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Orange Conference 2019- It's Personal

The theme for Orange Conference 2019 is It’s Personal. On Thursday, October 18, registration opens for this incredible conference at the cheapest rate you will ever find it, $259. I, for one, love the theme for this upcoming conference because when things become personal, those things have a way of changing us and changing how we see things. Those changes help shape us and as ministry leaders, help shape those we are investing in daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Below is how my life and ministry has been reshaped through attending the Orange Conference. Consider this your open invite to join me and 8,000 other leaders in Atlanta, Georgia, May 2019.

Have you ever been somewhere expecting some good things to happen only to have those expectations blown out of the water? That has been my experience every year that I am been blessed to attend the Orange Conference. I typically show up on Tuesday night for the big porch party, grab my registration bag, chat with a few friends that I've made since being involved with Orange in some capacity and then call it a night knowing that the week will be good, the worship will be good, the attendance will be good, the ideas shared will be good, and so on. It NEVER takes long for my expectations to be destroyed though, which with all things considered, that is a very good thing.

Reggie Joiner and team invest so much into leaders. Leaders just like you and me. Leaders in preschool ministry, elementary ministry, preteens, middle schoolers (we all know they need lots of investment, right?), high school ministry, family ministry, married ministry, people ministry, and the list goes on and on and on and on. The team at Orange puts together such a comprehensive conference that many, many church leaders who don't even use any curriculum produced by the folks at Orange, make the Orange Conference a priority to attend every year. Why do you ask? Allow me the opportunity to share just a couple of things that have helped shape me in ministry. 

The biggest ministry changer for me has been the voices, the people, who have spoken directly to me without even knowing it. I think of a guy like Ryan Leak who visited his local Starbucks multiple times a week and began asking the folks who worked there how he could be praying for them. That rocked my world. I took that idea back home with me and began asking folks who were serving me at places like Chik Fil A how I could be praying for them. Just that one little question has produced a new confidence in me as an introvert to become more personal with "strangers" that I see on a weekly basis. I've been blessed to see and hear of how those prayers have been answered. 

Do You Have Five Minutes?

Do You Have Five Minutes?

Here lately my minutes have been consumed with VBS prep as it’s just a few days away before we welcome hundreds of children and I lead a couple hundred teenagers and adults for the entire week. On top of VBS prep and follow through, there’s summer camp coming up, Promotion Sunday, launching a new format on Sunday mornings, communicating with small group leaders, parents, staff, boss, and the list goes on and on. I’m sure you can relate to this in your workplace as well.

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YouLead Labs Wednesday AM Edition

This morning consisted of two great breakouts all across The Forum at Infinite Energy Center. My first breakout was Navigating Infant Loss & Infertility, which was led by Kenny Conley. Kenny shared some hard to swallow statistics such as 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage. 3 out of the 4 of those miscarriages end within the first trimester. As if those stats weren't devastating enough, 1 in 10 couples in the US face fertility issues. This breakout was totally relatable for me and was one that I was absolutely attached to since it was announced by the folks at Orange. You can see more of our story at www.ashersrainbow.org. Kenny plugged the Made Known resource that he and his wife Sarah helped create while serving in Austin, Tx. The church needs to find ways to better minister to this large population, in which, many fill the seats and pews of churches week in and week out with so many questions. 

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My second breakout of the day was Discovering What Volunteers Really Want- for Elementary Leaders, led by Bobby Ikebudu of Boca Raton Community Church. Here's a brief list of what Bobby shared: Every volunteer wants to follow a great leader, serve in a place that fits them, they want meaningful training (good food helps), they desire authentic community (we are made for community), they want to serve in a "we" type of culture, fill their bucket with vision, celebrate wins with big time fun. 

#OC18 is here

If you’ve attended The Orange Conference in the past, you know that Tuesday nights informally kick off the week with a Party on the Porch. Music, games, Kona Ice, your favorite Orange Specialist and hundreds of like-minded folks gather for two hours of fun talking, dancing, coffee drinking, snow cone eating, name badge and registration bag retrieving, Orange store shopping, excitement.

If you’ve not attended The Orange Conference before, perhaps catching a glimpse of all the fun is enough to make you want to attend next year. Get the dates on your calendar now as #OC19 takes place in Atlanta May 1-3, with the Party on the Porch kicking off the week on Tuesday night, April 30.  I’ll be blogging and posting interviews all week from various attendees and even hope to catch up with some of the speakers as well. I’ll also be live tweeting throughout the conference and you can follow along @dmaddron or simply by using the hashtag #OC18 in the search field.

