This review was originally posted on ElementalCm.

At this point in the book, Joiner has combined both influences (church and family) and given the Biblical background from Deuteronomy 6 and shared the biography of Moses.  Now it is time for the overall thrust of the book to be put into action.

Joiner defines the Orange Leader as “any leader who connects other leaders and parents in order to synchronize their efforts to build faith in the next generation” (79).  This synchronization requires leadership effort to eradicate obsolete thinking about family as sacred or building bigger and better churches.  The reality is that we should combine both influences to maximize their influence.

The caveat with this leadership effort, which Joiner addresses brilliantly, is that before leaders, families, and churches get into practicing what it means to “Think Orange,” they must first establish a common ground, or a shared pool of meaning before establishing programming.

Joiner offers several honed principles to form the common ground:
•    Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God.
•    No one has more potential to influence a children’s relationship with God than a parent.
•    No one has more potential to influence the parent than the church.
•    The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent.
•    The parent’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when that parent partners with the church.

The other key component to establishing the common ground is actually defining what family ministry is.  Joiner writes, “Family ministry [is] an effort to synchronize church leaders and parents around a master plan to build faith and character in their sons and daughters” (83). In other words, family ministry = Orange leadership.  Clever.

The last half of the chapter provides support, both research and story-oriented, to Joiner’s common ground principles.  In summary:
1)    Kids need their parents to get involved in their spiritual formation.
2)    Most parents are not even talking to their kids about spiritual issues.
3)    Most churches are not helping parents fulfill their role.
When we start working together, change will happen.  Kids will get the feedback they need to grow in Christ.  Parents will have a specific plan to put into immediate action.  Churches will reorganize resources and time to partner with families.

Let me break my response down into four short pieces:
1) Have the Conversation: If the only thing this book accomplishes is encouraging and moving hundreds of churches to start having conversations about working together with families, it will be one of the most influential books this decade.  I was reminded acutely of the need to have these types of conversations and think about establishing common ground before implementing a new program.  The churches in my ministry context are engaging in this process right now and it is incredibly exciting.

2) Know that conversation’s length may last several months: Joiner presents a compelling argument for having the conversation about going Orange, but the book provides very little support or information on the realities those conversations open leaders up to.  If I were in my first few years of ministry and I read this book, I would leave with the impression that going Orange could happen tomorrow.  Moving organizations of any size into new paradigms takes time, leadership, and effort.  In the case of our ministry, it has taken several months.  Rob Reinow of Wheaton Bible Church and Visionary Parenting often talks about how his church spent years honing the theology behind their family ministry before they implemented a single program.  Think Orange is not Think Fast.

3) I’m on the bus, show me where I am supposed to go:  One of the issues I have with the book in general is that it spends so much time emphasizing the importance of the partnership between church and family without really saying what is supposed to happen next.  If you want a roadmap to having the conversations necessary to achieve a family ministry shift, you will not find it in this book.  You will find out a lot about what happens if you combine influences, but now how to do that.  I have found a lot of practical help to engage in this kind of conversation through the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

4) Character:  I am absolutely convinced that the partnership between family and church is critical.  I am devoted to helping kids meet Jesus and become more like Him.  Here is where I hit a snag when I read Think Orange.  While Scripture is clearly valued throughout the Orange philosophy, it’s primary application is to build character in the lives of kids.  Building character is featured in Chapter 4 and seen throughout the entire book.  It is also clear in the way 252 Basics is organized.  This presents a problem because I do not think the Word of God was delivered to make people more virtuous.  There’s more to it than that.  And I have a hard time orienting ministry in such a way as to teach kids that the primary purpose of the Bible is to make them more responsible or friendly.

•    For those who have already made the shift and started/implemented the process of partnering with parents – What did you do to make those conversations successful?  What mistakes have you made?  What would you do differently?
•    For those who are just getting started – What resources would you find helpful to start the process?  How long do you think it will take?