As I write this many people are traveling or finalizing preparations to travel to Atlanta for the Orange Conference. Sadly, I am not among them this year. But, I thought I would share some thoughts for those that are going, to help them get the most out of their experience.
1.) Worship. Many people in children’s ministry seldom have the chance to worship at their home church. This is your opportunity. There will be AMAZING times of worship at the Orange Conference. Take advantage of them. Remember your best ministry comes from the overflow of what God is doing in you. Be refueled.
2.) Meet someone virtual. There will be a great many people there. There will be some people that you may have connected with online, but have never met in person. Make plans to meet up with some of these people. Have lunch with them. Virtual connections are great, but meeting in person can take that relationship to a whole new level.
3.) Meet someone new. There will be thousands of people there. Most of them you will know. For many of us it can be difficult to talk to people we don’t know. But, having something in common with a person makes it easier. Remember every single person there has a passion for ministry to children and families. You already have a connection. Need something more concrete? Talk to someone standing near one of the exhibition booths, about the booth. Or hang out near the King of Pops stand and ask them which flavor their enjoying. However you decide to do it, meet someone new.
4.) King of Pops. Ok, this may have nothing to do with the conference itself, but every year there is a vendor there called King of Pops. They sell gourmet popsicles. Trust me, you want one of these.
5.) Skip a session. If your church is paying for you to attend, them you may feel obligated to get as much out of it as possible. This is admirable and should be your goal. However, sometimes “getting the most out of it” happens by NOT being in a session. One of the best breakouts I ever had at any conference was one that I skipped. I spent the entire time talking with Amy Dolan. It was a great time of inspiration for me and I made a new friend. I can’t tell you what session I skipped, but I CAN tell you that it was worth it.
Maybe the best thing you can do during this time is rest. This may come in the form of simply sitting in a hallway going over your notes, enjoying a cup of coffee, or sitting outside enjoying King of Pops. Whatever it is take some time to rest.
6.) Take good notes. Attending a conference like this is kinda like drinking water from a fire hose. There will be so much information coming at you that you will never be able to remember everything that you hear. Take good notes. This will give you something to look at when you get home and have time to process it all.
7.) Ask questions. One of the things I LOVE about children’s ministry is that there are no super stars. Certainly there are people that I consider to be Kidmin Superstars. But, they are approachable. You can actually have conversations with them. So, at the end of a session take the time to approach the speaker if you have questions. Connect with the speaker. I have had many of them give me there email addresses and other contact information and offer to answer questions in the future.
8.) Have fun. Ministry to children can be a lot of fun. But, for those of us that lead, the fun comes only after a lot of work. Without us planning and setting up the fun, then the fun doesn’t happen. So, take the time to have fun while you are at the conference. Orange is good about setting up chances for those attending to have fun. One year there were two giant ball pits for US to jump in. One year they had an inflatable jousting arena. There are also usually meet-ups/parties schedule one night for the different age groups. Seek out these opportunities for YOU to have fun that you didn’t have to plan or organize.
I hope that you find this post helpful. I know that you will have an amazing time at the Orange Conference. I can’t make it this year, but I will be there for #OC16. You can count on it.Matt Norman
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