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My Orange Story

All week long I’ll be blogging from The Orange Conference, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of my own Orange story.  This year it will be my 4th Orange Conference to attend, and boy have I come a long way baby!

In April of 2008 I attended my first Orange Conference.  I had been at Trinity Church for almost one year, and had picked the Orange Conference because it looked different than most of the Children’s Ministry conferences.  I took a key volunteer with me as a travel buddy, and the two of us putted around all week thinking…”This will never work!” and “How could this happen at Trinity?” and generally trying not to be discouraged about where I was at and where I wanted to be.

But sometime between that first conference experience at Orange and the next 12 months I got a vision for what could be.  I knew my limitations, and what may not work; but I was unwilling to throw in the towel.  We started taking teeny, tiny Orange baby steps to connect our families with our Children’s Ministry.  Then little by little it started to happen.  Things that had for so long been church-only (YELLOW) events started to look more like church & family (ORANGE) happenings.  I attended the 2009 Orange Conference all by myself; but was able to meet up with some friends that encouraged where we were headed at Trinity and shared some of their own stories of change.  In 2010, I attended the Orange Conference for the 3rd time; but this time brought along my boss and saw him catch a unique vision for our church.  It was happening.

Then in 2010, we started to gather some big momentum as we shifted the ministry at Trinity to our children into a more relational-based small group model.  And here’s the kicker, it actually worked.  In a church that has struggled to get volunteers to work with children, we started to turn it around.  In a church that has struggled to get parents involved in the key life-decisions of their children, we started to see large amounts of parents respond to our baptism and salvation conversations.  Parents turned out in large numbers for a special Child Dedication experience, and our Nursery and Early Childhood areas started to have a spirit of excellence that had not existed previously.  It was happening for us.  Parents (RED) were responding to us at the church (YELLOW) and we were seeing the first hints of an ORANGE atmosphere.

In January of this year, my role has shifted and changed to taking some of these things we’ve had success with in Children’s Ministry to our Student Ministries and College-Age Ministries; and I could not be more excited.  I’m in the position now of being able to cast vision, and hold accountable an entire Next Generations Ministry team to reach our city, families, and church with the single, greatest hope given to us in history.  That Jesus can save the world!

The journey I’ve been on in the past 4 years, is just that.  It’s a journey.  It’s not yet completed, as there is progress to be made while still maintaining the ability to be flexible to the needs of our growing church.  As I look at my 2011 goal sheets, it’s Orange in color; but still bright Yellow and bright Red in places.  It’s a great journey and adventure to make the brightest yellows and the shiniest reds work together in a beautiful Orange shade.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.