When I accepted the position of Children’s Director a couple of years ago, one of my leaders reminded me that taking on this role would mean I would become less invested in my current role as Youth Pastor. Still, I accepted the additional role. I expressed to that leader that I would be okay with that because what I really wanted to do as Children’s Director, was to begin investing into a new culture of Children’s Ministry where we would develop habits to set kids up to be more easily integrated into youth group, and thus into the future church. I wanted to become more invested in their overall spiritual growth from cradle to college and beyond.
As I looked at the opportunity for structural growth in our Children’s Ministry, I made a conscious choice to adopt the Orange Strategy. I had heard about the Orange Strategy years before I had even taken on the Children’s Director role, but knew right away that it was where I felt we should be heading. What is the Orange Strategy, you ask? It is simply the impact of successfully combining the Light of the Church (represented by the color yellow) and the Love of the Family (represented by the color red) to work together and show a generation who God is, thus creating a new color—ORANGE. I tell ya what . . . here’s a visual of what that looks like . . .
As our Children’s Ministry Crew and parents have made the shift to the Orange Strategy elements we’ve implemented, we’ve seen quality growth not just in numbers of kids, but in their excitement to show up and participate in church, their desire to become leaders in Kid’s Church/Youth Group, and their efforts to hide the Word of God in their hearts. I was talking to one of our parents yesterday morning and he said,
“When I picked my son up from Westside Kids on our first visit here, he asked me, ‘Dad, can we come back tomorrow!?! Since being plugged in here, I’ve noticed that He has more faith than I think I do at times. He gets excited about scripture memory and really holds on to the verses we memorize at home together.'”
That, along with similar feedback from other families, reassures me that we are heading in a great direction. Since adopting the Orange Strategy, our volunteers and workers have become more involved and invested in the lives of the kids we see each week and it shows in all of their testimonies of what God is doing in their classes. By no means am I saying that Westside Kids is a perfect ministry free of shortcomings and hurdles, but I am saying that we are now working more as a team to strategize how we can best serve and minister to the kids that God has entrusted to our ministry. Our team is committed to the journey and is able to trust the process more and more as we continue to bond together. While we still have a way to go, I have no doubts that we are on the right track.
Last year, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to attend the one-day Orange Tour in Seattle, hosted by the folks that run the Orange Conference and the masterminds behind the Orange Strategy. I learned a LOT of great material to implement and walked away feeling equipped for even more forward motion in Children’s and Youth Ministry. In fact, I gleaned so much from the experience that I knew I should make it a priority to attend the actual Orange Conference in Atlanta. I was so passionate about that pursuit that at the end of the Orange Tour, I purchased (out of my own pocket) my ticket to attend the Orange Conference. After that, I brainstormed and worked with my Pastor to create a game plan for me to be able to actually attend it. Thankfully, I was able to cut costs by arranging lodging with my best friend Joy. After hammering out a few more details, the game plan was able to work out (including being able to take off time at my other job to travel this week to Atlanta for the conference). It feels like a dream come true knowing that I will get to spend a week gleaning wisdom, inspiration, and guidance from some of the greatest minds surrounding Children’s and Youth ministry. To say I’m bursting with excitement would be an understatement! Here’s a sneak peak of what I’ll be experiencing at the conference this week:
I am flying to Atlanta today and then tomorrow I will have a day off to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with different friends of mine that live in Atlanta. Then on Wednesday, I start with the Pre-Conference Workshops. The Pre-Conference Sessions I chose are:
- YOU LEAD KIDS: [With Mike Clear] Come network and learn from others who do what you do every week. Discover the five critical areas you need to grow and develop as a leader. Practically assess where you are now, in each of these areas, and begin to create your own long-term development plan.
- BUILDING A HEALTHY VOLUNTEER CULTURE: [With Chad Ward] In this breakout we will discuss ways to recruit children’s volunteers in such a way that you create something they will love . . . almost as much as you do.
- STARTING A CHURCH FOR UNCHURCHED FAMILIES: [With Carey Nieuwhof] How do you create a ministry to effectively reach the families in your community? In this breakout, we’ll look at 12 characteristics of today’s unchurched families and discuss what these characteristics mean for your ministry.
- SAFETY SYSTEMS: [With Jim Wideman] Safety is essential for ministry. In this breakout, we will talk about practical ways to develop and implement policies and procedures for your ministry, how to evaluate the ones you already have, and how best to communicate ministry expectations regarding your safety plan to volunteers and families.
At the conference, I’ll have the chance to network with leaders and speakers across the nation. One that I’m already particularly looking forward to meeting is Megan Stewart, who is the Preteen Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, where my bestie Cindy J. and her family attend. Not only will it be refreshing to connect with others in my same vein of ministry, but we actually share a lot of the same interests and personality traits. Along with those connections, I’ll get to hear from incredible speakers and artists who work to help us make Children’s Ministry “the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week.” Those speakers include Doug Fields, Perry Noble, Sue Miller, Derwin Gray, Reggie Joiner, Heather Zempel, Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, Jon Acuff, and more! During the main portion of the conference, I’ll also be attending some breakout sessions I hand-picked to help us grow in some specific areas that I see our ministry moving forward in:
- STRATEGIES TO INCLUDE EVERY CHILD (including those with special needs): [With Amy Fenton Lee] Join us as we discuss new ideas as well as tried and true strategies to help volunteers present Bible stories and engage every student, including kids with ADHD, autism, sensory needs, and other learning differences.
- DESIGNING A FAMILY EXPERIENCE TO CAPTURE THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR COMMUNITY: [With Mike Clear] Some people like mediocre. But you’re not some people. You want families in your community to experience something that will capture their imagination and change the trajectory of their week. You want them to be drawn to each other and to be excited by relevant biblical principles. In this breakout, we will explore ways you can make that happen when you decide to do an FX
- LEADING TEEN VOLUNTEERS: [With Meaghan Wall] With intentional recruitment and well-planned training, teens can fulfill many volunteer needs for a ministry. In this breakout, we’ll show you how to create an environment that fosters experiential life-change for contributing students while raising up future ministry leaders.
- SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY TOP 10: [With Amy Fenton Lee] In this breakout, she will share 10 current issues a church can anticipate facing as they welcome kids with special needs. Join Amy as she prepares you to meet these new challenges well.
With a natural bent toward learning/research, I’m very much anticipating all of the knowledge I will gain to help propel us steadily and sustainably toward a better, brighter, and bolder approach of healthy discipleship for the children at Westside from cradle to college. I’m also looking forward to coming back home with more practical tools to equip our team to uncover their sweet spots in life and ministry as they continue to invest in the future of the Church!