Full Color Kids (by Jamie Rye)
Many movements within the Church have come and gone. Some of these could be classified as fads, while others have drastically shaped the landscape of the Church. Specifically among Evangelical churches these movements flourish as church communities are always seeking out the “new” and “coolest” ways to do Church. Be it right or wrong this is what I have observed over the last nine years working in kids and youth ministries. Now, of these movements not all of them are “new” although one might assume they are due to unique branding and the good old financial push of the dollar. Branding has taken the old, slapped a new name on it and made it new again. I personally am not into the consumerist, over marketing of a Church product, But the reality is that it has happened and will continue to happen. The truth is that it has created some good in Christian communities that might not have made a change otherwise. But this is surely a discussion for a different article.
Several years back there was a movement that began in Evangelical churches. This movement is represented by a color and some of you may have heard of it, it is called Orange. Here is an understanding of Orange in its simplest form. Are you ready for this piece of marketing magic? The color yellow represents the Church because it is light and the color red represents the family. Red is color of family because the family represents love or should represent love. So if we take the family red and mix it with the church, yellow, we get “Orange”. Now I know many of you are already thinking, the idea of the family and faith community partnering together is thousands of years old. Yes, you are right it is. Take a look at Deuteronomy 6:1-7, focusing on verse 7. This is a concept that is essential to our faith and faith heritage. Nonetheless, the marketing of Orange has done wonderful and profound things for the Church, which has become in a lot of ways very individualistic. My goal thus is not to poke at the Orange movement, but to pose a question towards Orange. To pose a question that gets to the heart of the modern day Church and the reality of our culture. What happens to the color orange when red is replaced with rainbow, brown, green, black or maybe even plaid? Do you get where I am going with this question?
The family landscape has changed. It’s a fact. The Church is trying to repaint the landscape with three colors, red, yellow and orange. I’m not much of an artist but odds are pretty high that if you try to paint a beautiful landscape with only three colors it’s not going to be as beautiful as if you painted it with the whole color spectrum. More than likely it would come out looking like an Obey print. Which is almost contradictory because I love any artwork from Obey, but I think you get the picture. The unfortunate truth is that we are still stuck in the mentality that your average Christian family is nuclear or red, one color, not many. Our ministry strategies, the way we operate our Church structure, and even how we chose to spiritually develop families is largely designed for nuclear families. This is not reality. This is not what the Church of 2011 looks like. Whether you believe that the family structure should be the traditional nuclear family or not, should not affect the fact that the Church must love and grow families of all forms. The Church is not here to ever break down the family, but instead to build it up from its current landscape. One of the key pieces of the Gospel is loving people unconditionally, no matter where they are at.
Here is an illustration of what the Church landscape is beginning to look like and how the Church shouldn’t respond. I know someone who recently facilitated a baby dedication in their Church. This pastor had the full landscape of families come forward to dedicate their children with the intention of raising them in a Godly home and teaching them the ways of Jesus. Of the families represented in this dedication there was a gay couple, a traditional nuclear family, single mother, a couple who was living together and not married, the color spectrum in full bloom. Unfortunately, post dedication there was an uproar and many ended up leaving the Church. Why you might ask? Because there was not many “red” families, but instead families looked a little different, a little non-traditional. So if the Church is responding with self-righteousness, then tell me, where is the true love of Jesus? How is the Church actually meeting people where they are at? You might begin to think our Church would never respond like that. Perhaps it wouldn’t, but chances are they might. Some in this argument would say that breaking down non-traditional family structures is building up for the future. That’s like saying down is up. We are called to protect not to destroy. At the heart of the Gospel is Jesus showing us that we should love people unconditionally, no matter where they are at or if we agree with what they are doing.
So how should the Church respond to this new family landscape? Here are my thoughts. For one “love your neighbor.” You can’t truly love someone you don’t know so we should get to know each other. Just because someone else’s family is different than yours doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be in intentional community with them. This is a better picture of Gods design for community anyways. Thought two, honor intentions. A families landscape doesn’t change their desire to raise their children in the Church and in the way of Jesus. Their desire should far outweigh what you think their family should look like. Number three, actually offer the biblical picture of grace and love. Grace and love are unconditional, period. Finally, remember that kids in your community are coming from all different backgrounds with different families and often require unique programming and different forms of attention. Learn about the families in your community and learn about the future generation of the Church, our own kids. Don’t embrace a prepackaged, nicely wrapped curriculum because it’s easier or “works” somewhere else. Design a structure or teaching space for your faith community to engage with families where they are at, not where you hope for them to be. Don’t be afraid to embrace non-traditional. Paint with the whole color spectrum. Go on try it.
Jamie Rye is a husband, father and Missions/Children’s Pastor in Michigan. Additionally, he is the Kids Director for the Wild Goose Festival and formally, he was on staff at Mars Hill Church in Michigan. In his free time he is involved with “The Daughter Project”, an anti-trafficking movement, and a member of “New Tribe Fellowship”, a ministry to the Muslim community. Jamie is an avid disc golfer who enjoys camping with his wife Kelly, son Jonah and two dogs, Jack and Marley. Follow him on his blog.