Orange You Glad You Went?
By Brin Young
This post was reproduced with permission from Brin Young's personal website. To be directed to her website, please CLICK HERE.
At the beginning of May, I had to privilege to go to the 2019 Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia! “Orange” is the curriculum my church uses for the kids ministries, small groups, training leaders and volunteers, outlining family services and so much more. The conference was an opportunity for me to learn more about the curriculum I use with the preschoolers on a Sunday morning and the material I will use in the summer as an intern. It was also a chance to spend time with God and learn more in regards to what I am passionate about! I went with my mom and two other amazing women. We flew out on April 30th. The first thing that hit me about this trip was the time change! Atlanta is 3 hours ahead, so our 6:30 wake up felt like 3:30am!! The first day at the conference included You Lead Labs. This was sort of an optional day so the conference centre wasn’t as full as in would be later. As far as I knew, I was one of the only teenagers at the conference! My first session was How to Get People to Pay Attention. It was more about getting people to pay attention to information that matters in a world full of constant information. I had expected it to be about getting kids to pay attention when teaching but I was way off! I took lots of notes anyway. My following lead labs were Design Better Environments for Preschoolers, Transition Preschoolers to Elementary, and Stay Healthy as a Preschool Teacher. I found these sessions really helpful and interesting! Normally I’m shy and would keep to myself but after some of the sessions I talked to the presenters to ask questions or thank them for speaking! I had some really cool conversations and I’m so thankful I pushed through that anxiety. The You Lead Labs were really impactful. I took pages and pages of notes in each session. I learned a lot of information about preschoolers that I had never known before! I was given great tools to use on a Sunday morning and when preparing the activities and stories. Even though it was a lot of information in one day, I was still thirsty for more!
My team and I on the the first day
The next thing that impacted me on this trip was a feeling of belonging. Learning along side all these other Christians about the work that I’m so passionate about felt so good and right! I don’t always feel that way. When I’m sitting down at school and struggling through another crazy equation in Pre-Calculus, it’s really hard to feel like I’m doing what God had called me to do. Other times when I’m at school I feel very out of place. But at the Orange Conference, I felt so strongly that I belonged there and I was doing what God called me to do. It was such a cool feeling!
That night I tried Chick-Fil-A for the first time. It was amazing! After dinner it was time for the evening session. Everyone gathered in the arena and now all 8,000 people had joined us! Sitting in the arena with so many people reminded me of We-Day. Me to We is a huge charity organization with many projects to help solve world hunger, provide safe drinking water, train people in different jobs and more. Every year they invite a lot of young people to a sort of conference or presentation called We-Day and they inspire and equip teens like me to help change the world. It’s a great organization and We-Day is super fun! I’ve been to two We-Days. But Me to We isn’t a Christian organization. So while everyone else was hyped up about changing the world and were dancing to the music, I felt like something was missing. And something was! Jesus. That’s the key difference between We-Day and events like the Orange Conference. When I get together with a group of Christians, it feels so different. There’s a connection even though all 8,000 of us are unique. There’s an electricity in the air. I always feel so full of love and so on fire for God after events where many other Christians got together. The Orange Conference was similar in this way. The Orange Conference also taught me amazing things, made me aware of just how passionate I am about teaching kids, gave me tools to do my job better and I laughed a lot! The evening sessions at Orange consisted of worship, great speakers and fun games or skits. The 2019 Orange Conference theme was “It’s Personal.” The speakers talked about how each kid needs someone who makes it personal and builds a relationship with them. Kids need to know they are loved and seen by the people around them, building an example of who God is. Once again, I took lots of notes and totally enjoyed myself! Some of the speakers that night were Jon Acuff, Kristen Ivy, Reggie Joiner and some other awesome speakers. Jon Acuff started his talk with the 7 most personal animals! He brought out a live puppy, pig, beta fish, snake and a turtle. The turtle preceded to pee all over the stage! That sparked some awesome jokes and lots of laughter. When it came time to worship, I felt really at peace and overwhelmed with God’s presence. It was a really cool experience.
An evening session at Orange!
