An Orange Conference Survival Guide

heart-216311_640Tomorrow starts my favorite 3 days of ministry [well, minus our Baptism Sunday because that’s just the best ever].

If you’ve never been to Orange Conference and this is your first time I want you to know that you are not alone in the following feeling:

You’ll feel like you can run through a brick wall because you’re so encouraged and simultaneously overwhelmed from trying to drink from the Orange firehose of awesome things to implement when you come home.

Because of this, your goal is to not panic and think of all the things you haven’t done because guess what?  Me neither.  And neither has that cool chick sitting next to you in the breakout.  If we were all doing all of these things really ridiculously well we wouldn’t need an Orange Conference now would we?

I’ve been an Orange Leader for almost 10 years which is longer than I’ve been married to my adorable hubs or a mom to my wild man combined.  All of these years and the thing I’ve learned over the last 5, 6? Orange Conferences is this:

Come with an open mind and leave with “Only 5”.

This means you’ll need to leave a ton of really good ideas at the Gwinett Center so that you can intentionally focus on the best ones.  You’ll also have to resist the urge to buy every single book, resource, and CD at the Orange Store.  Because it is all SO good.  Like, really REALLY good.

I’ve adapted the “Only 5” to my own conference-ing these last few years and have been way more productive during the year because I didn’t curl up into the fetal position when I came back wondering where to start.  Instead, I left with a plan and a focus on what I wanted to tackle for the upcoming ministry year.

This is especially helpful if you’re the only Orange Leader on your team or at your church.  This also prevents you from running into your Senior Pastor’s office immediately upon return and “conference barfing” on him all of the things you want to do.  Right now.  Today.

Here are 3 things you can do after every main session or breakout to prevent the embarrassing “conference barf”:

  1.  Evaluate the Content
    What is the one “take away” from the breakout?  Did you hear Sue Miller say something about the importance of how you ask a volunteer to lead and you realized that if you simply tweak your approach you may find recruiting to be easier?  For each breakout you’re looking for a bottom line: a basic principle, truth, or thought that you can easily stick on a post it note on your bulletin board in your office.  Write that at the bottom of your notes even if it’s not going to find a place on your “Only 5” this year it’s still worth visually sticking somewhere in your office upon your return.
  2. Prioritize
    If you’re just beginning to think Orange for your ministry or you’re a new Orange Leader, it’s probably not likely that you’ll be able to start small groups, a family experience, a special needs ministry, a volunteer leadership training program, and a parenting ministry all by the time you come back next year (trust me on this one) so which one thing are you going to strategically and intentionally cultivate for the next year?  Do you want to move from Sunday School to Small Groups?  Or start a Family Experience?  Sometime during the course of your breakouts make a wish list and then prioritize them based on your churches culture, your resources, and your own leadership strengths.  If you’re in a breakout that covers that content, awesome.  If you’re not, soak up everything you can and move on to the next step.
  3. Categorize
    There’s a lot of great stuff that you’ll witness, experience, and learn.  You need a place for it even if you’re not going to tackle it next Monday.  For all that great stuff that you loved but are not ready to put into practice categorize it into 3 little places in your head (or notebooks, or Evernote files, or audio files):  Right Now, 6 Months, Sometime Later.  Then, when you get those wild hairs throughout the year that we all tend to get in ministry you can filter it against your list.  If it falls in the Sometime Later Category and you’re still knee deep in the Right Now you’ll have no problem putting that on hold.  In theory.

Once you’ve organized your brain space for your breakouts and main sessions, here’s the 5 things you need to leave with:

1 Major Dream (Small Groups Ministry, a church-school partnership, etc.)
1 Right Now Change (a better way to communicate to your team, an organizational tactic, a change in your recruitment strategy, etc.)
1 Outside Contact (a cool person you sat next to at a breakout, a face to put to the name of your Orange Specialist, etc.)
2 Resources (1 for you and 1 for someone on your team who couldn’t make it)

Obviously, this is not a hard and fast rule but in general, the years I do this I always have a better experience and I feel like I got the most out of the conference.  Find me on Twitter and we’ll meet up!  I’ll be blogging and tweeting quite a bit over the next few days.  Happy Orange-ing!

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