The hardest part of this contest was saying, “no” to so many great entries! Thank you to everyone who participated. It was truly inspiring to see how “YES!” is changing your lives, your ministries and your communities. It’s definitely a preview of what we all have to look forward to at The Orange Conference 2014!
Below are the lucky seven contest finalists. Please take a look at what they had to say, then head on over to our Facebook page for voting. Once you reach the Facebook page, click the “Poll” button with five vertical blue lines. On the next page, record your entry and “vote.” You can choose to share your voting on your own wall. Or, if you wish to go directly to the Polling page, click here.
Voting ends Tuesday, November 26 at 5 p.m. EST. Winners will be announced on this blog the following week. We will award up to five registrations for OC14. These may be from the same church or multiple churches. Any winners who have previously registered for OC14 will have their registrations refunded. Free tickets include main conference tickets only. Preconference tickets may be purchased separately.
Dave, Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church
“The big YES for our Children’s Ministry happened when we started to ask the question, ‘Why?’ Why were we doing what we were doing? Was there a better way for us to minister to kids and their families in our current church environment? We laid every ministry on a giant white board and tried to list the top two things that each ministry provided. Wow, were we amazed at the amount of overlap that we had and the amount of commitment we were expecting of our church families.
“Here we were, a church that was publically declaring that we wanted our church family to be actively involved in the community, but we kept pulling them back to events, programs and ministries that were happening inside our church walls. I can remember distinctively one Sunday morning when a young mother came apologizing to me about her kids not being at church the past week for our mid week clubs. She was so sorry that she appeared to have tears in her eyes. Her reason–her husband had unexpectedly gotten off work early that day and as a family, they decided to go to the park and have a picnic. Here she was, apologizing to me for not being able to attend a ministry I was overseeing because they spent the evening together as a family playing in the park. This was an eye-opening experience. Our voices were saying one thing, but our actions and expectations were saying something opposite.
“On the white board, we tweaked some ministries and eliminated others. We came up with a game plan that would provide ministries to the family and also keep them involved in the community. And then we did the scary thing: We actually said “YES,” this is our game plan.
“We continued to say, YES despite the struggles. As we communicated the changes and started the transition, we lost every single one of our Sunday school teachers. Not one of them made the decision to transfer into the every week commitment we were asking of our new Small Group Leaders. But, God is faithful, and He provided so many new people who wanted to be Small Group Leaders that we actually had a waiting list. And a few years later, some of those same Sunday school teachers have come back and joined our team as Small Group Leaders.”
Cash, Fayetteville Christian Church
“Saying YES is sometimes too easy, but this time it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Six months ago I was the youth and children’s minister in Greenville, S.C., one of the best cities to live and raise a family. I got a phone call asking if I would like to become the children’s minister at a church in Fayetteville, N.C., home to Fort Bragg, one of the largest U.S. Army bases. Almost 35,000 families are a part of Ft. Bragg. I had never worked in a military town, but had heard story after story about the turnover rate of families, the lack of volunteers, and the struggles the community has to deal with. After meeting with the other ministers and leadership at the church, I still wasn’t 100 percent sure this is where I wanted our family to go. I was going to be leaving a pretty good thing in S.C.: We had put down some roots, and we had a church that loved us and was buying into the Orange Strategy. However, my heart began to wonder, what if we moved to Fayetteville? What if the church there bought into the Orange Strategy like the church in S.C. did? What if when families left our church they looked for or helped establish the idea of Orange at their next church? I knew then what I had to do.
“My wife and I and our three cats, packed our bags, left our church family and friends and moved to another Carolina. Fast forward to November 2013. I received a card from one of our many military dads who has been in Afghanistan since October 2012, and this is what is just some of what the note said: ‘I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate you. To hear the love and fire my daughter has come to have for Christ, and knowing that every Sunday she wants to be at church makes my heart so happy!’
“So, my YES was hard because working in a military town is hard. Watching month after month, moms and dads having to leave their family for weeks or months at a time is hard. But I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything. I love my church and I love my families that I get to minister to every day.”
