Carey Nieuwhof & Elle Campbell on getting the most out of the Orange Conference. (Or any church leader conference!)


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Every spring church leaders from around the world who are concerned about the next generation make a pilgrimage to Atlanta, Georgia for the Orange Conference. This conference is a “must attend event” from my perspective for leaders looking for inspiration and information to help their ministry go further. In today’s episode we talk with two veterans of the Orange movement – Carey Nieuwhof and Elle Campbell – about their tips for getting the most out of this conference. Even if you aren’t attending this conference … this podcast is packed full with all kinds of help for church leaders planning to be a part of any upcoming conference.

[Click here to download the Orange Conference Brochure.]

Carey Nieuwhof // [Website]  [twitter]
Elle Campbell // [Website]  [twitter]

Interview Highlights //

00:27 // An unSeminary first!

00:59 // Elle is in middle school ministry, has a resource website and has joined the Orange team

01: 30 // Carey is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and helps with the senior leader track at Orange

02:40 // Rich challenges senior leaders to not leave the work of the next generation to the youth and children’s leaders

03:45 // Elle shares how she plans before she attends a conference

04:50 // Carey shares how he prepares his team when a large number of them are attending

05:40 // As a way to reflect, Carey’s conference goers all prepare a report

06:37 // Both guests talk about how their churches handle conference finances

08:32 // Elle talks about how to meet up with like minded people at conferences

09:27 // Carey reflects on his experience meeting up with blog readers

11:09 // Carey and Elle’s packing list:  Orange clothes, giveaways and electronics

13:35 // Orange Hash Tags:  #oc14, #thinkorange

14:14 // Elle’s tutorial on how to follow a hash tag

15:58 // Check out theorangeconference.com for live stream details

15:50 // Orange is fun!

Interview Transcript //

Rich – Welcome to the unSeminary Podcast. I’m Rich Birch, the host around these parts. So glad that you have decided to spend a day with us. Today is a first for the unSeminary Podcast. We have repeat guests on the phone today. We have Carey Nieuwhof and Elle Campbell. Super happy to have them. We are talking about the Orange Conference, which for me is a must attend conference for church leaders, and also for any conference, how we can get the most out of conferences. Carey and Elle, welcome to the show!

Elle – Thank you.

Carey – Great to be back.

Rich – So glad you are here. So Elle, why don’t you tell us a little about who you are. Give us a sense of your context, your ministry, that sort of thing before we jump into the rest of today.

Elle – Sure. So I have a few things going on right now so I will tell you about all of them. So the first thing: I work at a church in Buffalo, NY. I do middle school ministry. I also have a resource site that I do with my husband Kenny. We do middle school ministry together, we also do the site together. Stuffyoucanuse.org. And I just joined the team at Orange back in October. So I am working with them on some small group stuff.

Rich – Nice. That’s great! Carey, why don’t you tell us about your ministry. And actually, why don’t you give us an overview of what the Orange Conference is all about for people who might be listening who don’t know about it.

Carey – Happy to do it! I serve as a full time Lead Pastor at Connexus Church, north of Toronto, Canada. We are a North Point strategic partner. Planted the church about 6 years ago. And I also help out at Orange. I don’t even have a title like Elle does. I just…

Elle – I don’t think I have one either, actually.

Carey – But I help out with projects and communicate, and writing and speak and lead the Senior Leader Track for Orange. Orange Conference is an incredibly fun gather. Fun and effective of these next generation leaders of family ministries, senior pastors, students, children pastors. There’s about 5 or 6 thousand that gather in Atlanta every April. So we are gathering at the end of April this year. It will really refuel your tank personally. A time to learn from the best leaders I think, that are out there today. And also a chance, even for those of us who are senior leaders, to focus on the next generations, and how can we do the best possible job of engaging and equipping families in our community.

Rich – A lot of people, if you’ve hung around unSeminary for a while, a lot of times people who are in my tribe are like senior pastors, executive pastors, I do have folks who are in family ministry, but the thing about the Orange Conference, I really do think as a senior leader in our organization, we cannot leave next generation stuff to the youth people, or to the kids people. It’s our responsibility, even though we may not be in the trenches day and and day out, we have to think strategically in that area. I think Orange is one of those conferences that helps us do that, and resources, and just like Carey said, is a lot of fun. So we are going to talk today about how to get the most out of the Orange Conference. But really what we are going to talk about today, really could apply to any conference because when we make a big investment, you take time away from your family, you want to kind of get the most out of this experience, and so we are going to take a few minutes today and just kind of talk through that. The first thing, I think when you go into a conference like this, a part of is is to schedule and prioritize what is it that you want to get out of this conference. Elle, in the past when you have tried to plan for a conference, what do you do ahead of time before you arrive at a conference.

