Orange is a big name in the children’s curriculum world. They’ve been around for a while and have been a front-runner on bringing creative excellence to children’s curriculum. I’ve used it for the past year and a half and have pretty firm feelings on it, so I thought I’d share my two cents.
So the Orange curriculum came out of the Orange philosophy which says when the light of the church, which is yellow, combines with the heart of the home, which is red, you get orange. Orange is the proper model of church and family where the church supports the parents to raise their children in a Christ centered home.
I love this model and my Church embraces this whole hardheartedly. Most curriculum out there centers around this belief on some level because everyone started to realize the damage that was being done by allowing parents to give their responsibility to the Church. If you don’t fully understand this model or this is the first time you’re hearing of it, pick up the orange book and give it a read.
Scope and Sequence:
This is where a lot of my hang-ups exist. First of all, you’re lucky if you know what you’re teaching 6 months in advance. They have a 3 year virtue outline, but even that is subject to change and doesn’t have summer details. I’m used to knowing what I’m going to teach, for the most part, 1-3 years in advance, including Bible stories, bottom lines, and memory verses. With Orange, you can’t really know for sure until the curriculum is out, which get’s released 2 months ahead. Even then, there have been many times that not all the materials are finished and we’re trying to plan with missing activity sheets, not really sure what’s being said.
The other big hang-up is their selection of bible stories. The selection is very repetitive, especially with the first look materials (preschool.) We’ve had preschoolers look at us and say we’ve already done this story, because we had, at least 3 times in the past year. And in the past year we’ve taught about sheep so many times we’ve done every sheep pin you can find on pinterest. We have no more creative ways to teach about sheep. And yes repetition is good for younger kids, but I prefer repeating themes with different bible stories. Our God is a big God with so many ways of teaching us the same thing that I hate to limit our kids understanding of God to only one story about that lesson.
The other problem with stories in in the 252 (elementary) materials, where at least 3 monthes have revolved around one bible verse. So the primary teaching time is centered around a fictional life story and then they read the verse. I would prefer to have a bible story that drives the verse home and then help the kids apply it to their real life, than again, making them believe there is only this one verse to speak truth in to their lives. Semi-along these lines is also the obscure bible stories. For example we had a 2 verse story about David’s last prophecy before he died. I don’t even remember what we were teaching about, but it was a difficult streach for me to understand how it tied together, which means it definetly was hard for the Kids and even their parents to grasp.
These are back and forth in my opinion. January was great. They had clear bottom lines that had biblical truth in them. But that was followed by a lot of morality based bottom lines which we re-wrote. What I mean by this is a line might say “I will do good things” and we would change it to “I will do good things for God.” Because that is the point they were trying to push. Seems like a small tweek, but if you give the first line to a parent that has never opened their bible, their ability to tie the first line to the Bible Story might be more difficult, where the second one gives them a firm starting point. So if you have a majority of parents that understand the Bible and how to apply it’s truth to morals then it might be the right curriculum for you. But my current church and my last church is full of families where the parents have never opened a bible before coming to our church. So I have kids, parents, and volunteers that are all learning the bible stories for the first time at the same time. For us, having bottom lines that didn’t clearly draw a line to God, the Bible, or Jesus, didn’t work very well to encourage spiritual discussion in the home.
Something that has bothered my whole team is the lack of bible use. Occasionally they’ll throw something in for the older kids that would require them to look something up in the bible. But for the most part, a kid could come to a church using orange and never need a bible or want a bible.
All of the Orange materials have Parent Cues that help parents to know what their kid learned at church. First look has preschool aged activities to help the family apply them, and 252 has questions to help start a spiritual conversation. Both are great, but I would love it if they were a little more adaptable so you could add any other information or support you wanted to give your parents. Right now they are a PDF or a word doc that you can change the Bible translation and that’s it. And at the end of the day, most our families weren’t using it because it was a piece of paper. So either they threw it away, it got lost in the car, or they never had it with them when they had time to talk. So we stopped printing parent cues and went to our HK411 email.
For the 252 group, there are also God Time Cards. These are half sheet take-home devotionals for our kids to dive deeper into the lesson. Good materials, but our kids weren’t doing them. And this is in part a side affect of our culture and helping kids understand quiet times. The other part is that they are very wordy, so younger than 3rd grade will struggle with doing them on their own, or understanding them at all. But we have kids in 5th grade that still struggle with reading, and the wordiness of them is intimidating. We’re trying a variety of quiet times now, which I’ll share all my different methods at a later date, but one is the “Creative Quiet Time.” Which you can get the one about Patience based around the Israelite leaving Egypt and heading to the promised land for free by signing up for my newsletter over on the right.
This is a deterrent to many churches. Orange is one of, if not the most expensive curriculum out there. You have to buy the curriculum and then the videos are extra as well as the worship videos and songs. We’re switching to Gospel Project this year and it’s almost half of what we were spending on Orange and that includes worship and lesson videos.
Also, you have no choice but to buy a whole year at a time. So if you ever find a really cool series you want to do on a different curriculum, you’ve already payed for Orange so you can’t go off script. My goal is always to match our adults 1-2 times a year, so this was a little frustrating that we bought materials we most likely would never use.
There was a time where Orange had the highest quality of worship and story ideas around, but other curriculum are starting to up their game and with so many other churches giving away their curriculum for free, Orange doesn’t have the monopoly it used to.
Some positives of Orange:
They have a public school component: Part of the reason the bottom lines are what they are is they have a public school ministry lesson that corresponds to the church lessons. So if you want to get into the public schools this might be something to look into. I’ve never even looked at it honestly, so I don’t even know what to tell you about it other than it’s there.
It’s a good starter material: If you feel overwhelmed by choices in the curriculum department, this isn’t the worst choice you can make. If you’re new to the game and need to pick something to get you going, this may be a good pick. It has a good selection of activities, a supplies needed list, and all the details and support planned for you. I would say it’s the Apple of children’s curriculum. It’s easy to figure out and get going. They have a large structure of support available, but it works best if you’re fully sold out to their resources.
Great Philosophy: I think the time we’ve been on Orange has helped our whole church become more family ministry focused and orange thinking. If you want help to push that mentality at your church, at least a year of orange may give you the foot hold you need.
Your birthday or the 4th of July. I’m not a huge fan of Orange. I’ve talked with our orange rep about our concerns with the materials, but I also can’t fault them for know who they are and sticking to their identity. We do need variety, and I know these materials work well for some churches. You really have to look at your church and your families to decide what will work best for you. If you have families that have a basic bible story knowledge, or if your whole church wants to use all the same materials, this might be the right curriculum for you. For us it wasn’t a strong enough foundation for our families. If you’re still not sure if Orange or any curriculum is right for you, check out my Questions to Ask When Picking out Kid Ministry Curriculum.
So what other thoughts or questions do you have about Orange? Anyone want to pick up the Pro-Orange banner and wave it in the comments below?