The Salvation Army’s New Sunday Schoot Strategy
A big change has come to Sunday mornings at corps across the country, with the national release being June 1, 2017. Orange has arrived and it’s not your typical Sunday school update because it is more than a typical program. Orange is a strategy—it is a plan with an overall goal in mind. Like any plan, Orange depends on good people doing their best for God. I’d like to reveal the organizational secrets of why Orange was chosen to be the Army’s new Sunday school program, as well as share our vision for how you can get involved.
Historically, Sunday school has been a major part of the Sunday morning experience at all Salvation Army corps. The Sunday school experience has made a real difference in countless lives. Its focus on Biblical literacy and fellowship with believers is integral to healthy spiritual growth for individuals and the corps itself. You might have experienced this firsthand by being a Sunday school student or teacher.
However, Sunday schools within The Salvation Army have been in a long and slow decline. When we took a look at the numbers, we found that a typical Sunday school class is made up of around 24 individuals. That is an encouraging number. However, as we looked closer, most of these individuals are now adults and, as we consider the future of our Army, this is cause for concern.
Where are all the young Salvationists? Young people with energy and enthusiasm are a big part of God’s plan as expressed in 1 Corinthians 12:17-20 (NIV). A pattern even more concerning than the lack of young people is the slow and steady decline in membership—we lose about 13% of our members every 10 years. This is a troubling trend! It’s easy to see that if we allow this trend to continue for another 10 or 20 years, we will not have nearly enough members for Sunday school at all.
If we lose Sunday school, our overall ministry and corps growth will be broken. It is time for us to make a fundamental change in how we present Sunday school.
WILL ORANGE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
As mentioned, Orange is a strategy—a plan with an overall goal in mind. Whatisorange.org describes this strategy in simple terms: “It starts with two individual influences in a child’s life: Home + Church. Alone, these two work hard to ensure that every child has a better future. But when they’re combined, the home and church will have a greater impact.”
Orange offers the benefits of a well-developed, age-appropriate, interactive curriculum created by our partner in ministry, The reThink Group. Over the past few months, a number of corps have participated in a pilot program of Orange. Major Joy Jugenheimer, corps officer at the Spring Valley Corps (Greater New York Division, Eastern Territory) remarked, “I love the family ministry concept. The concept of Orange helps us to have the potential to minister to whole families by helping parents develop skills to be spiritual leaders for their children. I love that the curriculum is activity based, seeker friendly, and includes repetition which is helpful for retention.”
One strength of Orange is that it creates a connection between what is taught in Sunday school, the overall ministry of the corps, as well as community outreach. Major Sunetra A. George from the Manchester Citadel Corps (Southern New England Division, Eastern Territory) says, “Another strength of the Orange curriculum are the tools that are provided to reinforce the main Bible truths…These tools enable teachers and parents to work together to teach and reinforce Bible truth beyond one hour on Sundays.”
Orange provides fresh and fun ideas for Sunday school that are grounded in the unchanging truth of God’s Word. Major Susan M. Kelly, corps officer from Toledo, Ohio (Northeast Ohio Division, Eastern Territory) found that “Orange has been a ‘breath of fresh air,’ breathing new life into our traditional Sunday school routine. The videos and games are on-topic and grasp our kids’ attention, bringing home the Gospel message in creative and exciting ways which we believe will transform not just our Sunday school, but ultimately our entire corps.”
It will also give us fresh perspective on how to best engage the next generation of young people, who are essential to new growth. Major Brian T. Bearchell of the Torrance Corps in California (Southern California Division, Western Territory) shares a similar experience: “This program is new and exciting. With this ‘digital’ generation, it captures their attention.”
WHAT ABOUT ME?
As our knowledge of God and the Bible deepens, Orange will challenge us with more opportunities to connect with one another. Orange goes beyond a lesson on Sunday morning. It provides tools to help the church connect weekly with families. More important than any app or tool, Orange will challenge our perspective about ministry; it will constantly remind us that it is our mission and responsibility to love others by sharing the Gospel.
If you are part of Sunday school, why keep this new and exciting program to yourself? Invite your friends! If you aren’t already involved with Sunday school, take this new opportunity to become a part of it. Strive to make new connections with families and communities outside the walls of your corps buildings. Leadership in the corps is not solely up to your corps officer—you have an integral part to play! You are a part of God’s mission; you are an important member of the body of Christ.
And let’s not forget about making a positive impact online. Major Sunetra A. George goes on to say, “For middle school and high school students, help is given to connect with the kids through social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.” These platforms enable you to be reminded of the Truth you learn throughout the week and stay connected. We need to both encourage and be encouraged by one another, and this is a great way to start!
Orange is a good strategy. It has a proven track record in churches across the country. However, its success depends on each of us being part of the local corps and the body of Christ. Introducing The Salvation Army to Orange gives us an opportunity to reverse the trend of decline in Sunday school. It brings a fresh and innovative approach to deepening our knowledge of God and the Bible while connecting us with one another.
ARE YOU READY FOR ORANGE?
Captain Keith Maynor | National Youth Secretary | National Headquarters