The Messy Gospel. Orange Conference 2012

This week is Orange Blogger Week. A week where those of us that blog for Orange finally get the recognition that we deserve. A week where we are celebrated for the geniuses that we are. Ok, none of that is true. Rather it is a week to discuss all things orange. Ok, not ALL things orange, but all things related to the orange strategy that seeks to form partnerships between the church and families. I have written a number of posts about the Orange Strategy, the Orange Tour, and the Orange Conference. Here are some links to some of those posts:
For this post I wanted to do something a little different and highlight the sort of content that one can expect when attending this Orange Conference. This content comes from Reggie Joiner as he spoke at one of the general sessions about the messiness of the gospel.
The gospel is the reason that the church even exists. If we just existed for ourselves, then we could all move to a tropical island and not worry about everyone else. If we are not careful this is exactly what we do. Ok, we don’t move to a tropical island, but we do tend to build holy little islands within our communities. We have build buildings, hold services and have created cultures that, even if not intentionally, keep everyone else out. We build buildings where protecting the drywall, the paint, to the lawn is more important than reaching the lost.
I can understand why this happens. As Reggie Joiner points out it’s because, the gospel is messy. In his talk at OC12:
  • “Sometimes God calls us to step into a community or a place that we are not ready for.”
  • “Sometimes the gospel is messier that we signed up form.”
The truth is the gospel is messy. Sometimes it means doing things and being around and with people that we are not comfortable with, people that are different than us. This can be difficult and is definitely, messy. As Reggie pointed out Jesus couldn’t do what He came to do without getting messy. He talked with people that no one else would talk to. He had dinner with people that other Jews avoided. He touched people that no one else would touch. Ultimately, He went to the cross. It doesn’t get any messier than that.
Jesus was willing to do the messiest thing in history so that we might be saved. In spite of this we often avoid doing what it takes to reach people because we don’t want to get messy. Someone was willing to get messy for us and yet we try to avoid getting messy for others. Paul wrote, “I become all things for all people so that I may by every possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) This is the essence of the messy gospel. We must become all things so that some may be saved, even if it means getting messy.

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What Is Orange Tour?

OT15_TwitterProfile_500x500If your in ministry to children or youth, you have probably heard of the Orange Conference. However, if you may not know about the Orange Tour. Think of the Orange Tour as a mini Orange Conference in a regional version.

Who should attend Orange Tour? There is a common misconception that the only people that should attend the Orange Conference are those that use the “Orange” curriculum. The Orange Conference is put on by the reThink group. It is true that these folks also produce curriculum for preschool, children and youth as well as a number of other resources. However, this does not mean that the Orange Conference, or Orange Tour are exclusive for those that use these products.

Isn’t it just a big sales pitch? For those that use Orange curriculum or products there are opportunities to learn more about these products. There are also opportunities to purchase some of them, often at a discounted rate. However, Neither the Orange Conference, nor the Orange Tour is a sales pitch. If you use the materials they produce there are breakout sessions aimed at helping you get the most to of them. But, there are also sessions aimed simply at helping you do the best you can at reaching and ministering to preschoolers, children and youth.

So, what IS Orange Tour? Big, national conferences can often be hard for people to attend. The cost of the conference, plus travel,lodging and meals can be too much for many people. The Orange Tour is designed to fill the gap for those that can’t afford a big, national conference. There are 14 stops on the schedule for Orange Tour 2015. With this many stops they are able to spread them all over the country. As a result there is a good chance that there is an Orange Tour stop within a reasonable drive of your location. This reduces the cost of travel and, for many, eliminates the need for lodging. The reduced cost also provides an opportunity for more people from a given church to attend.

Ok, that still doesn’t really answer the question of what Orange Tour is. For starters I would recommend checking out the official website at HERE. In the mean time let me give you a brief description…

Imagine some of the top names in ministry to children and youth. Imagine you in a venue with just a couple hundred other people while that person shares some of the lessons that have learned. Imagine a smaller group in a breakout session where you can actually ask questions of some of the brightest and best minds in ministry. That is Orange Tour. Of course there is also the excitement and energy that comes from being with a group of people that are just as passionate about reaching the next generation as you are. That’s the sort of thing that can’t really be explained, but has to simply be experienced.

What questions do you have? As a ministry leader and simply a child of God we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. As a result we all aim to be careful in how we spend money on things like conferences. I know that some may still have questions that I have not answered here. I would recommend that you check out their website. However, I would also invite you to leave me a question in the comments below. I will do all I can to answer your questions from my own personal experience. I also have some direct connections with the people that put on the Orange Conference and produce the curriculum and other materials. What I can’t answer I’d be glad to reach out to them to get answered.

In case you’re curious, I’m planning to attend the Orange Tour stop in Ocala, Florida on November 10th. If you’re in Florida I’d love to see you there. If you are going to be there, let me know. I’d love to meet you in person.

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While You’re At The Orange Conference

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.

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Defining Moments #OC12: People

Crowd 1The 2014 Orange Conference is rapidly approaching. With that in mind, I came across this old post today and thought I’d share it. This post was originally post on This was written based on my experience after attending my first Orange Conference in 2012. I hope that this helps.