Think Orange!

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Thoughts from Children's Pastor's Conference Day 2

If you have been in attendance this week, say Amen to everything God has poured into you thus far. If you haven't been here, don't be discouraged. Hopefully, you are getting inspired enough to want to be present next year. Let's get into the day, shall we?

McNair Wilson was the morning speaker for the general session. He has done work with lots of corporations, both big and small, but the two that sticks out to me is his work with Chick Fil A and The Walt Disney Company as an Imagineer. I love them both for many of the same reasons, the way they treat their guests. I could go on, but you want to read more about the conference so let's proceed. 

Here are just a few key statements from McNair in the general session. 

What do you do best? Do you do it every day? 

Years ago is the place you can’t get to from here. Don’t beat yourself up for what you didn’t do yesterday.

All actively creative people:

  • Take risks
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Stay curious
  • See differently

Failure is evidence that you’ve tried something.

Ask the question: what has never been done before? 

Ok. There's just a bit from McNair. More from him in a bit as I also sat in on his breakout. That last statement though is worth us really spending some time trying to answer in how it relates to where we're doing ministry and our methods as children's ministry leaders.

Breakout #1- Effective Neighborhood Outreach led by Kevin Reynolds. The synopsis to this is being willing to meet kids and families where they are at. Build that relationship, get them wanting to come back for more, give them Jesus, and then watch them enter the doors of your church. So many churches are investing big time money from their budgets on getting people inside their churches for an event other than a weekend church service.

I think back to our own efforts as a church. This past Halloween, we saw 1,300-1,500 folks come through our doors. I measured that as a huge win except for the fact, a few days later, when our church doors were opened again, they didn't show up. 

If we are going to be effective, we must be willing to meet folks where they are. Have your church members offer up their front yard for some neighborhood engagement. Don't stop with the one time. Build it up. Build a team to lead that neighborhood group and then you, as the children's m ministry leader, find another neighborhood and another front yard. Before long, you've got a handful of cell groups throughout your community who you've built relationships with and hopefully they are stepping foot on the weekends at one of your church services. Jesus went to where the people were, and then they began to follow Him. Stop expecting unchurched folks to walk into your doors without you having invested something in them. Let them see that you care and then they'll show you how much they care!

Breakout #2- HATCH: Brainstorming secrets of a Disney Imagineer

Let me just start off saying, buy this book. You can find it on his website: mcnairwilson.com

I'm not paid to say that either. This book has the ability to change you, your ministry and your church staff. Order 20, and he'll throw in a free 30 minute Skype session with your staff. Let me just tell you, BARGAIN!

Here are a few notes from his breakout:

When coming together for a brainstorming session, consider following these steps: 

 

  1. Start a Fire- let people know what the meeting is about and hold it to about 3-7 folks
  2. Creative/Critical thinking (never do these together)
  3. Yes, and- always follow up with this statement
  4. No blocking/no wimping- must be a team player, nothing negative to be brought to these
  5. More ideas- don't limit the number of ideas you bring to the table
  6. Wild ideas- don't limit the craziness of an idea (McNair has helped create some great attractions at Disney parks all around the world) 
  7. Critical thinking- hash out the details here, storyboards, napkins, etc.

McNair went on to share a conversation he had with Dan Cathey, of Chick Fil A. Dan raved about the book Good to Great and asked McNair his thoughts on it. McNair responded with such a great question that we absolutely must consider when thinking about our ministries "What's after great?" We simply can't stop at great. 

My final thought of his to share is this: design spaces/events with the whole senses in mind (Sound, look, smell, feel, taste).

Incredible stuff I tell ya. 

Thoughts from Children's Pastor's Conference Day One PM Edition

Have I mentioned how great the worship has been this week? Being in the presence of the Lord with a couple thousand other children's ministry leaders has been incredible.  

Melissa J. MacDonald was the first of two speakers to take the stage Tuesday night. She is a great follow on twitter as well, in case you are not following her. @kidsconsultant is where you can find her in the Twitterverse. She is incredibly funny, fixing to be getting married, just had knee replacement while still in her 30's, and is a Jesus loving woman! 

