OC#17 Rundown 17.1

#misfits, church, community, Family Ministry, Ministry, stories, Student Ministry, Uncategorized

Orange Conference hasn’t even started yet but I am already feeling excited and pumped for the next few days. Today, the YouLead Breakouts gave us just a taste of what’s to come. The first session was called “Understanding Social Justice in the City” from Sean Watkins. Then, I went to see Jon Acuff give some tips and advice in order to “Talk Better Now.” The mxain session was awesome as always with a lot of great speakers bring out the best of the theme For Our Neighbors. Here are some of the BIG ideas from both Sean Watkins and Jon Acuff and the rundown on the Opening Session.

Social Justice in City

Sean came out right and said that, “our calling as parents, our vocation as youth ministry leaders, is incomplete if we do not address social justice issues.”

Going through Nehemiah as a guide to leadership, character and how to do social justice reform in our communities Sean broke down how leaders can engage the communities around them. The issues in our cities, in our communities, that are evident to people around us should break your heart, should make you angry as it breaks Gods own heart and angers Him. We begin to engage the communities around use first by becoming more aware. We must lament and grieve to the injustices in the cities and communities we are a part of. That we should engage the least of these in a way that honors the fact that God is so portrayed as a stranger needing hospitality. Ask yourself questions that raise your own awareness about social justice issues and those around you. Who is missing from your programs? Who has come and not returned? Why? What are the social justice issues in the city? Once we are aware, we know, and knowing is half the battle. We must continue to strive to understand the context of social justice issues through the historical lens of our cities, understand the biblical mandate to engage in these issues and to look for ways to meet a need. From awareness, to action to advocacy. We must advocate for these issues that impact the lives of people we encounter. We cannot afford to simply not be racist but we must be anti-racism by advocating for those impacted by racism in our communities. Bring people along with you in this journey, be honest with where you are in it yourself. Find organizations that are combating these issues and work hand-in-hand with them.

Sean did a great job of clarify issues, giving us a biblical understanding of social justice and equipping us to take the next steps. Check out his, and others, podcast at Voices from the Margins. Sean works for Intervarsity and can be reached at sean.watkins@intervarsity.org or followed on twitter @seanisfearless

Talk Better Now

Most people get excited to hear Jon Acuff speak. I am no different. I walk away with something new to motivate me, a new technique to try at work or that little nudge to push me past my comfort zone. Jon gave a quick and dirty rundown on simple ways he prepares to give speeches and tips for listeners to be more successful.

Jon gave the audience some points on being a better speaker. His first point was to simply know your audience. This helps you to connect with someone through a message. Ask the host questions like what should you avoid in the speech, what is the audience going through, what are they excited about. These questions help formulate a better understanding of the audience, develops empathy with them and allows the audience to connect in a deeper way. His next tip was to play to your strengths. Simply write out your speech, then edit later. They are two different things and shouldn’t be done in unison. Using that template create main islands and bridges that connect those main ideas. Predict where there will be pushback from your audience on ideas and explain them in a way that they acknowledges their pushback but also challenges them. Be authentic in your talk. People, especially teenagers, can smell dishonest a mile aware and can be pretty unforgiving. When speaking, read the room and use tension through changing rhythms to tailor your talk to the audience. Practice until it is almost perfect and then make sure you enjoy the process, or the audience won’t either. A huge idea that Jon talked about was the speaking is a form of serving. That it is his goal to communicate an idea in such a way that it equips the leaders with something they can take way with them. That peoples response should be, “it was like you were reading my diary, you understood what I was going through.”

Jon has so much to give about being an effective communicator. He has a tone of great books out and is always on twitter @JonAcuff.

MainSession

Opening session saw some awesome speakers light up our world and get ready to start a party. Jon Acuff, Carlos Whittaker, Gerald Fadayomi, Danielle Strickland and Reggie Joiner all brought their voices. Ways to see our neighbors, to help parents, listen to students, see people in a fresh way and how to start a party. We are FOR OUR NEIGHBORS

Click the section headings for Notes on sessions and connect with Orange using the hashtag #OC17

Art of the Ask

#misfits, church, community, Family Ministry, misfits, organizational strategy, students, systems, team building, Uncategorized, volunteer

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Many of us are in the need of help with something. Some of us need volunteers, others need financial help and others are simply looking for ways to connect with people through an organization. Sometimes I just comes down to the ask, but don’t get me wrong, that ask can be tough. It is a mental game and you really just don’t want to be annoying. When going to ask someone to help, give or just connect here a few thoughts to go in with.

