What #OC14 Taught Me

I went to Orange for the first time last week, making that my third ministry conference experience in the last 14 months! Here comes Middle School Campference this fall! :)

Here is the 900-word summary of what I learned:

Youth Ministry is about the Family.

Doug Fields said, “You may be a children’s or youth worker, but you’re also doing marriage ministry.”

Let’s get real: Programs compete with the family. My junior high Sunday nights do nothing to serve the family; it just takes students away from their one family night. If I care about my students, then I care about the time they spend with their families; therefore I need to make sure they get as much time there as possible.

When there’s an issue in the church, we try to answer it with programs.  Heather Zempel said, “Programs to not disciple people. People disciple people.”  She also said, “Instead of finding people to serve structures, find structures that serve people.”

In Reggie Joiner’s breakout, he gave two pointers for ministers in their 20s that I keep thinking about. The first is applicable here: Be intentional about keeping things simple. Yearly decide what to stop in order to do other things better. That doesn’t mean to just get rid of something that’s not working. True leadership comes when you prune strong stuff to make the weak show its potential.

Tension is GOOD.

Reggie gave a message that made my SBC brain officially reconcile with my new UMC ministry.

There are all of these tensions: “I believe that the Bible is God’s word and authoritative” no longer has to compete with “This person needs love.” Reggie Joiner said (something like), “If your beliefs are hurting people, then it is time to reevaluate your beliefs.” He also said, “Kids should feel safe enough to process their doubt so they can own their faith.”

Truth no longer competes with Grace. The Church no longer has to compete with the World. Faith no longer has to compete with Doubt. They can work together, constantly be in tension with one another, and that’s beautiful. You can know God with all your heart, and he can still be a huge mystery. You no longer have to pick one or another; there is no sacrifice in living with tension.

“Say yes to beliefs that matter. Say yes to people who matter more.

“Say yes to the uncomfortable moments to see lives changed.”

Volunteers need to be owners, not renters.

Reggie Joiner said in a breakout that one of the keys to having a ministry that disciples kids instead of babysitting them is having weekly volunteers who are invested. Having rotating volunteers does nothing for ministry. He said, “You may be teaching kids truth each week with a different leader, but you’re not discipling them.”  He also pointed out that leaders may not understand the need to be there each week because they don’t understand the importance. He said, “People don’t commit to weekly because we haven’t invited them to commit to something significant.”  Our family pastor who was with us, David Williamson, added in our staff discussion: “Are you asking for less of a commitment from volunteers than you expect from attending families?” Brilliant. So brilliant. I plan to blog about this in abundance.

Sue Miller then used an analogy in her breakout about how volunteers need to be owners, and not renters. Owners see a problem in their home and they fix it. Renters call the landlord and expect them to fix it.  We have to convince our volunteers to commit to and sign the mortgage, and be realistic that it may cost them something. They need to learn that it is THEIR house and THEIR ministry…and that they are on a team of people who feel the same. Sue said, “It’s easy to leave a task, but few will leave a family…When volunteers rent, they don’t get deep enough to join a family.”

Jeff Henderson said something that will preach all day, “You will never experience what the church can do for you until you see what the church can do through you.”

We can talk about homosexuality.

Andy Stanley gave the most loving, inclusive talk on same-sex attraction I have ever heard. No matter where your stance is on the subject theologically, it is difficult to argue with Andy on his approach to talking with middle schoolers. Andy said that his church has adopted this statement: “We believe the church should be the safest place to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

Andy reminded us that the answers we give to our kids are the answers that they will have with them for the rest of their lives… Jeff Henderson said that “sometimes ministry gets in the way of ministering.” Sometimes we have to put our personal beliefs on hold to love a kid where they’re at. But especially with junior highers, we don’t need to get into theology. We need to get into Grace. We need to get into Love. And we need to get into the Truth that Jesus loves us right where we’re at. That’ll preach!

One last thought from Jon Acuff: “God will never be handcuffed by the failures nor unleashed by the successes of your ministry.”

And from Mark Batterson: “In an argument with God you need to lose so that you can win.” Because “sometimes God shows up, and sometimes God shows off.”

What did you guys learn at Orange? My head is spinning. :)

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