I’m extremely blessed to be at a church that sets aside money every year for me to grow as a Youth Pastor, and what that often means for me is going to conferences. For the last few years, the Orange Conference has been a pillar in my yearly calendar. I have to be there and I want to be there. There’s a number of reasons why it’s such a go-to conference for me, but above all, I have never left an Orange Conference without many deep questions to ponder in my philosophy of ministry. In addition, I’ve gotten fresh ideas and new insights. I always leave with pages and pages of notes from sessions to process over the flight/drive home and throughout the next few weeks.
Something I’d love to be able to do is process through those thoughts with someone else from our staff. I can bring home all of my notes, but it’s not the same as someone hearing those sessions for themselves.
So while many of those who attend ministry conferences every year get to go as part of a team, I know that I am not alone in being alone. But what makes the Orange Conference so stinking great is how deeply passionate their team is about relationships.
For those who are attending the Orange Conference alone, here are a few tips from my experiences these last few years in being a lone ranger on the Orange Frontier.
1 | Be Social
Social Media is your friend. Not the kind of friend you go to lunch with, i.e. you grab a plate of food, find a bench in a corner, and scroll through twitter/facebook reading how everyone else is doing. Follow the Orange Hashtag #OC15, and you’re sure to see a number of meet-ups. Have an author or blog you really like reading from Orange? Odds are, there is going to be some sort of event around that thing going on in these 3 days that you can be a part of. You just have to watch for it. For instance, there are dozens of us going from the YouthMin.org Facebook community. YouthMin.org is run by a couple of ordinary Youth Pastors, and we’d love to rent out the closest steakhouse and buy everyone steak, but we can’t :(. We can, however, take a caravan to Chick-fil-a and connect in real life, or take over a 1000 Hills coffee stand at the Arena.
On top of that, social still means what it meant 30 years ago. When you sit in your breakout sessions, you’re in a room with hundreds of other like-minded people. Talk to those who sit around you and ask lots of questions. If you’re a Youth Pastor, connect with as many other Youth Pastors as you can during these 3 days. Grab a cup of coffee with them, follow them and their ministries on Instagram, ask them a million questions. That’s what conferences are for.
2 | Understand it’s ok to skip a session
I’m going to the YouLead day on Wednesday, because I love soaking in as much information as I can. By the time Thursday morning rolls around, my brain could very well be fried from the information intake of just the pre-conference. There have been times in the past where I’ve had to just sit out a session, grab a cup of coffee, and just process through some stuff. You’re at a conference to learn, and you paid money to be there, so it can be understandable to feel guilty about missing even just one hour long session. But your brain will thank you for it, and you’ll get more out of future sessions because of the mental refresh.
Plus, if you take the advice from below, you won’t really miss anything.
3 | Buy the Influence Kit
I’ve got a team of leaders, both staff and volunteer, that I would love to have join me at the Orange Conference every year, but we aren’t able to make that happen. So I love that the conference makes the whole thing available to take home with you in the Influence kit. For $300 ( a lot of money, but consider what it’s for) you can get every pre-conference session + break out session + main stage talk as a download. Compare that to how much more money it would be for my whole Family Ministry team to fly to atlanta, plus more hotel rooms, plus more meals, plus conference registration, that is a huge savings and worthwhile investment. (Obviously, the investment of our whole team coming to the conference is worth it, and I wish they could all join me this year, it’s scheduling conflicts. But, this is the next best thing).
It also comes with all many of the brand new resources at the conference and some exclusive items only available in the kit. I swear I’m not trying to just hype up the most expensive product at the conference, but I really believe if you are going by yourself, this kit is a must buy. Not only do you get to take the whole conference home to share with your team, but you also get to ease your mind about following some advice in the previous two tips. You may miss a session or two over the week. Knowing you have the audio of those sessions to listen to when you get home helps it not be as big of a deal. You can focus on the networking aspect of the conference while you are at the conference, and take it a bit easier on the learning, since thats going home with you.
So those are my 3 points of advice for lone wolves at the Orange Conference. I’ll be there by myself again this year, and can’t wait to make a ton of new friends. If you’re going to be there, find me, tweet me, instagram me, I’d love to connect.
We’re also helping us tired bodies on our way to Orange stay caffeinated. Follow us on Instagram and you may get some free Starbucks out of it during the conference. Plus, we’re planning an impromptu meet up for our community and will be posting all about it on Instagram.