What I Learned at Orange Conference 2016: Monday is Coming

This past week I had the opportunity for the second time to go to the Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference is a next generation conference, designed to equip and empower next gen leaders for their ministry. It gave tools and new ideas that could be incorporated into ministry, and I loved it. It was such a refreshing week to be able to feel empowered about my passion for reaching the next generation and equipping next gen leaders to be the best they can be. The theme of the conference was, “Monday is Coming,” which was all about how we need to be intentional about the way we partner with kids and students throughout the week. So often we can get caught up in what we do Sunday, making sure everything is just right and that we have the best experience, we forget that the students have an entire week without us. We should shift our thinking to the idea that Sunday is pre-Monday. The first speaker of the night was Jon Acuff, and awesome speaker and writer that I look up to, and he made the point that people visit on Sunday, but they live in Monday. The church as a whole often fails at this idea, we get so caught up with programs and systems we forget that these people are only here for a short time in the morning, but they have an entire week filled with life, and life gets hard. It’s easy to forget that people have lives outside of what we see on Sunday, we experience death, failure, and heartache; we experience Monday. Everyone faces these trials and pain, especially kids and students. I know that they experience it, because I experienced it. I am so thankful for my home church of Daystar, because the leaders there know how important the week is. The thing I love about it is that it’s a place where the leaders care what happens in the lives of the people, I can about the lives of the students in my small group. Sunday is a good thing, but the value of walking with someone through their Monday can change their life forever.

It was a refreshing trip, and it solidified my heartbeat for next gen ministry. I love to write and plan to write for a long time, but I am so excited when it comes to next gen ministry. I love being able to guide students in their week and help small group leaders be empowered to be intentional. It was a wonderful week, and adventurous one as well. Our drive down on Wednesday was met with a tire that burst, like, completely off. We had to change it and get new tires which turned our 4 hour trip into a 7 and a half hour trip. The enemy didn’t want us to go. We made it with plenty of time after that and had an incredible week, with each of us being empowered and having much laughter and fun throughout the conference. Such awesome teaching and great time of learning in the breakout sessions. Our trip home was exciting as well as we found a place to eat that, on the online reviews, said it was a cute little diner. In reality it was quite the opposite, two little old men owned this restaurant that was under construction and not a soul was to be found inside. Sinks in the bathroom didn’t work and we had to wash our hands behind the counter, but the food wasn’t bad! It was a fun, inspirational, and fantastic week that left me feeling so encouraged. I want to share a couple of big takeaways I had that I think will help you as you journey into your own leadership.

Monday is stressful, unpredictable, and loud; so let’s take a stand.

The first night was outlining just how difficult the lives of students and kids truly is. We often can think that they don’t experience the hardship of life because they’re young, but this is the opposite. All youth are at-risk, each day they have a choice to make and that choice can affect them for the rest of their lives. When we have leaders that care about the lives of the students during the week gives them hope, a hope that they can cling to in the midst of madness. The lives of kids and students is unpredictable, and they need leaders like you. The average age for a child to see pornography is eleven years old. Just let that sink in. Kids deal with porn, bullying, and unpredictable circumstances on a daily basis. What we can do for students is be predictable, show up in their lives consistently so that when they struggle, you can be there for them. People hear so many voices in their lives, negative voices are loud in their lives telling them they aren’t worth it or they don’t matter. We need to be louder. We need to make sure that kids, students, and adults know that they are made in the image of God and that they are so worth loving.

The truth matters when love matters.

This was one point that kept coming back to me throughout the week. All too often I can get caught up in making sure the truth is presented that I can forget that the truth doesn’t matter if it is not brought in love. Love is an action, and it looks like simply caring about someone’s Monday. If you don’t know the people you are serving it is impossible to speak truth in love to them. The church should be a place where love is shown, instead of just telling a person what to do, actually coming alongside of them and helping them in any way that they can. That’s why a small group culture is so important, being able to have people walk with you in life as the world seems to be falling apart, joining with each other in prayer, it is a beautiful thing. The church should be a place where people can come and find refuge, a place that teaches us that we are made in the image of God. We are called to love God and love people, once we begin to do this, the truth will come. The truth only matters when love matters.

We don’t have to be alone.

Another big takeaway for me was the idea that we never have to be alone. Life is filled with hard moments, we all experience heartache and pain, and it can feel like we are alone in our walk. When you’re alone, you feel hopeless, you feel as if nothing can help you. But there is always hope. We need to be the voices in the lives of students and people we serve that there is hope and that they’re never alone. The idea of belonging is the difference maker in the church, it’s what sets it apart. On the last day, one of the speakers shared his story and how he felt hopeless and alone, but the church saved his life. Gerald Fadayomi spoke about how the church plays a key part in telling people that they don’t have to be alone. He said, “Monday is coming and someone is alone, but they don’t have to stay that way, because Sunday is coming and we can help them know that they belong.” What a powerful statement. We have the ability to use the way we serve on Sunday to let kids, students, and even adults that they don’t have to be alone. We are made in the image of God and we don’t have to be alone.

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This past week was such an encouraging and powerful time. I learned so much and this is only a portion of what I discovered during the conference. Times like this refills my cup, because it’s easy for leaders to get worn out or feel like what they are pouring their life into isn’t worth it, but it is so worth it. We have been specifically placed right where God wants us to be. Whether you serve with next gen or if you serve in other areas, we have the responsibility to speak life into the Monday’s of life. We have the ability to take a stand during the unpredictable moments in life, to work in love, and to confirm to others that we are never alone with Christ. I love the idea of imaging what would happen if we told kids and students that they are made in the image of God, I want to live in that world. I want every child to know that they are unique and that they are so worth loving, so I want to speak into their Monday. It truly was an incredible week.

Remember that every week, Monday is coming.

-Joshua Thomas

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