Melissa opened up her time with us with this statement "God is present, and you are here on purpose." She then challenged conference attendees to partake of CPC18 and to not just be an observer. She made many more great points, with a few that I'll share here. 

How can you hear His voice if you never stop using yours? 

Stop telling kids to start doing what you’ve stopped doing. 

If you believe that you are made for “this”, then stop depending on yourself to figure it out. 

If you are made for this, then be honest with yourself. 

If you are made for this, there is nothing that comes your way that you can’t get through because He is with you.

Being broken, bruised or hurting doesn’t disqualify you from this, it really qualifies you. 

Melissa was great and I would highly recommend you take the opportunity to get to know her or bring her to a camp or training. 

Our second keynote was Beth Guckenberger. Beth and her husband Todd serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. They have a big heart for foster and adoptive ministries and themselves have raised ten children. Beth really opened her heart up to those in the room. Before leading us to take the Lord's Supper, Beth shared how we need to make room for Jesus when we find ourselves in stories that we don't make sense. I immediately connected with this point as I reflected how God has worked in my life through the death of our infant son Asher in 2014. It's nothing short of amazing in looking back at the work the Lord has done as a result of a lot of pain in our lives. 

Beth also reminded us that there is no place too dark or too nasty that Jesus wouldn't go into. Afterall, look at where He was born. He desires to meet everyone right where they are at, regardless of where they been or what they've done. AMEN!

I'll have more from CPC as Day Two kicks off!

Walt Disney World through the eyes of a Children's Pastor

Walt Disney World! My favorite place in the world, outside of my home with family! If you've been, hopefully, you feel like I do, but it's ok if you don't! I just love it here, and I'll share a few reasons why and how it relates to my children's ministry and yours. Let's get to it, shall we? 

First, Disney spares no expense to make guests feel welcomed and at home. For those of you who've been, you would agree, the company as a whole does so much to accommodate their guests. It starts with the option for a shuttle from the airport to your resort if you are staying on Disney property. They take care of your luggage so that you can enjoy a trip to the parks or perhaps just some downtime in your room upon arrival. Your luggage makes it to your room later on after you've arrived.

Now, how does this apply to children's ministry? We need to have the same mindset of making our guests and members feel welcomed every time they step foot into our children's ministry environments. Some of the biggest frustrations about getting to church is what happens in preparing for getting to church. Getting out of bed on time, getting kids dressed, eat breakfast, etc. You know the drill. Sunday mornings before leaving for church service can be some of the most stressful of the week. Let's not add to the stress by extending that chaos into our environments. Have welcome teams in place, make sure your security measures are the best they can be, greet families new and old with a smile, and share the love of Jesus with them as much as you can by what you say and what you do in the few brief moments you have with them in your environments. First impressions are everything!

Speaking of first impressions, it doesn’t take a Disney budget to make a great first impression on kids and families. The second thing to access is are your kidmin environments warm and welcoming or is there room for improvement there? The Walt Disney Company has an incredible team of visionaries, set designers, performers, and the list could go on. Disney hasn't spared any money in the stories they desire to tell in their parks. From themed lands to the music and details, they've sold you in their work ethic. They cut no corners and neither should we! Disney gives it's guests the very best they have to offer and we should be doing that for God and every family that comes into our environment. Give those families your very best, and they'll keep coming and tell a lot of people about why they are attending your church and sending their kids to your children's ministry environment. Create a theme for your environment. Take it as far as God allows. He won't bring you to it if He ain't gonna see you through it. 

Lastly, the presentation is as much about the experience as anything. As I was walking through Disney's Animal Kingdom, I would simply look around me and see how much detail there is in the work. From the plants and greenery to the concrete work to the costumes and presentation of the different rides or shows, every bit of these things matter. How we present ourselves to guests or regular attendees matters. How we present the lessons matter. The language and terminology matter. Find unique and innovative ways to present your lesson. Don't rely on the same old thing all the time. Switch it up some. Bring in new faces. Create large group sets. Theme your small group rooms to go along with the lesson. Get your small group leaders pumped up about being there on a cold, dreary morning. Have something for first-time guests to take home with them that represents your children's ministry. Maybe it's a t-shirt or fun goody bag, find ways to connect with those kids. They'll want to come back and bring their friends with them. I keep wanting to come back to Disney World. It's because of the presentation.

Give God and your families the very best and watch what happens. 

Beginning 2018 with a Bang!

