If you’re in Atlanta at the Orange Conference, be prepared to drink from a fire hydrant for the next few days. Whether you’re in a main session or a breakout, you’re going to be inundated with more knowledge, wisdom, tips, solutions, strategies, vision, mission, and ideas than you could possibly absorb. Trust me, I know from experience! I started attending the Orange Conference before it was even called Orange Conference. Anyone remember Grow Up? Yes…I’ve been around a while.
I’ll never forget that first conference. I was 19 years old, hadn’t a clue about children’s ministry, and wasn’t particularly interested in learning more. I was a preacher’s kid and my dad was planting a church in rural East Tennessee. He knew we needed to make families a priority, but he didn’t know exactly what that meant. He sent me, his only child who didn’t particularly like children.
I was blown away! Kids could actually have fun at church? Students wanted to go to youth group? What!?! It changed everything for me, a tectonic shifting of my mind. That was 16 years ago. I’m still at it, and I’m still here at Orange Conference every year. Now I have the opportunity to stand on stage and help others understand the importance of a ministry that is outwardly focused, a strategy that says we are, “For Our Neighbors!”
If you’re joining me here at #OC17, I have just a few tips to help you make the most of your experience.
Tip #1: Listen, don’t talk.
You’re proud of what God is doing in your church and there’s nothing wrong with that. I believe you should brag on God’s handiwork whenever possible…except at Orange Conference. If you want to continue to see growth in your ministry, you’re going to need fresh ideas and problem-solving strategies. You’re at the right place. Close your mouth and open your mind.
Tip #2: Unpack each day.
You’re going to be tired at the end of each day. The sheer amount of focus it takes is exhausting. Your hand will ache from taking notes and your heavy eyes will yearn for the comforts of the hotel bed. Resist the temptation to skip debriefing with your team each day. Take 15 minutes to discuss your discoveries, any ideas you feel could be implemented, and your daily take-aways. If you wait until the bus or plane ride home, you’ll forget important details. Instead, make it a nightly routine.
Tip #3: Don’t skip stuff.
You’re going to be tempted to lay in the sunshine on the grassy hill or take an extra long lunch with your team and miss a breakout or main session. Don’t do it! You’re here because God desires to speak to you. There’s something you need to hear, but if you’re not in position and ready to go when the word is spoken, you’ll miss it. The Orange staff have worked hard to give you adequate down time. Use it wisely.
Tip #4: Start small.
You’re going to hear a lot of different ideas and strategies. They won’t all work for you or your situation. Every church is different, every ministry unique. You can’t and shouldn’t be just like anyone else. If you try to take back 50 new ideas, you’ll overwhelm your teams. Instead, clarify your vision and begin to implement one or two new initiatives. Family ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be afraid to try something new, but don’t undermine your efforts with a million changes that can’t be measured or evaluated.
Tip #5: Network. Network. Network.
You’re surrounded by great leaders from around the world. The Orange Conference is a gathering of minds and passions. At some point over the next few weeks, months, or years you’re going to need an advisor, a listening ear, an unbiased friend, or an accountability parter. Who better than a peer who understands your daily struggles and triumphs? Initiate conversation, exchange contact information, and make new friends!
Tip #6: HAVE FUN!
Take a deep breath each morning. Put a smile on your face, and determine to enjoy every minute of #OC17!
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful, and I encourage you to come back all week. I’ll be updating the site daily with fantastic quotes from amazing leaders.