Anna, Lake Avenue Christian Church
“In 2008, I said YES to the Lord when I was led into children’s ministry, leaving my comfortable job of 12 years to do something I was nearly clueless about. For four years I treaded water, keeping the ministry afloat but really not thriving the way I knew God wanted us to. We had people who were exhausted, doing so much and not necessarily doing what God had gifted them in. They were burnt out! I was so afraid to release anyone from his or her place. Instead, I kept adding stuff to their already busy plates—because I NEEDED them! We had been doing First Look and 252 Basics for a while but not the way it was really intended to be done. That would take even MORE people to pull things off, and we could barely make it as it was!
“Early this year, God was urging me to take a leap of faith and release them—ALL of them. I decided it was time to say: ‘YES, GOD. I will trust You!’ We gave every single person who was serving the chance to stop or change what they were doing—without the guilt. If felt so good! The rest of our pastoral staff got on board and did a month’s sermon series on saying YES to the next generation. This had never been done before! We formed a team of passionate people (many of them new to children’s ministry) to discuss, prepare and execute this new plan of action. God has blessed us abundantly. He even provided me with my own personal mentor from another church that has successfully been doing our same curriculum. Instead of feeling discouraged and defeated, I felt a new passion for ministry. God was equipping me in every way possible to lead!
“On August 25, we launched the new and improved KIDS Avenue. It is a HUGE success! We have more people serving than we ever have before! Did some walk away? They did. But you know what? They are finding their place serving elsewhere that fits them better or simply are resting. God has provided us with all our needs. We have Small Group Leaders for the first time and they LOVE the relationships they are building with ‘their’ kids. Our Large Group Leaders are amazing and really deliver. Smiling faces are greeting kids, props are being gathered, stages are being set, curriculum is being prepped and we even have a Clean Team for the first time! We now have Coaches in charge of each area. Instead of a few doing many jobs, we have many doing just their part.
“The best part? Kids want to go to their Small Groups. Even the kids that used to sit with their parents don’t want to miss a single week! Those who serve, who used to drag themselves in on Sundays, are now excited to be there and can’t wait to be a blessing. All this because we listened to God and said YES to allowing HIM to put the right people in the right places!”
Wayne, Crosspoint Church
“My wife, Tina, and I have a soon to be three-year-old daughter named Emmalee. She has several special needs including Cerebral Palsy, hydrocephalus, seizure syndrome, and hypotonia.
“I’m a pastor at our church and caring for Emmalee has definitely been hard for us and drastically reduced my wife’s involvement in our church plant. Thankfully, this year we got to know Diana Yates both as our friend and a babysitter for Emmalee. A few months ago, Diana started serving as Emmalee’s “buddy” during her time in Crosspoint Kids, which has allowed my wife to worship worry- and distraction-free. It’s allowed Emmalee to be included with the other children, learn more about Jesus and make new friends.
“Since then, my wife Tina and Diana have put their heads together and started working on a Buddy Ministry at Crosspoint to allow parents with children with special needs to worship worry-free and allow the children to be fully involved in the kids ministry. When they brought the idea to me I just had to say, ‘YES!’
“Our family has felt firsthand what it means to have the peace of mind that someone is caring for our little girl and teaching her about Jesus while we get to worship and minister to the rest of our church.
“Tina and Diana have worked hard in putting together training material and organizing this ministry. Last night, their work paid off as they trained a handful of volunteers to serve as our first Buddies!
“I’m so proud of their hard work and determination to see to it that ALL of our kids can hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ, and ALL parents have the opportunity to worship worry-free!
“In two weeks, we will have our first Parent/Buddy orientation. I can’t wait to share all about what God is doing in the lives of these families and buddies!”
Melinda, Hillcrest Church
“For eight years, we’ve worked to build partnerships between church and home. We’ve hosted FX, Faith Begins at Home, and various family forums, activities, and studies. We’ve equipped parents with resources. While there have been definite wins and forward progress, we’ve continued to see brokenness in families. Moms in particular, have flooded my office for counsel and prayer.
“As I continued to pray over fractured families, God spoke clearly to me about ministering to moms. My first reaction? ‘Wait, Lord. You know I lead CHILDREN, right? That’s why women’s ministry exists, to pick up the slack, right? Where in the world will I find time to minister to moms, too?’
