Isn’t Orange just about Virtues?

I am not going to Orange this year I have gone for the past 3 years as a blogger had a blast and met loads of great kidmin and Student ministry people. I thought that I would do a blog post or two about Orange even though I am not there. I thought I would do a blog post for those of you who stay away from the Orange movement due to a huge obstacle for many of you…..virtues.

At our church we have used 252basis for around 6 years. Upon telling people that often I get the following question. “Isn’t Orange just about virtues?” My basic response to most people is that if you make 252Basics just about virtues thats your fault more than it’s their fault. Curriculum is such a tricky thing because there is no such thing as perfect curriculum.

Around a year ago I went searching for something else because we had used 252 for quite a while and I wanted to see what is out there. Our church is very Gospel driven we want our kids to understand the message of the Gospel in a very clear way. We want our kids to not only know about Christ but to have a theological basis for their faith. All the other curriculums we looked at need as much or more work than we put into 252 most often it was much more work.

Here is why a person like me who is against Moralistic Therapeutic Deism a major advocate for virtue based teaching?

1. The virtues give you a theme and a framework to discuss what Christ has done in a theologically practical way.
2. The scripture content at Orange is excellent and has only gotten better over the years.
3. I have found that the Orange team is very open to ideas and input.
4. I like the fact that so many other people are teaching the same lesson there is a great ability to network and group think.

How do we avoid teaching our kids moralism? This is a much deeper question that takes much more time than we have hear but I think that the people at Orange have been unfairly branded as moralists the problem is more systemic in kids ministry. So how do you teach virtues in a non-moralistic way? In talking to our kids pastor and story teller we always tweak the application so that the virtue is shown to our kids through Christ rather than a way to Christ. We avoid moralism when we understand our depravity and his Grace. When we see that we can be brave, and honest, and have conviction not because it makes look more like Christ but because Christ lived a life of honest conviction and bravely laid down his life we too can do those things because of what Christ has already done for us. Virtues demonstrated are a much different thing that virtues we strive to attain.

I think virtues have gotten a very bad rap.

12 comments On Isn’t Orange just about Virtues?

  • Sam,

    Great post. I'm not at Orange either, but I am encouraged about what I am hearing about some of the sessions this year being very gospel focused. One of my concerns about the Orange movement (as adopted, not as presented i think) has been the almost evangelistic approach people take towards the method. I think the people at Orange are doing a good job these days of putting the focus where is should be – on Jesus Christ and God's story of redemption through Christ.

    As for virtues, I understand entirely what you are saying, and I think the problem is more systemic in kidmin. I think many are unwilling to invest the time to take any curriculum and adapt them (and they all need adaptation) and prefer something they can just photocopy and hand out to their volunteers.. To me the bigger issue than virtues vs. no virtues is whether a curriculum is man focused or Christ focused. We love because He first loved us. We forgive because He first forgave us. We don't act a certain way or display a certain virtue in our lives to make God happy, we do so because He enables us to through His Spirit. I think, like many things, the problems lie in the extremes. As the church, we should not tech virtues alone because our kids "need it." Neither should we avoid the teaching of virtues because we think that amounts to legalism. Rather we must teach kids that Christ died for us and that he calls us to obey Him as an expression of love.

    Last week I came across a quote from John Macarthur. I don't have it in front of me, so I will paraphase, "Works are the fruit of our faith – not the root." Then I went to church this past weekend and our pastor preached on how we "behave what we believe." Then Monday I was listening to a podcast where the pastor was talking about the number of times the work God or Jesus appears in the Bible preceded by Lord – the point being that we can't have God or Jesus without making them Lord of our life as well. All of that to say, I agree with you that we can teach virtues to kids so long as we are very clear (indeed stress) that those virtues come from Jesus.

    I also agree that the people at Orange have been branded as moralists. At some point, I think I may have been guilty of this myself (at least in my own thoughts). However, the more I hear from them and about them, and really hear their hearts, the more it becomes obvious to me that they are doing what they do for Jesus. And, what they do, they do really well.

    As always, thanks for the thought provoking article.

  • Great post Sam. I don't think it can be overstated that any curriculum can be taught in a moralistic way–even if the curriculum has "gospel" or "Jesus" in the name. Fantastic quote:

    "We avoid moralism when we understand our depravity and his Grace."

    Even virtue-based teaching is gospel-centered when we see that virtues are grace gifts God gives by the power of his Spirit.