Elle – Well it really helps when they put descriptions of the breakouts up on the internet, that helps me. So Orange has done that this year. Basically I see what’s available, what my options are and I think about the things that are going to be most applicable to me in my specific role. Something that we do with our team, if we have multiple team members going, which we usually do for Orange, is we will kind of split up. We try to not have two people going to the same break out, just so that we can get more content and then later we can kind of join forces, share notes, that kind of thing. And that helps us kind of expand so that we can hit more things that we are interested in. So that’s one thing that we do.

Rich – You know Carey, not only Orange, whenever I am at Orange I feel like there is a significant tribe that comes from Connexus, your church. Which is great. How do you prepare your team before you go? How do you strategize with them to make sure as a team you are getting enough out of this experience as a church, because it is a huge investment as a church to send more than one person.

Carey – Absolutely. Well, one of the things we do as a team is we try to meet ahead of time, and sort of set expectations. And for a lot of them, and people who sort of minister in remote locations north of Toronto, I mean theres not a lot of big churches..

Rich – The tundra.

Carey – Exactly, the tundra. There’s not a lot of what we see, so it is eye opening for a lot of people. We also, because we are a North Point Partner, we will stay for the weekend, I won’t, but the rest of the team will, just to see North Point. I think primarily for us, it’s vision casting. Hey, this is what we are trying to accomplish, in Canada, in our context. And they might have 10X the money, but this is what we are trying to do. We also have a team debrief dinner. We do all the things that Elle talks about and that’s great, but we do a team debrief dinner and usually that’s southern BBQ so it’s always fun. One of our staff members, Nadine Russel, who you and I both worked with for a season, Nadine started making us do it and I thought, ‘Really, I have to do a report?’ But we actually have every body write a report.

Rich – Really?

Carey – Yep. We do it on Google Docs and then we do summary document and we can sort of see everybody’s learning, and it makes them reflect on it. ‘Well the church invested x amount of dollars, and I invested x amount of dollars in my development, but what did I really learn?’ And that’s tremendous. So I am always taking notes in Evernote and I always take notes by live tweeting whenever I go to conferences.

Rich – That’s one of the advantages of the hash tag. Put it in there and look back on it when you go home. Now how do you guys, it kind of tweaked my thought there around the finance stuff. How have you dealt with that with your team. Do you just pay the whole thing? Do you make them pay for it? How does that work and then churches in general how they handle that kind of thing.

Carey – Elle do you want to go first?

Elle – Ya, sure. For us, our church policy is generally we get one conference a year. So let’s see, in middle school we have 3 full time staff people at our campus. So this year we are really excited because all three get to go. Ya, we are really excited about that. For the most part our church will finance the whole thing for us. In the past we have actually volunteered at the conference, then it off sets some cost, helps the church not have to pay full price for tickets. So we have done that before which is a big help to us when we couldn’t afford to send everybody we wanted to.

Rich – Nice. What about you Carey? What do you guys do?

Carey – We do the same thing for staff. We pay for one conference a year. If they want to go for more, they have to find the money elsewhere. We sometimes pay for volunteers even because it is such a big investment for us. We can send everyone to seminary, as you know, we can’t send everyone to seminary and you wouldn’t necessarily do that anyway. But sometimes we will supplement. Let’s say there’s a volunteer who really can’t afford it, really low income. We bring them down on the Connexus tab. And then I am actually leading a group right now down to Atlanta, but they all paid their own shot, some emerging leaders. We just said, ‘Hey, could you make an investment in our future?’ Not everyone could do it. We’ve got a dozen leaders heading down to North Point this weekend and they are funding it themselves which is great!

Rich – Very cool. Now one of the things I find that is maybe overlooked at Orange, or conferences like Orange is the relationships you can make in the hallways, or sitting in the seminars, can be just amazing, because really, they are people like you, they are like your tribe. Elle, can you tell a story of a time, or how have you kind of braved talking to other people in the hallways, can you tell something on that front?