Previously I’ve talked about how the 2012 Orange conference was a defining moment for me. The first thing that allowed this conference to make such an impact on me was the people I met. Here is a list of some of the people and how they impacted me:

  • Barbara Graves, Wendy Douglas, and Tonya Langdon: These ladies are part the team that I had the privilege of leading over at Kidmin1124. This is the first time that I have ever met these ladies in person, but I sincerely pray that it will not be the last. These women were each an inspiration to me already, and are even more so now that I have spent a little time with them.
  • Jim Wideman: I know, who is children’s ministry has not been inspired by Jim Wideman. Well, on Wednesday night I had an opportunity to have dinner with Jim and some of he folks who have been through his Infuse program. Jim had never met me before and I sure had never heard of me, but he was still willing to allow me to join his group for dinner. This type of generosity is not often seen these days, even in the church.
  • Tommy Campbell: Tommy was with the 410 Bridge. The 410 Bridge was one of many organizations set up at the conference to tell people about what it is they do in hopes of connecting with the attendees and with the churches they represent. However, Tommy makes this list while many others did not. You see, as a guest blogger I wanted to get to know a little about the different organizations represented. So, I approached Tommy and asked him to fill me in. We then proceeded to have a conversation that lasted at least 20 minutes. Tommy spoke with such a passion, that I found it difficult to walk away. This conversation served to re-ignite the passion in me. I wouldn’t say that this passion had gone cold, but simply had been filed away for future use. Tommy helped me to realize that the future is now.
  • Amy Dolan: I consider Amy to be one of the superstars in the Kidmin world. Despite this, she took the time to sit and talk with me, one-on-one. In fact we talked for over an hour. Like with Tommy, my time with Amy helped to dig up some latent passion.
  • Amy Fenton Lee, Meaghan Wall, and Denise Briley: Amy is another one that I consider to the be a Kidmin super star. I am sad to say that prior to Orange, I had not heard of Meaghan or Denise. Well, I had the opportunity to have dinner with these ladies and Joe McAlpine on Friday night. While I may have never heard of these other two ladies, I can tell you that I will never forget them. Prior to this dinner I would have considered Amy to be the premier when it comes to special needs ministry. Now I would add these two ladies to the list. It is humbling to be able to sit with a group of people so passionate and knowledgeable that were still willing to pour themselves into a couple of children’s pastor desperate to do a better job of ministering to a group of people that most have forgotten.
  • Rhonda Haslett: Several weeks ago I wrote an article about regional conferences. Rhonda commented on that post and we then passed a couple of emails back and forth. You see, she runs regional conferences aimed specifically at volunteers and this is something that God is giving me a passion for. Well, I didn’t even know that she was going to be there. During one of the breaks on Friday I walked out of the bloggers suite and started talking with a random person who happened to be standing there. That person was Rhonda. She and I went on to talk for the remainder of the break and part way into the next session about our shared passion for equipping those that give freely of their time to minister to children. With over 5000 people attending the conference God placed Rhonda literally in my path.
  • Joe McAlpine: At the beginning of the week Joe was just a random person that I had connected with in hopes of saving my church a little money as we split the cost of the hotel room and rental car. However, as the week progressed it was clear that God has something far bigger in mind. From the very beginning Joe and I hit it off. Of course, you would expect a couple of charismatic, young men with a shared passion for ministry to children to get along, but by the end of the week we had become friends. Then, late Friday night, hours after the conference had ended we had a chance to sit and talk. We had shared bits and pieces of our own stories throughout the week, but this conversation went so much deeper. We talked about a number of things, but there is one thing that Joe said to me that I will never forget. “You have to pursue your calling.” I don’t yet know the full impact that this is going to have on my life, but I do know this; up to this point I have not been pursuing my calling. I have been kinda waiting around for God to give it to me. I have been working very hard, but I have not been pursuing my calling. I am not sure what God has planned for my future, but I know that from this moment on I will pursue my calling for all that I am worth. Joe had only known me from a few days, but he was willing to speak into my life.

For some this may just look like a list of people. It may just look like notes about conversations that I had, but trust me it is so much more. We speak with lots of people during the course of our lives. However, it is rare that those conversations have any lasting impact on us, rare that they define who we are. Trust me when I say that these people have had a lasting impact on my life. These people are the first part of the reason that I say that this conference was a defining moment for my life. I thank God for connecting with these people, and I thank these people for the contribution they have had on my life.

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Passing Thoughts for Orange Blogger Week.

Today concludes Orange Blogger Week. I thought I’d share some final thoughts.

You need the Orange Conference. Ok, maybe not specifically the Orange Conference, but you need a chance to refuel. If you are a ministry leader you need to take time to let others pour into YOUR life. In ministry we spend so much time pouring into others that we some times run out of stuff to pour. If you don’t attend the Orange Conference, attend SOME conference. You and your ministry will be better for it.

The Orange Conference Needs YOU. Yes, the conference will happen whether you are there are not. But, without the people that attend, there is no conference. The best speakers, the greatest music, none of it matters if there are no people there.

You need SOMEONE that is at the Orange Conference. I don’t know who it is or why, but I know that waiting for you at The Orange Conference is a person that God wants you to connect with. I don’t know what your need is. Heck, you may not even know what it is. When I went to my first Orange Conference I didn’t even know that I had a need, but God did. I ended up sharing a room with a guy that spoke directly to a need I didn’t even know I had. God has a similar plan for you.

Someone at the Orange Conference needs YOU. Just as much as there is someone there that you need to meet, there is someone there that needs to meet YOU. I won’t even begin to guess who it is, or what it is that they need, but I am confident that there is someone at Orange Conference that will benefit from connecting with you. God has a plan for each person there and for at least one of them you are a part of that plan.

These statements may seem grandiose and I’ll admit that they are. But, I still believe that they are true. I understand that taking a week away from your job or ministry and spending the money it takes to attained such a conference is hard. I know that the decision weighs heavily on many of us. I know that for many of us, including myself, the money for the conference comes out of our own pocket. All of these things can make you question the value of attending such a conference. I can offer no guarantees except this one: attend the Orange Conference and you will not be sorry.

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