Last month several members of Browncroft’s Family Ministry staff team participated in the Orange Conference. This annual event in Atlanta is intended to be an inspiring boost for church leaders passionate about the faith and future of the next generation.
The Browncroft Blog caught up with Trisha Smith, Senior Director of Family Ministry, as well Aaron McGinnis, Alex Welker, and Alyssa Matz after they returned. This conversation is fun and insightful. And it’s also timely as we approach a message series in June focused on investing in strong families!
Trisha, why did you want to go to the Orange Conference with your team?
I wanted to go to the Orange conference to be inspired, to gain knowledge, to interact with other ministry leaders, and to expose the Browncroft FM team to the many voices of others who are passionate about family ministry.
It sounds like an amazing opportunity. So I need to ask… did you learn anything new about the team?
I learned that Aaron can — and will — have a conversation with just about anyone. I learned that Aaron and Alyssa will almost always order the same meal at a restaurant. And I learned that Alex is very conscientious and punctual… she didn’t want to miss a thing!
It was also confirmed to me that God has carefully put this Family Ministry team together specifically for such a time as this, and I am so grateful to be part of it.
That’s so great. Did anything surprise any of you? Alyssa?
Since this was my first Orange Conference, I was just surprised by the size of the conference itself. There are so many churches nationally and internationally speaking the same language and leading their ministries in a similar way as Browncroft! It made me feel like we were just a small part of a big team.
Alex, what about you? Was there a notable moment that comes to mind?
I think the most meaningful session for me was “How to Partner with Parents of Kids with Special Needs.” Kim Botto framed this session around Luke 18:16 and talked about how Jesus said to let the children come to him. He didn’t just say some of the children… He said all of them. I think that it is so important to show empathy and extend grace to every child and family. I loved how Kim reminded us to do that!
Aaron, it looks like you noticed Alex’s excitement here.
Yes, Alex is passionate about special needs and accessibility. I’m excited to see how this impacts the ministry at Browncroft.
Me, too! So, Aaron, what was the most exciting session at the conference for you?
“Faith Beyond Youth Group.” The question students have asked from adults has shifted drastically in the last 20 years. The biggest question concerning adults used to be “Are you cool?” But now teens are asking adults, “Can I trust you?”
Wow, talk a little more about that, Aaron.
We have to be willing to trust a generation that does not yet trust us. And in this generation the most common on-ramp to faith is first trusting someone who trusts Jesus. I think this has big implications and pushes directly against the consumeristic model of ministry we’ve seen across the US. It’s not about perfect programming, but rather Christ-centered relationships.
The message that I took home with me was to continue to make room at the table for the next generation. We can’t serve and lead and pour into a generation we are not willing to hear from or trust.Trisha Smith, Browncroft Senior Director of Family Ministry
Trisha, I want to give you a chance to jump in.
Much of the theme of the conference was that kids and students aren’t the church of tomorrow — they are the church of today. And when we invest in the next generation to lead and use their gifts today, their faith can grow bigger and stronger to impact tomorrow. It was encouraging and exciting to see this principle being lived on such a huge platform.
That is a powerful thought. Alyssa, what is something you are taking home with you from this conference?
One big theme from each breakout I went to was that it doesn’t really matter how much you know — I mean there are A LOT of facts, stats, and opinions you can have on many topics — but what truly matters at the end of the day is caring for people first. Hearing stories, sharing compassion, showing love. I want to make Family Ministry, and Browncroft as a whole, a place that is known for loving first — even in the midst of difficult conversations.
How about you, Alex?
One of the things that I felt was emphasized a lot in the conference was to meet people where they are at. People need different things, and sometimes we don’t know their needs. So, the best thing we can do is ask them, “What do you need?”
Parents, maybe the most impact you can have on your children is not to send them to every camp, Wednesday night, and retreat. Maybe your role in this season is to consistently show up for them… Make the effort to build trust with them as you trust Jesus. Be the example of Christ’s love in your family. (And we’re here to support you!)
Ok, Trisha, give us the last word here. What is a lesson or message from the Orange Conference you want to speak into your efforts at Browncroft?
The message that I took home with me was to continue to make room at the table for the next generation. We can’t serve and lead and pour into a generation we are not willing to hear from or trust. Yes, we have wisdom and experience. But we also need to have open ears and hearts as we show them what following Jesus looks like. When we hear them — when we acknowledge and affirm them — they can feel known and loved by us. It’s a beautiful picture of how Jesus knows and loves each one of us.
Thank you, Family Ministry team. May the Lord bless your work!