Elle – Ya! Well, for me, I like to do some research beforehand. Usually about a month before the conference I am tweeting multiple times to find out who on my twitter list is actually going to be there. So I try to do some research just to see who I am already connected with, who’s going to be there. Maybe there’s not time to do a full sit down meal or coffee with them, or we could stand outside and share popsicles at the popsicle stand. Theres a few times that you can just connect very quickly and build those relationships on the fly.

Rich – Nice, now Carey the thing I love about the Orange Conference at North Point, is you’re like a rock star there. It’s always fun seeing you because you speak, your names on the website. As a speaker, someone whose interacting from that point of view, do you mind if people come up and say. ‘Hey can I grab you for 5 minutes?’ How does that work for you at a conference like this.

Carey – Ya, you know what, it’s one of the best parts of the conference for me. It’s exhausting for me because I am increasingly an introvert. But I know last year at Orange Conference, I write a blog, and I had so much meaningful feedback from people who just stopped me in the hallway, and it was specific. It was like “Hey, remember that post about…” You would have that too Rich, it was just so humbling and so amazing to see that. And I love, my sort of missions is to “help leaders lead better now”. I love just connecting with them in real life. Even whether it’s Orange Tour or Orange Conference, meeting with people, it’s like ‘Wow! You look just like your picture on twitter or on your blog.’ That’s one of my favorite parts. And this year, what’s a lot of fun is sometimes you don’t really know, I mean you are in a room with 5000 people, who’s who. You don’t really know. Everyone’s getting a wrist band, and that’s not just to enforce attendance, it’s to identify you as a senior pastor, or a next gen director or a children’s ministry worker or volunteer, so this year, you can look at people’s wrist band and say, ‘Hey, you’re another senior leader.’ So it helps you cut through the crowd a little more, and helps you identify like minded people. Because here’s the tendency, we all think we are by ourselves. We all think I’m just out here all by myself trying to do it. And you might meet someone from a city near by that you could have coffee with at home. So I love meeting people at conferences.

Rich – Alright so when you are packing up for Orange, what’s on your packing list? I think you’ve got to prepare ahead of time, you’ve got to make sure you take this. As veterans of conferences Elle, what is it that you absolutely must have to make sure you get the most out of the experience.

Elle – Lot’s of orange clothing.

Rich – It’s true, we are all wearing orange today!

Elle – So there’s that. For those of us who are doing blogs, or websites or whatever, I definitely recommend bringing not just digital things but something physical that you can hand people. Business cards, or, I usually run a fun little promotional thing when big events come around, for ‘stuff you can use’. So I might bring some flyers. We do random giveaways for stuff like that as well. I’m usually carrying around a backpack full of stupid prizes to give to people. SO that works out. Bring my Evernote app downloaded on my iPad, because I am always taking notes. Also my charger because that’s important. Actually for Christmas this year I got this really awesome hand crank charger for my iPad, so you don’t even have to plug it into a wall. So I am going to bring that.

Rich – That’s cool. What about you Carey? What do you make sure you bring?

Carey – Elle’s so much more organized than I am. It’s awesome! You can help me pack!

Elle – Ok!

Carey – I am not nearly that strategic. I just kind of try to count out the outfits and bring every device I own and every power charger I own and try to make sure I don’t have more devices than power outlets in the hotel room. But that is really important. So I have an iPad with, because I like to live tweet and live blog, one of the problems is when you use public wifi, right, it’s like dial-up. It’s terrible. So I try to make sure I have really clear signals so I can get out and talk about the conference, during the conference. Ya, that’s what I do. And then I usually bring someone on my team who can help me stay organized. I do that.

Rich – Ahh, nice. That’s a good idea. I saw recently on twitter you, what was it, you took the charger not the computer, or the computer, not the charger?

Carey – It was terrible. I brought the charger but I forgot my Mac Book Air. I am like, this is no good, I would rather have the Mac Book Air for 3 hours of flight than just the charger. Ya, I forgot.

Rich – That’s fantastic. Alright, like a lot of conferences, they are doing a bunch of social media stuff ahead of time. Elle how could someone track with the conversation ahead of time for Orange? You mentioned it, you kind of look for your own tribe. How could people do that leading up to the Orange?

Elle – The official hash tag is #oc14. The other hash tag that gets used pretty often in the trivia is #thinkorange. Both of those will get you to some good places. Also, if you go to the Orange Leaders website, if you just do a quick search on the website for Orange Bloggers 2014, you’ll find a list of everybody who is going to be at the conference, everybody who is going to be blogging about it, so that’s just another way to stay in the loop especially if you can’t make it to the conference.

