There’s nothing I love more than Orange Conference! Time together with our team, old and new friends, having my heart filled and my mind challenged. There’s something so special about being at Orange Conference. As a nextgen leader, when I’m there, I want to maximize my and the team’s time. We’ll have all the fun, but we’ll also do all the learning.
In my opinion, you need a workshop strategy for you and your team. While it may seem enjoyable to have everyone choose what sounds interesting to them, that may not help you get the most out of your time together. Here’s a few things I’d encourage you to consider. And then, I’ll give you a sneak peak into three workshops I’d want some of my volunteers to go to.
Three Things to Consider Before Choosing Your OC Workshops
1. Evaluate before you go as a team.
Take some time to assess where your ministry, church, families, and young people are. What are some of the pressing needs in your ministry? In your community? Your families? Young people? What have you been curious, stumped, or confused about in your ministry? Think about the ways you need help, encouragement, or tools? I’d encourage your team to consider what you need as a leader and as a team, before you ever get to conference. Then you can be strategic about getting some of the tools you need for you and your ministry to flourish.
2. Divide and conquer.
It doesn’t help for your team to all go to the same workshop. Oh, you’ll have fun together for sure, but you’ll miss a lot. Take a look at all the possible workshops, rank them as most important for your team, then figure out how to get someone from your team to all those workshops. Make sure everyone is prepared to take great notes and then report back. From experience, you’ll have really great meal times and team meet-ups this way. Rich conversation will ensue.
3. Get back to basics and stretch yourself.
I encourage my volunteers to pick one workshop that feels like it’s “back to the basics” and one workshop that will challenge or stretch them. We all need reminders of the basics – the reason we do what we do. Be sure to get into a space that reminds you of that. Then be sure to go to a workshop that stretches you. One where you maybe you don’t like or agree with the topic. Or where you’re intimidated by the concept or perhaps aren’t sure about it at all. Pick one of those, because some of our best learning comes from the things that cause dissonance and challenge. Go in with open hands ready to see what you might be able to learn there.
Top Three OC Workshops for Your Volunteers to Attend
Now, let me give you a sneak peak into where I’ll be sending volunteers this year. These are three workshops I think every volunteer needs this season:
1. Cultivating Curiosity in Faith Conversations
In a world of deconstruction…of lack of trust in the institution…of anxiety and pain…one thing is for sure. Curiosity will win the day. Cultivating curiosity allows room for empathy, conversation, and potential. Curiosity gives room for all kinds of questions and wonders. And to be honest, the church has had a hard time with this. We often feel more comfortable with clean answers, with black and white. But you and I know that much of life is gray. Our experiences and stories, what we see in our day to day doesn’t often fit a black and white binary. I believe cultivating curiosity will lead to a more engaged, grounded, and sustainable faith. That feels like a skill we all need to develop.
2. Raising Critical Thinkers
As much as I think we need to curate curiosity, I also think we need to develop critical thinking. The church has often been criticized for over-simplifying and being thoughtless. Our ‘Christianese’ can seem shallow and flippant. When young people run up against the hard things of life, the simple statements we’ve often offered can come up short. How then do they navigate the waters of this world? It’s easy for them – for all of us – to be tossed around when our grounding is shallow and shaky. So let’s raise critical thinkers. Let’s develop young people who have robust, healthy minds. Who love to ask hard questions and wrestle with life and faith. Instead of this being seen as a threat, let’s see it as a gift, a way to raise a generation of thoughtful, grounded, intelligent Jesus followers.
3. A New Framework for Discipleship
Over the last decades, we have continued to watch the decline of young people engaged or staying in church. A recent study by the Pinetops Foundation showed us that one million teenagers walk away from the church each year in America. We’re in a crisis. And we have to honestly assess our ministries and their effectiveness for long-term faith. As program excellence became our mantra I believe relational discipleship was lost. There may be no more important conversation than thinking through discipleship for such a time as this.
Just looking through the OC workshop options for OC23 has me so excited. These are necessary, challenging, encouraging, soul-shaping workshops and I cannot wait. See you there!