Today is the last day of the early bird rate for the Orange Conference. I absolutely love this organization and this conference. I’d love for you to come this year. Here’s a recap of my experience at Orange last spring…
Last week, I traveled to Atlanta with a few members of our Family Ministries team to join 6000 others for the Orange Conference. As a student pastor, I’ve been to a lot of student ministry and family ministry conferences. In my opinion, this was the best. If you serve students or children, you need to go next year. Here’s why.
Everyone knows that the most important thing about conferences, or life for that matter is food. Maybe I’m a little obsessed but I love great food. Spice, flavor, combinations and ethnic touches dazzle my palate. One of the things I love about Orange is that they bring in food trucks–seriously, one of the smartest inventions of all time. Also, I love sitting around the table with people I care about or want to learn from, sharing a meal and talking about ministry and strategy.
Ministry is a sloppy bucket of stress. Particularly at this time of year, we’re all slightly to moderately frazzled.
“Did you just stick your finger in an electric socket or maybe hug a nuclear warhead?”
“Nope. Just finished small group.”
Orange brought an insane amount of comedy this year. At times, I was crying because I was laughing so hard. I woke in the morning with sore abs. This may have more to do with sloth than comedy…Either way, thanks for the ab workout.
Sadly, not every work environment or church values creativity and artistic expression. One of the things I love about reThink and the Orange Conference is a high value on creativity and art. They understand the work it takes to write good curriculum, produce quality videos and create engaging programs. It’s more art than science for sure. It’s a lovely feeling to be told over and over again that the work we do matters. Also, I saw a bunch of ideas that I’ve already begun stealing. Don’t tell anyone.
The thing I love the most about reThink is that they elevate the local church. They are constantly looking for ways to connect people like me with other youth workers who serve in similar contexts or think about ministry in the same ways. Through my new friend Jeremy at reThink, I met a bunch of youth workers at Orange. I’m pumped to engage these men and women in conversation about how exactly we do this work God has called us to. I love collaboration.
For me, the best moment of Orange was Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner demonstrating how to talk to middle school students about same sex attraction. This is obviously a conversation in which many churches have dropped the ball. The mantra I walked away with is this: “We believe the church should be the safest place for students experiencing same sex attraction.” I’m in for struggling toward this goal.
I could talk strategy all night. Specifically, I love to sit around with student ministry workers and discuss how to do what we do better. I love to dream, evaluate, fret, deconstruct, and tinker with concepts and practices. The Orange Conference is an excellent place to do this.
I’ll be honest, I limped into the Orange Conference this year. It’s been a beast of a year. I’m in a new and challenging role, we opened high school ministry on a new campus, hired 4 new staff, battled through the worst winter in recent history (which translated into numerous cancellations and a momentum free fall). A week ago, a ll I really wanted was June because June means the ministry regular season is over. And yet, somehow, someway, through food trucks, laughter, imparted value, collaboration, shared wisdom, and strategery sessions, I’m back in the ring itching for a fight. I’ve fallen back in love with my work, my team and the struggle of passing on faith to the next generation.
Here’s to you reThink for an “eptastic” week. And for the rest of you, let’s meet up in Atlanta next April.
static hair photo credited to Jeff Latimer via Flickr