Rich – Cool. Now for people who don’t know, what’s the best way to follow a hash tag on twitter? Or how do you do that? Do you do that in HootSuite?

Elle – There’s a few ways you can do that. If you are managing social media sites, I recommend using HootSuite anyways. If you’ve already got it that’s a good way to do it. You can have multiple panels for what you are following. But easiest thing, just click on the hash tag when you see it in somebody’s tweet. It will bring up all the recent ones. They also just incorporated hash tags on Facebook recently this year so you can do that there as well. And Instagram.

Rich – Right. So Carey, at the conference, actually a lot of conferences give away a tremendous amount of content while it’s happening. Do you know, is Orange doing a live stream this year? Do you know what’s happening on that front this year?

Carey – Ya, I think they are. If you go to whatisorange.org, that’s sort of head quarters for everything Orange. And there’s also the Orangeconference.com which is specifically just for the conference. I know I have always been interviewed in previous years, and they do a live stream of a lot of the main sessions. And one of the best ways honestly is just to follow the hash tag and you will get live bloggers. I think Brian Dodd is live blogging, and you’ll get some senior leaders live blogging it, and lots of Orange bloggers too. So there’s lots of ways if you can’t get to Atlanta. And then in the fall every year, we were just reviewing the dates for this fall. Reggie goes out and does an Orange Tour and I will be at about half the tour stops this year, because I have that full time job thing going on. I will be able to make it to about half, and we also try to get into people’s cities in the United States.

Rich – Nice. A couple years ago the Orange Tour made a stop by us and it was great. It was fantastic. We actually loaded up a bunch of our staff to go, who normally wouldn’t, we normally wouldn’t take to a conference. It was a fantastic opportunity for the team. So before we kind of wrap it up, just two questions. So a part of what I noticed this year, there seems to be a shift in the branding a little bit, and Orange is really selling the fun side of it. That the conference is going to be fun. I’ve noticed that from a communications point of view. Can you give us any inside tips on what is just going to be so fun? Maybe in past years or this coming year at the conference. How about you Elle?

Elle – You know there is going to be, especially during the pre-conference, there is going to be a big emphasis on tribes, so as part of the middle school tribe, we value fun especially. So there’s going to be, for example, Kenny and I are leading a break out that is 100% about fun games you can play with middle schoolers. I love that that is an options this year.

Rich – So fun!

Elle – I think we are actually going to play some games during that break out. So please come if you are in the middle school ministry tribe. That will be good. That’s one thing. Carey might know some more details being in some of the conference mix.

Carey – Well I’m a senior leader and so we don’t actually have fun. We just laugh at other people who have fun. Last year, I don’t know if you were there Elle, Reggie did a whole session on fun and I have not laughed that hard in years. And it was one of those, “Well what made it funny?’ I don’t know, you just had to be there. Orange has a, well Jeff Foxworthy is going to be there this year. So he has a way of making people laugh. It’s just a light hearted…when you are doing serious work, it’s good to relax and have some fun, so there’s going to be a lot of great content for senior leaders and everyone else. Fun is I think is as much a mindset, as it is something specific. And Orange has never been boring. You go to some conferences and you think, well I guess I got my money’s worth but at Orange you will leave smiling.

Rich – Well, I appreciate you guys being on the show today. Elle, if people want to get in touch with you how can they get in touch with you, learn more about your ministry.

Elle – Ya, you can checkout my blog which is ellecampbell.org. I am on twitter my handle is Elle, my name with 11 L’s (ellllllllllle).

Carey – Why 11 Elle?

Rich – Inquiring minds want to know.

Elle – Well, everything up to 9 was taken, and I thought 10 was boring so I thought, 11 it is!

Rich and Carey – That’s great!

Rich – What about you Carey? If people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Carey – Probably the easiest way is just my personal blog which is my name, which is so easy to spell, careynieuwhof.com. And that’s a way to get a hold of me. And on twitter I am cnieuwhof, and on Instagram it’s my full name Carey Nieuwwhof.

Rich – Nice. We we’ll have links to both those on the site, and actually for the conference, it’s theorangeconference right? Not just orangeconference?

Carey – Yes. theorangeconference.com I believe is the address.

Rich – Great! So if you want to check that out, that would be great! Thanks so much for being on the show today guys. Really appreciate that.

Elle – Thanks for having us!


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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.