you relate to parents may influence how you reactivate the family?
By “reactivate the family,” we simply mean the way you help parents actively participate in the spiritual formation of their own children.
My oldest daughter, Hannah, loved basketball, and I learned a lot from watching her play the game. I discovered that the right coach can make all the difference. The next time you watch a basketball game, focus on the head coach moving along the sidelines with the players, giving constant instructions.
Maybe the most mysterious part of the game is how the players seem to have supersonic, laser-focused hearing. They can actually filter out the echoes of the gym floor, the roar of the crowd, and the shouts of their own parents to tune in to the solitary voice of the coach.
I remember watching Hannah shoot eight three-pointers during one particular high school basketball game. At the end of the game, I ran up to her excitedly because I just knew all she wanted was my affirmation and approval. She asked me, “Dad, did my coach say anything to you about how I played?”
I said, “What does it matter what your coach said? Your father is here!”
“But, Dad, did Coach Brown say anything?”
Suddenly, it dawned on me that my daughter had crossed a line. She was more concerned about what the coach thought than she was about what I thought.
The reality is that a time comes in all children’s lives when they seem to care more about what another adult says than they care what their own parents say. That’s why it’s important to start early in a child’s life establishing the right coaches.
When we talk about elevating community, we are talking about strategically placing coaches in the lives of our children and teenagers.
Let’s say you’re going to teach a class on mountain climbing. You tell the students all the details of what it’s like to climb a mountain, what rock configurations to look for, and what footholds to use. You even tell them what the experience is like when you get to the top of the mountain—the feeling of having climbed for hours and being awed by the breathtaking view before you. You create an exciting picture of what it’s like, but the students in your class never get to experience climbing a mountain for themselves. How motivated do you think they are to climb after just listening to you talk?
But let’s just suppose instead that you take them to a place where they can experience just a little bit of mountain climbing and you take them up the mountain as you teach. They get to apply all the information they are hearing. Do you think the impact will be different?
Here are a few realities. If you never actually climb, you will miss the wonder that comes with seeing the view, you will miss the discovery of personal capacity, you will miss the passion of engaging with the mountain.
The same principles hold true for the kids and teenagers who grow up in our homes and churches. If we really want students to head to college as competent climbers, we need to start handing them some rope. We don’t need to teach them about climbing; we need to take them up the mountain and help them experience it firsthand. Students need consistent opportunities to develop their faith, to see God show up as they do ministry and find out what He wants to do through them to influence others.