I don’t think I have ever just cold called someone and asked them to be part of what I was doing. I always try to connect with them without my own agenda. I like to get to know them as people and what they enjoy doing. Asking someone to help isn’t manipulating them if you are invested them as an individual over your own agenda. I try not to get selfish with only seeing them helping me out but by getting to know them I can help put them in a place for them to thrive with others. They may not be a fit for the direction you’re going, but you may know someone who they could help considerably.

After getting to know people on a friendly basis I just ask them to meet up and may let them know that I want them to think about helping out. Before I do I really sit and  think through what I am asking that person to contribute. Is it time, their talents, or asking them to give financially.I try to get specific. For instance, instead of asking for money, I tell them about how we need a new printer, or instead of saying I need a new volunteer I talk to them about role they would be filling. I have a clearly defined role planned out, with expectations, for people to understand what they may be committing too before I ask. I try to think through their questions and have some answers. When you have a better handle on what you are asking from people, they get a clearer idea of it too.

I always try to share with them why I feel they would be a great fit. I share with them somethings that I have seen from them already. I talked to them about our need and how they can help. I share stories. Stories are a great way to connect with people. They help connect us to one another and to the mission of where we are going. I try to tell them stories of why I got involved, of other volunteers or success stories that we have seen.

Then, I let them make the choice. I don’t twist their arm, or guilt them into saying yes. I pray hard. I take what they can give and leverage that for wins. Sometimes, a yes to a small ask will lead to a yes to a bigger ask, later down the road.

So what do you need to move forward in your ministry? In your life? In your next steps? Who can you ask to walk alongside with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. Walk with people with no agenda, have a clear idea of how they an help you or someone else, share with them a vision of thriving and then let them do the rest. Be bold in your ask and you’ll be surprised at how people come through.

 

Fresh

#misfits, adolescent, church, community, Family Ministry, life, students, systems, team building, Uncategorized

newyear

We have officially left 2016 in the dust. It’s 2017.

There are a mixed bag of emotions when a new year starts. Looking at social media it seems many people have had a rough go of things this past year. For others it was filled with joyous occasions and laughter. We lost a lot of good people. A lot more were born this year too. Yet, for all we enter into 2017 with renewed vitality. There are new goals, aspirations, and recommitments to ourselves and loved ones. This past week I have had some great conversations, found some rest, and am looking forward to 2017. Here are somethings that will help me make the best of this amazing year.

Goals

The week between Christmas and New Years I take some time to set goals. These goals are range in a variety of topics. I set personal goals often about working out, reading books, writing and personal projects. There are goals about my finances. These goals help me to stay motivated for the year and work towards a target. These goals usually span the entire year so they are long-term. I work hard to make them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-oriented). I can look at these goals throughout the year and check on progress.

Accountability

In the upcoming year I make sure to have people close to me to help hold me accountable. They hold me accountable to my goals but also to my faith and my personal struggles. Letting people into my world helps create authentic relationships. It is these relationships that have made 2016 an amazing year and I look forward to 2017. Accountability looks like making phone calls and meeting up with people. It is setting time aside to connect with another person and being honest and transparent with them. It is in these relationships that I look forward to an amazing 2017. 

Adventure

I love adventures. I drive my wife crazy because whenever we go somewhere I’m usually doing things I shouldn’t. Those areas beyond the “no visitors past this point” signs are usually where you can find me. In 2017 I hope to create some spontaneity and adventure to my life. This energizes me and I get to have fun. Adventure can be trips but it can also just be doing new things. Shake up your life in 2017. 

