Why Conferences Matter

Care About Oranges

Few people know that I was a Meeting Management Major in college. I think the name of the degree has changed somewhat, but it was essentially a tourism management degree with a special emphasis in conference, exposition, and convention management (meeting management.)

I would do internships at these big conferences where people were looking for work, philandering about with strange women, and filling up that travel expense budget for their companies. It was schmooze city.

Now I’m 37 and in spite of those  experiences, I love a good conference!  In fact, I will be spending much of the next week at The Orange Conference in Atlanta. It’s called ORANGE, because we believe that if we could create rich experiences for children and students including both the family (RED) and the church (YELLOW) we would have something that reflects ORANGE. Get it?

There will be some schmoozing here, I guess; but then again there is that about anywhere you go these days. As I’ve prepared to go, and prepared to write some of my experiences, I’ve felt compelled to share why someone that doesn’t work in a church should want their church leaders to be at something like the Orange Conference.

  • It’s Different. // The music is different, the speakers are different, the ideas are different, the environment is different, and for much of us it’s a fun mixture of all the familiar and unfamiliar in one place. This is good for your leaders. They will either come back with something fresh for your church, or they come home with stronger convictions than ever that you are doing it the right way for your church.
  • It’s Fun. // It’s always fun to spend time with old friends, and make some new friends. Maybe that’s the schmoozing I wrote about earlier… It’s good for your leaders to enjoy themselves, especially with other people that think and create like they do.
  • It’s Challenging. // I can guarantee you that if you send your leaders to Orange, they will be challenged on something they’ve elevated to sacred status. This is a good thing. Sacred Cows make the best hamburgers anyways.
  • It’s Out of Town. // That’s a weird one, I know. There is something symbolic about packing that suitcase, getting in a car, waiting at an airport, and arriving somewhere unfamiliar. It lends itself to a journey, and that’s exactly what you’re asking your leaders to do, right? “Go on over there, and come back and tell us what you see.”

This may be the most unconvincing  argument  for letting your church leaders attend something like the Orange Conference; but take it from the sincerest parts of my heart. It’s this “getting away with other leaders” idea that could be really, really good for the local churches in all different parts of this country and beyond!






Rhythms that Work for My Family: Going to Bed


It’s the end of another long day, and it’s bedtime. My kids are old enough to get themselves dressed now, and don’t really need a “tucking” into bed. Their rooms are upstairs, and I’m out back on the porch enjoying the crickets and solitude. It is often tempting to let them meander themselves to bed, turn out their own lights, and then I’ll see them in the morning.

However, in my quest to make a lasting impression on my kids, I rise from the porch and commit myself to the last consistent rhythm to each day: Putting My Kids to Bed.

There are a few things that happen every night, and a few other things that happen upon request from the kids:

The GoodBye Handshake. You’ve got one with your kids, right? It’s secret, and we practice it everyday. It’s unique to just Dylan and Dad, but don’t worry, because Dylan has another secret handshake with Mom too.

Kiss the Girl. I kiss my boys, but they never ask for it. My daughter however, insists on it. Why would any sane father pass up a request like that? I’ve heard from older dads that it won’t always be there, and that fear alone makes me rarely pass on signs of affection from my little girl.

Saying Thank You. Many nights I work to find something really excellent my kids have done on that day, and tell them that I saw it. Maybe it’s a clean room, or a good grade on a spelling test, but I always try to leave them with something I really love about their day. Sometimes it can be difficult, but it’s usually there somewhere.

Ask about Tomorrow. Anything on your mind for tomorrow? Want to pray for anything that’s coming up?

Pray. I wish I could sincerely tell you that I pray with my kids each night, but it just doesn’t happen every single night. I read once that our kids aren’t given to us, as much as they are gifted to us for a season. That being true, I always use it as an excuse to pray this prayer:

“Thank you Jesus for letting Ryan live in my house and be my child. I’ll always be  grateful for the gift that he is to this family. Help me to be a father he will follow, and help Ryan grow just a little closer to you every day. Amen.”

