Is the “Orange” curriculum safe for Sunday School?

Has your church "turned Orange?" If your children's ministry leaders have suddenly put your children's discipleship in the hands of Andy Stanley's Orange Strategy, you're going to want to investigate what this program is - and more importantly what it is NOT.

Is the “Orange” curriculum safe for Sunday School?  Amy Spreeman and Steve Kozar write about the latest "fad" being allowed into the church.

For many centuries, Christians have taught their children about the Bible from the Bible. In church, children learned along with their parents in the pews. With the rise of children’s ministries, we’ve seen solid men and women step up as teachers of Scripture, developing their own style and curricula in age-appropriate ways.

Then came the Big Box lessons. We no longer need Bible teachers; just warm bodies who can read directions, sing and do crafts.  As we’ve brought in different programs to our children’s ministries, we’ve seen something incredible: Children growing into teens and young adults walking away from their churches – and Christ. 

Is there a connection? Parents are right to be concerned about these Big Box curricula from Big Box megachurches.

I received a letter from a reader last week:  “We’ve been told that our church is ‘going Orange.’ Our church has partnered with Andy Stanley’s North Point Church to bring the Orange Strategy into our children’s Sunday School program. I know there have been concerns about Andy Stanley. What is your take on this program? Is it safe for our kids?”

Two things to ask yourself when selecting a curriculum for any church program or ministry:  (1.) Does it actually teach the Bible as authoritative, sufficient, inerrant truth?, and (2.) What is the theology and background of the authors?

Before we dig in, we need to understand what the Orange Strategy is.

Orange Strategy is an elementary-aged curriculum based on Luke’s words about Jesus in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Orange has taken the verse 2:52 and turned it into “252 Basics.” It is a formula based on creating a learning atmosphere to be used in three primary environments: church (Red), home (Yellow) and in-between (Orange).

Here are three things to know:



1.  The Orange Strategy hinges on “3 Truths.”

Is the emphasis on the Orange truth based on us and what we do, or on Christ and what He did?  Read about the “3 Truths,” put on your discernment hat, and grab a magnifying glass to see if you can spot whether the focus is about the Gospel like creation, our fallen sin nature, Christ’s atonement and His resurrection. Here you go:

           252 = 3 Truths + 150 Bible Stories + 30 Life Apps

In a video from the Orange site, there is discussion on why the emphasis needs to be on creating the environment to be fun and experiential:

2.  The Orange Curriculum is expensive.

Orange is pricey – as one of the most expensive children’s resources available. Enormously expensive for most medium-sized churches. Here is the 2016 pricing list to get the web-based  license and materials. Dig deep into your wallets and purses, and be prepared to pony up:

3. The Orange Strategy is NOT Scripture based.

Sure, there are smatterings of memory verses and stories, but what about basic Christian Doctrine? What do Sunday School teachers who’ve reviewed this curriculum have to say?

Author and curriculum reviewer Stephen Davis asks, “DOES ORANGE EVEN TEACH THE BIBLE?” His conclusion shouldn’t surprise anyone:

Orange is the latest, greatest thing in KidMin and family ministry. It is so popular that churches of all denominations are labeling themselves “Orange Churches.” It is well funded, well made, organized and nice to look at. It is always seeking to remain relevant by providing cutting edge music and resources.

On the surface, Orange sounds like a home run. The church is red, the family is yellow, and as both sides work together, they make orange. This strategy is woven into their teachings. All these things are great…however there is one HUGE, glaring weakness that I cannot overlook.

Orange wants to be the curriculum that is used from toddlers to high school seniors, yet it is totally theme based and not scripture based. There is of course a time and place for theme based lessons and series, but if you want my church to put our kids through 16 years of your curriculum, you better teach the Bible. Orange does not. It teaches Biblical principles. It teaches stories from all throughout the Bible.

There are many other Bible teachers expressing concerns. Here’s one from Creative Kids Ministry:

“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.”


What do the authors believe?

Here is where we need to be even more discerning about what we bring into the minds of our children. Who is the author of my curriculum? How will his beliefs influence the minds of the next generation whom I am shepherding and discipling at home and in my church?

You see, the Orange Strategy program was developed at North Point Community Church, the mega church in Atlanta founded by Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner, founder of the Re Think Group – which is the architect of Joiner’s Orange Conference and Orange Tour. Joiner is also one of the founders of the Catalyst Conferences, which is the largest enterprise for building Emergent leadership. (Yes, the heresy of the Emergent Church movement is still out there.)

Andy Stanley is one of America’s top pastors; he is probably one of the top three most influential pastors in the U.S.A. today. For many, Andy is the go-to guy when it comes to effective communication and leadership. But there is a crisis dishonoring to God, destructive to God’s people, and threatens the churches influenced by the Atlanta mega church.

You may remember Andy Stanley famously saying in a sermon earlier in the year that people who go to smaller churches are “lazy” and don’t care about their children because those churches cannot provide the same sorts of experiences as do big churches like North Point. But that’s not the most worrisome thing Stanley has said from his pulpit. I am providing many, many resources here so that you can share with your church leadership for research. It is important that you read and hear Stanley in his own words deny the sufficiency of Scripture.