From Nay To Yay On Digital Conferences | Orange Conference Live 2020 Recap

Steve Cullum
May 7th, 2020

What if we did this online?

There is no doubt that we have all asked ourselves that question at least once over the past couple months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are, in fact, currently contemplating this exact question for summer camp. This was the same question the leadership at Orange asked when they realized their annual conference would fall right in the middle of a nation-wide quarantine and health crisis. 

I went into Orange Conference 2020 disappointed. I look forward to my annual trip to Atlanta with thousands of other family ministry leaders. Not only is it a great time to learn, but I love going out to lunch and talking about life and ministry with them. I absolutely love hearing from others both on stage and across the table.

Nonetheless, I came out of OC20 with a revelation (perhaps, revolution too).

While there is no way to replicate the power of being in the same room with a group of like-minded individuals who not only do what we do but love what we do, the digital experience, if done right, can be a great alternative when reality does not allow us to be together physically. 

Certainly, I would have preferred to see my friends face to face…

  • I missed going up and shaking the workshop speakers’ hands after their talks.
  • I longed to hang out with my fellow Orange Bloggers in our suite and talk about our writing plans.
  • My stomach really wanted the Atlanta food while my heart desired the conversations.
  • And it is always fun to see what kind of spectacles Orange does during their main sessions with bands, videos, and skits.

What I realized, though, is that, beyond the physical connection with other people, many of the things I missed were rather superfluous.

What really shined through was the content from amazing leaders. And wow, was there a lot of great content! I am still catching my breath from the proverbial fire hose of information and wisdom. We got to hear from Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, Ryan Leak, Jon Acuff, Simon Sinek, Kara Powell, Danielle Strickland, Bernice King, Andy Stanley, Doug Fields, and so many more.

On top of all the live content, OC20 also gave all attendees access to all of the breakout workshops for an entire year. This alone is huge! Not only was I able to get great content for three days, but now I can continue growing from these leaders throughout the year. 

This pandemic has, in many ways, helped us to see what is most important.

It has allowed us to strip away all of the fluff and focus on what really matters. We are seeing it in our churches and ministries, and I believe we saw it during OC20. Sure the other parts are fun, but do they really matter in the end? In fact, this was much of the conference’s focus.

The theme, Every Generation Needs a New Revolution, was incredibly fitting and oddly coincidental since it was chosen well over a year ago

Ryan Leak reminded us that…

“Revolutions are born out of pain.”

Kristen Ivy pointed out that…

“WHY is at the beginning of every revolution.”

Danielle Strickland stated,

“Every revolution in history has an idea at just the right time, a catalytic leader with a supportive community, and a mechanism to spread the original message.”

We really need to get back to the WHY of what we do.

The HOW will often change, but the WHY should never change.

And that WHY, according to Reggie Joiner and Orange, is love. More specifically, it’s Jesus’ command for us to love. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, of the three that remain, “the greatest of these is love.” 

Near the end of the first main session, Reggie asked a question that is still reverberating in my head: “Do we love the families who don’t yet come to our churches as much as we love the families who do?” Questions like that are what we should be wrestling with and praying through during this time. And questions like those will help us lead through the gigantic pivot that needs to happen in the church and the world. 

The funny thing is that I feel like I did still connect with people.

In fact, in some ways, I may have connected with more people than usual. Between the live chat room during main sessions, live Q&A times after the breakouts, and all of the ongoing conversations within the Facebook groups, I talked to way more people than normal. Sure, we were rarely looking at each other, but there was still a connection and the exchanging of ideas and encouragements.

Do I still miss being together with other like-minded ministry leaders?


Do I still miss being in the same room as we hear inspiring messages?


Do I still miss sitting across the dinner table with other leaders?


Do I still think we should value all of those things?


But do I think Orange did a fantastic job pivoting themselves to make sure we still had an incredible experience online?


Reggie continually asked a couple questions throughout the conference:

Are you going to change your mind, and about what have you changed your mind?

I think I needed to change my mind about online conferences.

Steve Cullum

Steve Cullum is the student pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, CO, where he oversees their ministry to sixth through twelfth grade students and their families. He also hosts The Student Ministry Podcast and volunteers for the National Network of Youth Ministries. You can follow him on Twitter @stevecullum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.