Loving others

My wife has created a monster. We have created a generosity fund that we use to love people. We both love to bless other people and see huge smiles on their faces. We set aside some of our paychecks in order to give to others. I believe that living a live that builds and encourages relationships with people is the sweet sauce of life. In 2017 I hope we can continue to love people and do some crazy things in faith with our finances. T

What do you look forward to this New Years? How can you make this the best year yet?

For The Outsiders and the Misfits

#misfits, adolescent, Christmas, church, community, Family Ministry, Holidays, Ministry, misfits, students, Uncategorized

outside

Jesus was a Misfit.

He was an Outsider.

He was born to reconcile all of us back to Himself. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas time can be a tough time. Many people bring up the history of their hurts and struggles during this time. People are triggered and many face relapse. I was reminded this year that Jesus was for all of us. All of us Misfits and all of us who have seen brokenness, hurt and loss.

Jesus was born in a barn. Literally. He took the idea of what a King, a Savior, should be and flipped it on it’s head. Instead of being born in the Temple, or in a Throne room, He was born with sheep. His first visitors were like you and me, the Misfits of society.

Angels came to announce this birth to some shepherds in a field. The sheep these men tended would be used in ceremonies to wash sins away. Jesus was born in the same place as these very lambs. Yet, in keeping these sheep the shepherd themselves were deemed unclean. They were marginalized, outcasts, isolated, yet recipients of the grace of of Jesus.

This Christmas season we are reminded of how Jesus came to bring salvation, redemption and joy to all people. Those the world have deemed Outsiders, us Misfits, Jesus has called us Sons and Daughters of God. Walk in that.

Misfits

#misfits, adolescent, community, Ministry, organizational strategy, Student Ministry, Uncategorized

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Jesus is a Misfit. He took the expectations of religion and society and turned them upside down. He spent time with the least of these. The sick, the marginalized, the oppressed, the prostitutes, the widows and the orphans. He took, and continues to take, a bunch of ragamuffins and turns them into world-shakers. He breathes life into dead things. Jesus continually challenged the status quo of our society and engaged people where they were. Jesus met sinful people, in the midst of their sin, and showed up for them. He never asked for them to clean up first, to get it right first, and only then He would help. He rubbed shoulders with those society had forgotten and demonstrated genuine, authentic, love. Jesus challenged how we viewed God and how our beliefs shape us. He challenges us still.

How are we engaging the forgotten, the downtrodden and the lost in our lives? Do we interact only with people so that we could gain something? How does your proximity to people demonstrate authentic love and care? Do you stand for justice and seek to find solutions to the problems in our world? How is your life pointing others to Jesus?

A Misfit looks at the world differently. We stand boldly in our faith in Jesus to evaluate the world around us. We step in relationally to meet people where they are, in the midst of their hurts and struggles, to give support, pray and sometimes to just sit in silence. We are not afraid to challenge the way things have always been done in the hopes of something better. To be a Misfit is to step into the challenges that our world faces and point it all to Jesus.

Through this endeavor we hope to lead leaders, generate empathy, teach influencers and participate in engaging the lost, forgotten, hurting, oppressed and the outsiders. Let us be challenged to be more like Jesus; to meet people where they are, to grow relationally, to empathize with one another and influence the world.

Join us on Instagram and Twitter at Misfit_Min to learn with us and engage the world together.

Rough

adolescent, Family Ministry, Ministry, stories, Student Ministry, students, Uncategorized

kids

Some kids are tougher to reach than others. My proximity to kids helps me to realize some of the severe trauma that some may experience. Dropping kids off at their homes that have no furniture, no electricity, and no food you begin to realize the lives they live after 4pm. You may be the only consistent person in their life, they may not know how to respond and act around you, they may fear abandonment and have seen so much loss they don’t even want to try.

The toughest kids are the most rewarding kids when you give them love over time consistently, show up for them and speak life into them.

Dealing with kids that have dealt with extreme trauma in their lives is tough. They can be more argumentative, angry, defiant and lack the desire for social connections. Don’t take it personally. You did not cause their trauma, and you are not the sole person reasonably to fix it. It takes time and will be rough at times. Things will be said and done that seem like a personal attack. Sometimes, students who have faced trauma ‘test’ your willingness to stick around. Show up. Some great advice I received once was to “let all the badness roll off you like water off a ducks back.” Remember to not take the rough moments personally.