  • This is a huge struggle for me. We are new to 252 (only about 4 months now), but I sometimes feel like it's very self-focused and virtue centered. Even the definitions tend to leave God out of the picture. I usually redefine the virtues using the definitions from ATI ( and try to add things about depending on the Holy Spirit. I'm still dissatisfied, but the small group leaders LOVE it, so we'll keep with it for a year and go from there.

    • Lindsey there will never be a perfect curriculum and I think that's ok. You have to find what works for you and for your church. We primarily use Orange but have used lots of others.

    • I know this was several years ago that this was posted, but I wonder what you ended up doing. My pastor just came in and asked me to look into Orange and I am really concerned about it. I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Thanks for your post. I am an pastor and we have been using first look, 252 and xp3. some of fellow pastors have been concerned for a long time about Orange’s virtue based teaching although behind the curriculum is a scripture basis from Genesis to Revelation. My concern is “cult” like adherence that resists altering the curriculum for a more scripture and Christ forward approach to presenting this curriculum. I will admit, I have not been to a conference, but the staff comes back energized and excited about what was presented. But it seems that any requests to change lessons is met with “you just don’t like orange.” Not to be snarky, but it seems while they are there, they drink the Orange koolaid. Perhaps I should attend a conference and see for myself, however, we want God’s story to shine in our teachings, and make disciples not scouts.

    • Hi Bill – I was glad to read your post. I posted just a few minutes ago (pending approval).

      I briefly listed out some concerns I have, but tied back the responsibility to ME the one in front of the kids, and customizing it, personalizing it, making it my own, and of particular importance ensuring a Primary Focus on Scripture, every single time. After all, isn’t that our job, be it 7 little K-2 kids in a small room, or 450 adults in the Sanctuary down the hall?

      Farmington Hills, MI

  • I have similar feelings around the Orange curriculum. I could take this time to share opinions about some of the games and such, but honestly, I feel that the leader, the one in front of the kids must take responsibility for shaping the message. I’m not creative enough on the games side of things to critique there, but I do know how to keep kids attention and engage them – even (especially) K2.

    I don’t believe that even if you had a “Perfect Curriculum”, could you deliver it in a meaningful way without making it your own. Without your own personal delivery, stories, and constantly tying it back to the larger story of Christ with a strong focus on scripture.

    We don’t need robots in front of our kids. We don’t need to read scripts. For that reason, I’m comfortable with the Orange Curriculum ONLY to the extent that the leader fill in the gaps and make it more scripture based, tailor the message according to the group so they can understand it (if needed), and use Orange as a great starting point. We DO need Sunday School Teachers who CAN and WILL engage, and not lean on a B Script written in an Ivory Tower (where it seems no kids exist).

    Without that customization, I do fear that Orange misses the mark. If leaders “go by the book” and present word for word, without their own personality, ad lib, and more importantly finding ways to tie it back to scripture in a more principled way, the program is effectively a Virtues lesson on how to live with other humans. I also fear that far too many “Sunday School Teachers” today, are not able, (or willing) to take Orange as a starting point, and bring it forward in to a more meaningful presentation of Gods Word.

    I’ve taught Orange for several years, took 2 years off (4th child born), and today is my first day back. I had to stop in frustration, and realize that the Curriculum does not have responsibility for reaching the kids, Scripture does. And my job is to bring that Scripture to the kids in a way that matters. You can’t do better than Scripture. The Accountability rests with the Leader to deliver. Just as the Congregation looks to the Pastor when he preaches on Sunday. Scripture needs to be the focus, despite Orange, or any other curriculum format, creativity, gimmicks, scripts, abstract ideas, etc.

    Farmington Hills, MI

  • Our church used Orange curriculum for about 6 years before we decided to make a change. I thought the focus on virtues was valuable, but in the end, our kids didn’t really know the characters of the bible. They definitely didn’t understand the greater story of redemption woven throughout the bible, and they were not getting the major connections Jesus had to the Old Testament. He was reserved for the New Testament stories….which is a shame in my opinion. We do need to be teaching our kids virtuous behavior, but if they don’t know the God of the bible well enough to fall in love with Him because every lesson is really focused on them and their behavior, we are doing our kids a disservice. We used The Gospel project for a while, but weren’t completely satisfied with that either, and are now writing our own curriculum.

    • Cheri,

      We have found similar concerns with the Orange curriculum. We are currently in our 8thish year with Orange and have noticed the lack of Biblical knowledge and connection in our kids, teens, and now young adults that have gone through the program. We are checking out The Gospel Project. What was your experience with The Gospel Project and why did y’all make the decision to discontinue using it?


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