Have you ever started in a new ministry role only to think ‘how am I ever going to change this?’ It could be something as minor as the blend of coffee used in the kitchen (amen!) or something as imperative as a culture or vision shift.
That’s the situation I found myself in when I entered my role in my new Church as the incoming Youth Pastor. I came from quite an intergenerational, strategic Church on the other side of the country to a smaller Church that was quite evidently siloed and segregated; it was just the culture of the Church. Don’t get me wrong, there are many absolutely wonderful attributes about my Church that I would never change for the world, things that I believe bigger Churches could learn from and embrace.
But in this instance, it was clear that there needed to be a greater intergenerational focus as well as a stronger strategy around partnering with parents, particularly in my role of youth ministry.
So this is where I found myself one year ago. Staring down the barrel of a clear need for change, but a little fearful of what a push for change might produce.
One thing was certain; I absolutely needed to introduce Orange. Not only for the curriculum, but for the strategy of not only challenging, but supporting and empowering the parents to understand to importance of their roles as primary disciplers of their youth.
Fast forward 12 months, and we have gone from a highly-segregated multigenerational Church to having every generational ministry now embracing the Orange philosophy and curriculum. I certainly don’t have it all figured out (this is where the wisdom of the Orange Specialist comes in!), but I have found what I believe to be some pretty universal strategies of how to bring in a polarized approach to ministry. So here is what I did!
I strongly recommend reading as much Orange literature as you can, so that you are well-informed of what you are trying to introduce. Read books, articles and blogs. Make it part of your weekly rhythm to invest in your personal development. Each week, I have two hours blocked out in my calendar where I do this; I treat it as non-negotiable. We can so often get bogged down by ministry ‘tasks’, but I firmly believe that personal and professional development is vital.
There’s nothing worse than having a blank face when someone asks you ‘why?’.
Introduce the basic Orange idea
I had a parent vision night where I opened a dialogue with the parents about youth ministry. I then introduced the basic principle Orange, focusing on the weighting of ‘yellow’ (the light of the Church) and ‘red’ (the heart of the family).
The way I did this was simple. I had a yellow-red gradient on the screen, with orange in the middle. I asked parents to discuss where they believed the youth ministry was currently sitting.
It had become very apparent that even though ministry was quite yellow, they mostly had a desire to bring more ‘red’ into the spiritual lives of their kids. This was an incredible insight into the how parents both saw the current and future of the youth ministry. This gave us great impetus to launch into an Orange mind-set.
Focus on alignment
I’m the adult guy who has braces on his teeth. I call it being relational with youth, but the reality is that my teeth looked very healthy on the outside, however underneath the gum-line was anything but. Nearly two years ago, I was told that if I didn’t get my teeth aligned, my teeth would rot from underneath. A slightly uncomfortable (and gross!) illustration, but the reality is that alignment is crucial. If we don’t put importance in alignment, then our teams (and vision) may very well rot from underneath. I took my volunteer leaders on a weekend retreat to introduce Orange and go through the nuts and bolts of the strategy. This was an awesome opportunity to hear their thoughts and input as well as casting some big-time vision. To say the leaders are excited in an understatement.
I then brought the parents on board, using the same Orange glossary I did with the leaders. With leaders and parents on the same page, this sets us up for huge wins. Alignment is key, and if done right, is half your battle won.
Focus on clarity
The next question will be ‘what’s required of me?’. I know many leaders who have big dreams and aspirations for their Churches. Having vision is great, but it has to be underpinned by a clear and attainable strategy.
It’s easy to say ‘this is what we want to do’, but without focusing on the ‘how’, you’ll be going nowhere fast.
One way I found worked were to find your ‘pioneers’, or ‘early-adopters’. Sow inspiration into these few that are excited about the change and get them to influence and excite the others. A message coming from more people than just you starts to carry some weight. Who can be your pioneers?
Be clear on what you want the leaders, parents and any other stakeholders to do to make the change process a little less painful.
I won’t go all ‘Young Grasshopper’ on you here, but we know that we are still on this journey, and some days it feels like we aren’t moving fast enough. I know that I need to remember that patience is key with any culture-shift. I regularly look back at how things were at the start, which makes me realize just how far we have come. Is there some collateral damage left behind? You bet. Are the footprints in a straight line? No. But that’s part of learning about what works and what doesn’t. Be adaptable. Be listening. Be patient.
Don’t focus on the loud voices
We can often mistake the loudest critical voices in the crowd as the majority. The reality is, this is usually the minority who are opposed to change, and don’t want any of their ‘sacred cows’ disturbed. Don’t write them off as ‘divisive’, but do everything you can to relationally connect with them.
I was literally cornered by a group of my critics. It’s not fun. But make sure you understand your strategy, and vision before attempting any change.
Look back to point 4 when I spoke about working with your ‘pioneers’. Focus on their voices, because they are the ones with the influence that you want to have. The key is to give a voice to the quiet majority, and the pioneers are so key in this.
There you have it. That’s been our journey up to this point. As I said earlier, we don’t have it figured out and we are still learning. But journey WITH your key stakeholders as much as possible, and it will make change so much easier.
How have you found the transition to change?