Hello, 2018! It's nice to meet you! So far, you've been pretty good to me although it's been a bit cold! 

It is a new year with new dreams and for a lot of us, a new direction in ministry. For me personally, I've been praying for some new innovation in my ministry and it hasn't taken long for that to happen. 

Have you ever tried something that many folks look at you and say, "what are you doing?" Well, that's where I'm at this week. I am trying something that for many around me, seems so foreign but in my mind, it makes so much sense. I am hosting a vision casting meeting online. 

You may be like a few others around me who really put that idea into question. I get it. It's really out there "ideas" wise but that's part of the reason I believe in doing this meeting online. It's so outside the box. It's innovative in my environment and yet, folks can be in the comforts of their homes or wherever they find themselves to attend. Here's the really bold piece to this, not only am I hosting it online, I'm doing it on Facebook Live. WOW!!!!! I know, I know. CRAZY!!!!!!!!!

Here's my basis for this, folks are on Facebook, right? The folks that I want to reach the most are on there and if I can pull them together for just a few minutes on a Thursday evening, from the comforts of their home or wherever they find themselves, then I am winning! It's unconventional and perhaps may be a total bust, but it's the best place to gather the folks I've targeted, it doesn't cost me or the church anything from a staffing standpoint and I get to share with this targeted group my heart. 

So, 2018 is starting off with a bang for me. I'd love to hear from you on how 2018 is starting off. What are your thoughts on my meeting plan? How are you being innovative in 2018? 

My Checklist for Celebrating Those in the Trenches of Children's Ministry

As 2017 winds to a close in a mere week or so, I’ve spent some down time reflecting on all God has done in me, in my wife and kids, and in those, I serve with on a weekly basis. The year 2017 has been a definite year of growth for me personally and professionally as I’ve prayed for the Lord to stretch me. And stretch me He has, to the point of downright uncomfortable (no better way to be stretched though if personal/professional growth is sought after). 

A big part of my reflection of 2017 has been focused on my children’s ministry staff, paid and volunteer. “How have I helped them develop? How have they helped me develop? What does 2018 look like for our team? What areas are we strong in? What areas need strengthening? Who am I praying for specifically to join our team? How will our team handle substantial growth?” The questions have gone on and on and thankfully, they have helped me grow tremendously. It’s not that I never thought about the answers to those questions, but it’s more of not spending adequate time evaluating those questions and what I thought the answers might be and furthermore, how my staff might answer those questions. 

My biggest goal as I looked at closing out 2017 was to honor my staff the best way I knew how, with food. The thought of just sitting around a table (OC17 reference there) and enjoying them was incredible. How was I going to pull it off though as someone who is not very good at details? I made a list, I checked it twice and shared it with my biggest asset at home and in ministry, my wife. She was a bit surprised at how well I had things put together. Quite honestly, so was I. It was so important though that I got it right. My team deserved this. They’ve been in the trenches of ministry with me for a good while. Some have come and gone of course, but many of these folks were already in place upon my arrival to First Baptist Lee’s Summit in January 2015. They’ve stayed too. That says more about the kids and families that they are impacting weekly then anything else. Such selfless folks! 

Here’s the checklist I created for the event: 

Who to invite- full list of volunteers serving Sunday AM, Sunday PM and Wednesday PM (include addresses)

Where to host gathering- chose to do it at my house as a come and go, was so personal and plus, these folks helped us pray for a new home and for many, this was their first chance to visit our new house 

Information for the invitation- where we’re meeting, the purpose of gathering, times, etc.

Creating/mailing invitations- had lots of help in this from my admin who created the design of invitation and took them to the post office for mailing

Created food/drink list- we offered milk (from Shatto Dairy, mmmm), orange juice, coffee, sweet tea from Chick Fil A (mmmm), hot chocolate, bottled water, bagels, fruit trays also from Chick Fil A, bagel spreads 

Created shopping list- needed to include plates, napkins, eating utensils, etc.

Order food- had Chick Fil A catered for the main course (chicken mini’s, mmmmmm)

Prepared venue for people- normal house cleaning type stuff plus setting up serving tables

Shopping- had to purchase/pick up supplies

Overall, this was a great “event” and an awesome time to honor so many folks in one setting. I definitely hope to grow in honoring the folks who are in the trenches and would love to hear/see how you are honoring/celebrating folks that you are serving alongside.