Despite the frustrations you get from dealing with students who have faced trauma in their lives, you are called to love them anyway. Know them, ask them questions, treat them fairly, be clear with expectations of behavior and be fair. Invite them to have lunch with you. Treat them as they are, kids. Build a relationship that is founded on trust, respect and consistency. You may be the first time they have seen this type of relationship.

You will get tired. Tired of the struggle and tired of the slow process in building relationships. Keep at it. It is worth it, they are worth it. These students will come around, it may take longer, but they will open up. When they do listen to their stories, help them to see that their stories do not define them and speak life into them. Help them discover their passions and strengths in life.

Parents are important too

adolescent, community, Family Ministry, students, Uncategorized

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Navigating family dynamics can be difficult. As someone who works with the children of other people this is particularly true. You are in a kids life as a coach, pastor, teacher or mentor and trying to help them navigate life. Parents are also there to help navigate the lives of their kids. I have seen and experienced a few situations where this dynamic was tricky. When in the middle of conversations with either kids or parents there are a few key concepts that help me to navigate the conversations.

They aren’t your kids

This idea is crucial. The kids that you working with are not yours. You are not the primary spiritual leader, the primary influencer, for the kids, their parents are. This is difficult especially when you do not agree with parenting styles or situations. Just remember that your influence diminishes when you are not able to have access to because you’ve over stepped a boundary.

Point the kids back to their parents

There will be times when kids just talk trash on their parents. They will yell about them and get angry with them. There will be times when those same parents talk badly about you for whatever reason. You are able to demonstrate grace and peace when you can point kids to their parents and even support those parents that may have treated you unfairly.

Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes we mess up. We let a kid get hurt (guilt of this one a few times), we don’t show up when we are supposed to or we give advice that is contradictory to what the parents want. Simply saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is a huge step in dealing with parents.

Dealing with kids also means dealing with those kids parents. Make sure you have open lines of communication and cue the parent up for even greater influence with their kids. Have dinner at their house and get to know the kids family. Go over expectations and follow their rules for their kids. It may be difficult but when all the stake holders in a kids life are united you will find greater success in influencing the lives of kids.a

#OC17

adolescent, church, community, Family Ministry, Ministry, Student Ministry, students, Uncategorized

oc17_now_1200x1200_1

I believe in students. I love to see them grow, learn and be awesome. I love to cheer the students that I lead on throughout their lives. Sometimes, working with students is difficult. They have drama, struggles and hurts just like the rest of us. Yet, the time I can spend with students is time I know I am impacting the world.

Orange believes this too. Orange believes in students, in all kids really, and their families. They believe that for kids, no matter their age, to understand God they need to be connected relationally to other people. That these leaders need to engage the kids they work with and their families to walk alongside them in life in order to grow their faith. Orange equips churches and leaders to help point kids and their families best towards Jesus.

This year Orange Conference is helping equip churches and leaders to reach not just their few, but entire neighborhoods and communities. At Orange Conference this year we are exploring the question: What would happen if the neighborhoods around our churches began to see church as a fun, safe, and helpful place for families and the community at large? There will be awesome speakers, a lot of laughs and insights into how the church make a lasting impact on the communities we belong to.

Join us this April for one of the most impactful experience you will have. This is not just for family ministers and lead pastors. This conference is people looking to leave a meaningful legacy in the lives of students, their families, the community and our world. Come be equipped, refreshed and rejuvenated to point your neighbors towards Jesus.

More information about great speakers, the theme “For Our Neighbors,” and all things Orange Conference head to their website at:

Home Page

Registration opens up October 13th! You don’t want to miss out on this adventure!

 

Orange is Coming

adolescent, Ministry, Student Ministry, students, Uncategorized

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Orange Tour is underway and you have to get your tickets. Every year Orange takes the information, speakers and resources from the Orange Conference and brings them to you. It is a great time to learn, laugh, and create a dialogue around your ministry.