“To make a long story short, God began to clarify, and I quit arguing with Him and said ‘YES!’ The need to start Motherhood was confirmed through others with the same burden. Motherhood is a monthly multi-generational gathering of moms from all walks, speaking truth into each other’s lives (and a partnership between multiple ministries). Older women encourage and cheer on younger moms. Younger moms with no family close by ‘adopt’ godly women as surrogate mothers. We craft with a purpose, study the Word, discuss, and pray together. We also host a Facebook page with daily posts. Motherhood is a safe place to say, ‘I need acceptance, advice, encouragement, and friendship to help me be a godly mom.’
“Ministry silos are being torn down and bridges are being built. Hillcrest Men have been challenged to answer and recently started a men’s group called Fight. Spouses are fighting for their marriages and families, which has initiated important conversations about family and faith with the right people at the table. Adding more to our calendars is forcing us to evaluate what needs to go away. And guess who else wins? The children!
“Motherhood has been a wonderful reminder to do more listening on just HOW the Lord will move through the hearts of our children, because after all, we know who will have the larger spiritual influence in their lives! I’m glad I said ‘YES.’”
Krishna, Bible Evangelical Free Church
“The most impactful YES that has taken place recently in our children’s ministry took place over the summer when God clearly pulled the puzzle pieces together to begin a ministry for children with special needs. The first piece was when He sent our school district’s early childhood special needs teacher to Bible EFC with a heart for involvement in children’s ministry, particularly in ‘shadowing’ the children with special needs during our ministry classes.
“Beyond that, one of my volunteer children’s ministry leaders, mom of Isabelle, was unsure of what position fit her well on our team. Isabelle has autism and had grown to a point where she was not able to gain from our early childhood ministries, yet the ‘shadowing’ concept was not allowing for her to truly grow spiritually. As a former autism therapist and special needs major, I had a great desire to see Isabelle and our other children with similar disabilities grow through individualized ministry through activities that would allow for us to reach them most beneficially for their specific developmental levels and areas of enjoyment.
“I decided to bring this concept to my volunteer leadership team and it was as though Izzy’s mom suddenly had clarity and knew without a doubt that leading this ministry was her place on our team. As a church, we are focusing on reaching out to those in our community, so when this concept was brought to the pastors, they agreed readily and were encouraged by the prospect. This all led to the development of our Extraordinary Classroom that officially began this fall.
“We have a mom who has shared with us on multiple occasions that had we not implemented this ministry at almost the exact time, she and her sons, one of whom is severely autistic, would no longer be coming to church. With little knowledge of Christ as her Savior when she began attending, I feel that this one impact alone has made all the difference needed to convince me that indeed, this particular YES along with the details in making it happen were fully in God’s hands every step of the way!”
Stafford, Portage Alliance Church
“I was hired out of a Bible college to a church where I had known and worked with the senior pastor at a different church when he was a youth pastor. I had purposely avoided looking for church positions where associate pastor was a code word for ‘kids and youth pastor.’ I purposely even avoided any youth or kids ministry courses at school so I could have an excuse why I wasn’t ‘qualified’ for the job!
“The position that I took at my current church was an administrative type of pastoral position—looking after ushers/greeters and Small Groups. Six months into this role, there was a need to fill the recently vacated children’s ministry position, and like in some kind of twisted joke, my pastor asked me to do it. I promptly said ‘No.’ He asked again, and I said ‘No.’ However, the more he asked, and the more I said no, the more the Holy Spirit convicted me that I had to say yes.
“After prayer (and attempting to make some deals with God to sweeten the pot), I said, YES with fear and trembling, wondering what I had gotten myself into. My heart wasn’t in it, but my faith in God was. He hadn’t steered me wrong yet.
“Over the next three years, God gave me a heart and a passion for kids and families that wasn’t there before. He blessed my step of faith and worked in me to grow my capacity, leadership and love for children’s ministry. Over this time, our volunteer team has grown, our team turnover is almost zero and our Sunday attendance in kids ministry has grown by 20 percent every year since and my role has changed to oversee student ministry as well. Saying YES to kids ministry has radically changed my life! Praise be to God!”