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I’m wearing a T-shirt today that simply says “It’s just a phase, so don’t miss it.” I bought it a few years ago at the Orange Conference when this was the theme, and it’s one that I wear on a consistent basis, not just because it’s an extremely comfortable shirt, but because of the mission it reminds me of.
I’ve been blessed to get to go to the Orange Conference for almost each of the last 7 years, and I’ve spent a lot of time writing about it being my favorite conference for ministry leaders out there. It seems inevitable that when I mention that, someone always chimes in with “but I don’t use their curriculum, so why would it be beneficial for me?” To tell you the truth, I didn’t use their curriculum either until the past few months. We used Middle School XP3 in a previous ministry, and one of the first things I did with the church I’m at now as the Family Life Pastor is switch us over to Orange. I loved the conference for 6 years without ever using the curriculum, and now that I do use it, I can’t think back to many breakouts I’ve attended that would make using the curriculum that much better (they have them, I’ve just never gone, because I didn’t use the curriculum. Make sense?).
No, why I love the Orange Conference, and why I keep wearing the shirt several years later, is because everything that happens at the Orange conference (from registration to break outs to sponsors to slides and worship) is geared towards one big thought that pushes ministry, regardless of size and context, forward. A few years ago it was the Phase concept, and the introduction of the Phase books and timelines. In fairness, this was nothing new. Most ministries were already broken down by age groups and had their discipleship steps. But I walked away from my time in Atlanta completely blown away and fired up with the mission of making each phase important, training leaders to cherish each and every phase. This concept was not something most people had given thought to, I’m sure, but it was presented in a way we could take it back to our churches and communities and implement ourselves for greater clarity and effectiveness.
I’m still going through the resources and notes available from last year and using it for our team. This year, I’m hoping to be there with a team, and I can’t wait for the theme, It’s Personal, which seems to be building right off of last year’s theme of “For our neighbors.”
I love that!
This year, I transitioned to a new role that is re-planting a church in a suburb of Chicago that has far too few churches for the growth of the town. Our building is not that old, but it was built in the middle of farm fields that over the last few years have blossomed into sprawling neighborhoods, with a brand new, huge hospital literally across the street from our front door. Since I’ve gotten here, we’ve been focused on the idea of being for our community, and reaching those in our back yard, to get out of our building and into the community. This year’s theme is exactly where we are as a church.
But what I’ve seen from getting to interact with thousands of churches through the YouthMin.org Facebook group is that there are a lot of churches trying to answer the question “how do we reach our community?” This year’s conference may not give you a million new ideas to go home with, nor should it really. But what it will do is give clarity and conviction to things you may already be doing that you can improve.
I hope to be in Atlanta this April, and I hope you will be, too!