One of the things that separated me a bit from the people around me was the fact that I’m a teenager and still in school. So as the speakers talked about reaching out to high schoolers and what they need, I took notes and thought of my own peers. A lot of kids in my school don’t go to youth and most likely don’t have that kind of positive influence in their life. Since I see these people everyday at school, I can take what the speakers say to heart and use those tools to help my own friends and peers. I mentioned earlier how sometimes (or maybe a lot of the time) school can feel pretty pointless. I’m not really helping anyone or learning anything useful somedays at school and that feels kinda dumb. At the Orange Conference, God reminded me that I’m not just at school to learn facts and figures. I can be a light and friend to the students around me that feel alone. I know what it feels like to feel alone in the world and I know better than most youth leaders how teens these days feel…cause I am one! So God has given me a heart and an opportunity in my school to reach out and love people. Obviously, somedays I don’t want to. Somedays, I do a pretty crappy job. Somedays, I’m the one who needs a kind soul to reach out to me. But God is walking with me everyday and showing me how even the littlest things can bring light into someones life. It feels really good to have more purpose in high school then just getting A’s.
The second day of the conference was FULL. All 8,000 people were there for sessions so getting from room to room in the conference centre was a challenge! Our morning started with a group session in the arena, like the night before. Reggie Joiner and brought a few people to the table (literally, there was a table set up on stage) to share their story. Some of the key messages that morning were that we are not the sum of our worst moments and we all need someone to remind us of that, how God gives us compassion for others through our suffering and how we need to be intentional in ministry. There was some great wisdom shared by several amazing speakers.
The sessions for Day 2 were called Breakouts. My Breakouts included Help Every Preschooler Feel Known, Translate My Enneagram, How to Make the Salvation Conversation Personal to Kids and Parents and How to Get the Most Out of First Look Cirriculum. Each session taught me something new and interesting! I especially enjoyed learning about the Enneagram. The Enneagram is pretty much a complicated personality test. It sounds silly, but figuring out my Enneagram helped me understand why I feel certain ways in certain situations. It was really fascinating! My favorite session was definitely the one about the First Look cirriculum. First Look is the baby to preschool age cirriculum that Orange provides and there is so much amazing material! The creative minds behind the cirriculum lead the Breakout and introduced some of next years material, talked about how to use it effectively and more. Since I do lots of the preparation for Sunday mornings using the First Look cirriculum and then teach it, this Breakout was really helpful for me!
In the conference centre, Orange had a store set up with materials, books, prizes, t-shirts and more! I bought a notebook when I had filled up the journal I brought from home! Also at the conference, countless businesses and organizations had set up booths to check out in between or before large group sessions. I was given so much free stuff! If anyone wants an orange panda pop-socket, I’ve got about 20. Near these booths, the Orange team had set up a beautiful display of the Phases a child goes through. This display was based on he Phase books. They are intentional parenting guides written by Kirsten Ivy and Reggie Joiner. Each book describes a certain phase a child goes through from birth to graduation. It was a walk through display, showcasing bedrooms of each age group (baby, preschool, elementary, middle school and high school). It was a really creative way to show how a child’s environment, wants, needs and feelings change over time.
Me at the preschool Phase
Thursday nights evening session was Seriously night. Seriously night is a night to have fun together as a church family! The Orange team lead us in games, dancing and made us all laugh so hard with skits and stand-up comedy. I absolutely loved Seriously night! It’s so true that laughter is important for everyone and God wants us to laugh and have fun. No need to be so serious all the time!
Playing Mega Golf during Seriously night
Our final day at the Orange conference was PACKED with large group sessions. The week so far had been exhausting with full days, late nights and early mornings so my team and I slept through the first session on Friday morning. That was lovely! We headed to the arena for the rest of the day. We had more fantastic speakers including Kara Powell, Dr. Bernice King, Doug Fields, Bob Goff and many more. They talked about outreach and bringing light into darkness, building relationships, how to stop hiding in church, seeing potential in others and being authentic. It was a full day, but full of great wisdom. We went for dinner that night with some friends who we met at the conference. I went to bed tired but very happy!
My friend and I with Bob Goff!!
I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to go to the Orange Conference. I don’t regret having to catch up on school work at all! It was so worth it. Every minute of the conference gave me new perspective and passion in my life! I learned lessons and was given tools that I will use both when teaching preschool and in everyday life. I’m so grateful my church gave me the opportunity to go to this conference. God taught me so much during the trip and I hope to never forget the experience or the wisdom that was passed to me! So yes, I am very glad I went!