Orange Friday Bag


It’s that time of year again. Since 2008, I’ve had a fun opportunity to spend a week in Atlanta, Georgia with friends that do my job and those that love the things we do. I have a real passion for parents, kids, and everyone that loves them; and when I’m in Atlanta at the Orange Conference I never feel more surrounded by likeminded people than I do when I’m there.

In honor of what will be a few updates from the Orange Conference 2013, I give you the Friday Bag…Orange Edition.

New Orange Conference Family Ministry Track — This is a great opportunity to really narrow down what we do for families within our church, and it’s a special chance for me to lead a breakout with these same leaders. I’m stoked to be teaching “Clarifying the Win for Family Ministry” on Thursday Afternoon, April 25th.

Tune into The Orange Conference! “We d love for everyone to be here in person for OC13, but realize that s not always an option. So, we d like to offer you the next best thing: tune in online. You ll be able to see on and off-stage action, including session streaming, speaker interviews, mayhem and hi-jinx, resource updates and giveaways, and perhaps even win a ticket to OC14!”  

The Orange Conference App “If you’re planning to attend The Orange Conference this Spring in Atlanta, Georgia, this app will help make your experience on site pretty darn stellar.”

Why come to Orange Conference 2013? from Orange on Vimeo.

Rhythms that Work for My Family: Dinner Time


Deuteronomy 6:7 Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I like to eat. Granted I don’t eat a ton, as I tend to fall into the skinny category of body shapes; but I do love a good meal. In fact, I love it so much that I eat every day. More than that, I eat more than once throughout the day. You might have heard of them, but we call it breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If I have to eat, and I know that everyone else in my family has to eat, then it’s important that I leverage this commonality to get that quality time any way I can.

It has long been a rhythm in our house that we eat dinner together. When the kids were little, we would throw that baby carrier up on the table with us. When they were little and throwing cheerios all over the place, they would be joined by very on-guard parents attempting to eat their meals at the same time.

I know live in that moment where we’ve got soccer and baseball monopolizing nights away from home, but we still work hard to make it happen. What’s the secret?

Not all meals are the same. Take what you can get when you can get it.

Sometimes we have time and great conversations filled with questions and answers and stories and happenings from all over the neighborhood and world. But many times we just eat together for 5 minutes before we run out of the house, and in do so we are forcing ourselves to sit together. In this world of busy-ness, that sitting together is the most valuable thing we have sometimes.

I remember having foster kids in our house, and when we’d all sit down together to eat we’d get the funniest looks. When a 4 year old shoots you the, “This is funny. Are we all going to eat together?” look then we knew something was missing from their lives. This rhythm has always been our gift to whoever is living in our house at any given time. In fact, if you’ve ever been invited over to dinner then you’ve been allowed in on our most hallowed time together!

How can you make dinner time work for you? Have you found this valuable for your family?


Rhythms that Work for My Family: Driving to School


Deuteronomy 6:7 “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

As a parent it can be exhausting to “find the time” to talk about what’s important. There is tremendous value in finding the time that is already there to get you started. Here is an actual nearly daily event that my family has found to be valuable.

Driving to school each morning is our first main interaction as a family.

I know, I know…we are around each other much earlier while getting ready, and sometimes eating breakfast; but we are not morning people in our house and any meaningful conversations tend to happen on the way to school.

I try not to “teach” on this car trip, as much as just remind them that I’m praying about the things that matter to them at school that day. I simply ask,

“What happening that’s a big deal at school today?”

It’s through that conversation that I can remind them how they are gifted to get through whatever their answer is. It’s also when I find out what’s on their mind in the morning, and it’s where I can speak into how excited I am for what their day holds.

It’s also on this car trip that we get to set the tone for our day. I point out beautiful sunsets, foggy meadows, and dew on the grass. I’m a nature inspired follower of God, and I get to share this with my kids each morning driving to school.

When we finally get to the end of our 5 minute drive, I always, always, always, always tell them that I believe they were made for the day they are about to have. It’s my way of coaching them into what could be a very important day for them. I’m not a rah-rah sort of dad, but why miss an obvious chance to send them off with some love?

What are some ways you use the mornings to introduce faith to your family?