From the very first moment after being hired to work at the church I am currently serving, we have forced ourselves to do things differently. The process has been constantly changing and evolving, but the goal has always remained the same. From day one, our church has attempted to reactivate and engage the family – the entire family. We have done a number of things that have worked, and we have done many things that have flopped miserably.
One of our greatest “Orange” moments so far was this past Easter. In brainstorming for our Easter service, we came to the conclusion that we really wanted to do a service that spanned multiple generations. My pastor thought it was impossible, or at least a lot more work than either of us had time to dedicate to it. Nonetheless, he was willing to give it a shot.
We designed a service around a costumed character that the people in our church are familiar with. The idea of the service was that this character had built a time machine, and he was going to go back in time to meet Jesus. Each time he left in the time machine he returned with someone who was not Jesus, but is a central figure to the Easter narrative. These included Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and the two men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. (Think Biblical Bill and Ted if you will).
We not only had visitors that morning, we saw consecutive growth for many weeks thereafter. In fact, our largest attendance of the year came four weeks AFTER Easter. A good part of our most recent growth has come not from young parents with small children, but actually from the parents of those parents. It has been exciting to see the kids bringing their grandparents to church along with their parents. It has also been good for those families to be actively engaged in each other’s faith.
In the case of our Easter service, there were a few factors that helped to make it successful that can be applied to nearly all initiatives starting with the church.
First, it was intentional. The goal of the service was clearly laid out before any of the details were ironed out. We started with our vision and worked from there to figure out a way to accomplish that vision. If something didn’t fit within the vision for the service, it didn’t make the cut.
The service spanned all ages. Reggie Joiner and the Orange group talk about the movie The Lion King as a source of inspiration for family services. Within our Easter service, we included jokes and statements that were specifically geared to very different and very specific age groups. Everyone enjoyed something different. Everyone learned something different. In the end though, the important thing was that everyone enjoyed and learned something. Every age group was a target. We didn’t aim just for kids and hope that their parents might enjoy it just because their kids did. We actually tried to work in things for everyone from the unsaved visitor to the person who has been in church for sixty years, from the seven year old to the seventeen year old to the seventy year old.
With all of that though, the Gospel was not compromised. Just because there were kids in the service doesn’t mean we didn’t preach Christ and Him crucified. We did! It may have been packaged slightly different than it would have been if the kids had been in one room and the adults in the other, but the Gospel is still the Gospel, Jesus died for my sins no matter how old I am.
It was not the end. Ultimately, what happened during the service was not as important as what happened during the car ride home. The service was not as important as the discussions that came later. I have no way of knowing how those discussions went, but I know that every age group had been at the same service, and they all had the same starting point in the discussion. They knew what the others had seen and heard and that gave them common ground. Instead of parents asking, “So what did you learn today?” they could ask, “What did you think about Thomas doubting Jesus was alive?” or “How do you think Mary felt when she realized she was talking to Jesus?”
I can honestly say that we are not the most Orange church out there. I can also honestly say that our church is more Orange today than it has ever been in its history. This was one step we have taken to get there, but we have a long way yet to climb. We are climbing though. Like the Biblical procedure for parents teaching their kids set out in Deuteronomy 6, the process of family ministry is an ongoing process. We have started the ball rolling and will continue to look for opportunities like the one last Easter to help families on their spiritual journeys.
Just a reminder, we are giving away three free copies of a new family tool called Cue Box. Here is how we are doing it. The purpose of Kidmin1124.com is to spark conversation and discussion. So, we’re going to offer two different ways to enter to win one of the Cue Boxes. First, leave a comment on any of the Orange Week posts through October 5. Tell us about your experience with Orange, comment on something raised in an article, or just come right out and tell us that you’re commenting because you want to win a cue box. For every comment or reply, we will enter you in the drawing. Also, we’re trying to get the word out if you tweet or retweet any of the articles on Twitter from this series, we will enter your name in the drawing once for each tweet. Just make sure to include @Kidmin1124 in the tweet somewhere so we can find it. The more you comment, and the more you tweet, the greater your chances of winning. We will close the contest on Sunday, October 10, 2010 and draw our winners on October 11.