There are only two reasons I can imagine for waking up at 5:30am on a Thursday. 1) Because my house is on fire. 2) Because I’m getting ready to grab breakfast at The Orange Conference 2016 with some of my favorite middle school and high school pastors. And since I am sad that we couldn’t invite everyone in the world, I went ahead and captured some of my favorite thoughts, ideas, and best practices from our conversation so you could get in on it.


The Orange Conference 2016

For this discussion, our panel included three of my faves: Aaron Buer, Gina Abbas, and Brett Talley. But many of the comments I’ve collected here also came from the other youth ministry geniuses who were hanging out with us, too.


To kick off the conversation, our panel members were asked this question: How do you partner with parents in youth ministry? And here are a few responses that I loved.

  • Set reasonable goals for yourself and your ministry. You’ll probably never know every parent personally, and that’s okay. Engage with the ones who want to be engaged.
  • Give parents free stuff, like a book or a helpful resource you know they’ll want. But don’t just hand it out like candy. Instead, put it in the hands of their kids’ small group leaders so in order to cash in, they need to meet up with their kid’s SGL.
  • Have a Small Group Leader & Parent Breakfast! I didn’t bring this up in the discussion, but I totally would have if someone hadn’t beaten me to it. If you’ve never heard me talk about this event we did with our students, check it out. It seriously changed our whole culture for the better.


Here was a second question that I loved: How do you become a better teacher or communicator to students?

  • Keep your talks short and concise by “game-ifying” your talks. Watch the clock and compete with yourself to end on time.
  • Find the least engaged kid in the room and make it your goal by the end of your talk to get that kid to sit up, uncross their arms, or pay closer attention. (But not by calling them out… just by being more engaging.)
  • Instead of “landing” the talk yourself, let your small group leaders be the heroes by letting the tension of your talk be resolved in small groups.
  • When you write and deliver your talks, keep a few specific students in mind.
  • If you’re using teaching videos, use a live person to open, close, and transition.


Here was a third question: How do you continue growing as a leader, communicator, and innovator?

  • Use your drive time into and out of the office to listen to podcasts and audio books.
  • Always have someone older than you and someone younger than you in your life who you can learn from.
  • Stay engaged with the youth ministry community online or in your area so you can hear and see what others are doing.
  • Journal your thoughts and observations. Writing can be a great way to process and clarify what you’re working through.
  • Meet with successful leaders and business people outside of the ministry world and discover what you can learn from them.
  • Use! “It’s everything you could ever need to run your ministry.”
  • Listen to your students’ thoughts and feedback on what you’re doing and what you could do better.


And here’s the last question we talked about: How do you measure success in your ministry? How do you know when you’re winning?

  • Take big goals and break them down into more reasonable goals for you and your team, maybe seasonally or monthly.
  • Instead of focusing on numbers or attendance, focus on stories instead. Look for great stories of life change in your ministry and then share those stories publicly more often than you share your attendance numbers.

So basically… the people in that conversation were geniuses.

But what about you? What do you have to add to the conversation?