Thousands Think Orange, Fight 'Surrogate Faith'

Thousands of churches and families are beginning to think orange.

In other words, they're strategically and intentionally combining their efforts and synchronizing their influences to make the most impact on kids and teenagers.

At a time when an estimated two-thirds or more of the younger generation is walking from the Christian faith after high school, churches (yellow for light) and families (red for heart) are realizing the need to become true partners.

Some 4,000 people attended The Orange Conference, April 28-30, in Duluth, Ga., to learn the Orange essentials and be equipped with the tools necessary to better influence the next generation.

Todd Clark, founding pastor of Discovery Church in Simi Valley, Calif., contends the Orange philosophy combats what he calls "surrogate faith."

Just as a surrogate mother carries a child that is not her own but for someone else, there are many Christians who are carrying a faith that is not their own, Clark explained at The Orange Conference on Friday.

"Everything they know about God comes from their favorite author, or their pastor and they never spend any time directly with God so it all comes to them in a surrogate way," he said.

So when such a believer falls, their faith crashes, he noted.

Surrogate faith not only applies to youths but it also applies to parents.

A lot of times, parents want to drop off their kids at church and essentially not participate in their spiritual lives.

"They (parents) want us to do baptism to them (children) and not with them; they want us to basically program out the child's life to where the church is responsible for their faith rather than the parent and that way the parent never has to go to God. They can get everything through their favorite book," Clark lamented.

But in a church that thinks Orange, families are challenged to be more proactive both in their children's lives and in their own faith.

"I think that Orange irritates parents a lot of times," said Clark, "because of the word 'partnership.'"

At Discovery Church, parents are asked to be involved in the faith of their child by growing their own faith. The Simi Valley church equips parents with tools to help lead their kids to know the Lord.

"I love just setting those parents up to be the heroes because the parents are the ones who are going to be there forever," said Clark, who noted that many parents don't feel they have the knowledge or Bible education to lead their children spiritually.

"We're giving them the tools behind the scenes and your daughter [or son] can look at you as a spiritual leader."

"Orange" was introduced by Reggie Joiner, who formerly led the family ministries at North Point Community Church. He argues that when the influences of the church and the home are combined, a greater impact can be made than either of the influence would make individually.

Thinking Orange, however, does not merely mean to work concurrently and effectively in order to accomplish more. Already, churches are full of programs that inspire families and many homes are also serving as positive spiritual environments.

But they have to be in sync, Joiner contends.

"Working on the same thing at the same time is not as effective as working on the same thing at the same time with the same strategy," he says in Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide.

"The church and family are at a pivotal time, and there is incredible opportunity for us to redefine how we do ministry," Joiner stresses. "The bottom line is that we as church leaders are called to influence parents to become active partners in the process of their children's spiritual formation. Something needs to shift in our churches so we begin to see what happens in the home is just as important as what happens in the church."