Last year, I had the chance to have Orange Tour come to the church I was the student minister at. The people on the tour are amazing. Even Reggie got into the hustle of the day as we set everything up. Orange leaders make themselves available for attendees to chat with, ask questions and better themselves. Not everyone is able to go to Orange Conference, that is why they bring the fun to you.

Monday is coming and Orange Tour is bringing it. Here you will discover the best ways to connect kids and their families to Jesus throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Monday is coming is a great idea to test your ministry against. How are students and their families acting on their faith throughout the week? How is your ministry helping them to do just that?

Through the speakers, workshops and conversations at Orange Tour you will be challenged. Challenged to re-evaluate your environments, your programs, and even your mission. We all want students and their families to live out their faith. To have an autonomous faith that can change the world. Monday is coming will challenge our current practices and provide practical steps to see success.

Check out Orange Tour this year. It will be a great way to invest in your leaders and your ministry. Create space to have conversations about your ministry with your leaders, students, parents and your lead pastors. Sometimes, for success to happen we change what our success looks like. Monday is Coming will help you connect Jesus to the everyday lives of people and to the moments that mean most to them.

For more information check out http://orangetour.org/. Can’t wait to see you there.

Be ready for Orange Conference 2017! Registration opens up on October 13th

 

Storytellers

church, Family Ministry, life, Ministry, stories, Uncategorized

storytime

 

Stories are powerful. They have the ability to transform our hearts and transport our souls to far away places. Stories can breathe life into us as they inspire us to greatness. A good story pulls on our hearts and forces us think beyond ourselves to the world at large. You can tell a lot about a person through the stories they tell about themselves. If you listen closely you hear the values that define their lives and peer into their souls. A person’s story is who they are, it is continuously being written and it can change directions at any moment.

When we influence the lives of others we must be aware of their stories, and our own. We must look for ways to connect our stories to one another and to the grander narrative of God’s story. Let us listen intently to the stories we hear, have courage to share our own and learn to look for the greatest story of them all in the midst of it all.

We must become the greatest of listeners. I have been working a lot on being an empathetic listener. For a long time I was just listening for my turn to talk. While people would talk I would barely be listening because I was forming my own replay or wait for a pause for me to jump in. I have tried to be better. Listening just to hear the other person. To reply back with words that affirm what they are saying and show that I care about them. I listen to the stories people tell and I ask questions. How do these stories impact them? What emotions are they feeling as they tell the story? What can I do to help? I sit with them, sometimes just being silent for a long time, just so they can share. Look to understand them, their hurts and struggles, their excitements and joys and share in their experience. In understanding the stories of people we can begin to understand who they truly are.

The ability to tell a story is powerful. To engage the hearts and minds of people is a rare gift. We can influence the world around us with a simply story. You know who the great storytellers are. They are usually the one at a party surrounded by people listening intently or making others laugh in a classroom. When we can learn to share our stories transformation happens. We can relate to other people better. We, and they, don’t feel so alone. You can often hear a “me too!” during a good story. We need to practice sharing our stories. Take courage that God has given us our own stories for a purpose. That He has given us the hurts and experiences of our past so that we can learn from them and help others learn from them. The stories we share transcend our own personal experiences and allow us to see a deeper meaning in them.

When listening to the stories of other people and sharing our own we need to be able to find the link to the grander narrative that God is writing. I love that God has given us all our own stories. That He reveals Himself to us in such beautiful and unique ways; yet He reveals Himself to all through His Son. God is the master storyteller. Just read the Bible. What a grand story, what grand truth. In the midst of our own stories we need to look for the connection to His story. There is always something. Connections of grace, redemption, or forgiveness; connections of adventure, romance and faith. When we see the intersection of God’s story and our own He becomes more personal and real to us. If we want to know God in a deeper way, look for how your story mirrors His deeper narrative in the world.

When we engage students we need to listen to their stories. They reveal where they are at right now. Love them in that moment; empathize with them. Find the connection to a story of your own. Break down the walls that can often divide us and find a way to simply say, I know how you feel. Empathize with students and reveal a piece of your story to them. They will be able to latch on and build a bond through these shared experiences. These stories point us to Jesus, find that point and run towards Him.