First Christian Church | Pittsfield


Orange Conference -Becky

06.07.22 | Elder's Corner | by Becky Fitzmaurice

    When I left for Orange Conference, I was leaving feeling tired. Depleted. Mentally taxed. And quite frankly, tired of kids. Every single one of my roles involves young children: stay at home parent, preschool teacher, Sunday School teacher, piano teacher. Now don't get me wrong, I pour into and love each and every child that comes in my path. But anyone who has children of their own or has worked with children knows that feeling of emptiness and utter exhaustion after giving it everything you've got with no break. As we traveled, I began to slowly unwind the tension in my neck, I started to smile. I laughed. A LOT. I enjoyed the fellowship of my fellow moms/volunteers/ministry leaders and the openness we had in our conversations from the minute we left town.

    From the very moment l walked into the conference, thoughts of weariness and emptiness began to ease away, and I was transported into a community and environment where every person present was every bit as invested in their children as I am. From the T-shirts to the books, people from the videos our kids watch on Sunday mornings, and inspirational speakers who have "been there", I was immediately reminded of my purpose and very reason for being at this conference, which is simply: humans are complicated, messy, beautiful, and unique beings that were created by God for a purpose: to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves. For me personally, this specifically translates to children.

    As the opening chords of the worship team began, we began as a group to be filled back up again. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and with our collective purpose to worship the God who created us. We were encouraged by the speakers who encouraged us to dream big dreams for the lives of those children we see regularly. We were reminded to pour into our youth and love them through each twisting road. We were reminded to guide them through their search for identity, belonging, and purpose by pointing them straight to God.

    My vision for what I want my personal ministry to be within our church is 3-pronged. I was first drawn to the Orange vision 4 years ago: combining a relationship with our small group leaders and parents to equip parents for intentional relationships with kids and their faith. We, as Sunday School volunteers, see our children, on average, 40 hours A YEAR. That's not much. But, when we equip the parents of our children, our influence and relationships can be exponentially more valuable! We are poised, as a multigenerational church, to live this with intention! Secondly, I love how the Orange philosophy encourages small group leaders to walk with a specific group of kids for their entire school career. I both want to be, and want my own kids to have, a person outside of their parents to whom they can go when time gets hard, or to celebrate the highs and everything in between. Finally, I would love to see our local churches partner with our local schools to have relationships with school administration and teachers to reach children in the school context. More on all this below!

    The first full day of the Orange conference was dedicated to specific sessions based on our chosen areas of ministry. The first session, "How to Manage the Tensions of a Resilient Faith", brought specific tensions to mind as we give the Gospel to kids. As a teacher and parent, it is very easy for me to go into "instruction mode" and just give information and drill facts and knowledge into kids. But I was reminded that faith formation happens "exponentially in the context of relationship". I was also reminded that HOW we honor our children's faith journey is important. I am not the Holy Spirit, and I need to step aside and let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts as well as my own

    My second session was "Partnering with Public Schools." This one was so inspiring! Did you know that every single social issue that exists in the world today is running through our schools? From gender identity to politics, to hunger and poverty, our children are exposed to every single thing! What better place to be the hands and feet of Jesus than in a place they're already gathered? I'm aware of the very real church and state divide, this is simply a culture in which we could have an opportunity to support those teaching our kids. Write a note to your kid's teacher to say thank you ! Send them donuts (or better yet, COFFEE). Let's identify specific ways we can support our administration, staff, and subsequently, our children rather than complain and gossip about them! They've had a tough few years, and yet, they keep showing up day in and day out for our kids! Thank you, teachers and staff!!!

    The third session helped us find a vision for expanding the VBS energy all summer long! Your teachers in K-5 will be using the "Make Waves" theme all summer, expanding that for our VBS week in July. The theme is all about the small things we do creating a ripple effect to the world around us. We will be learning about God the Creator, Jesus, and our relationship with Him, and the Holy Spirit living within us to share with our world. We're wrapping up with a Family Night you won't want to miss! And small plug...if you want to volunteer...find me! I’d love to get you placed in a position where you can have a sphere of influence in a child's life and in our community too!

    My final session was about utilizing the Family Experience curriculum. We've begun to work this into our church mission over the last 4 months. FX is about getting families together for a night of fun, teaching, and community with each other and other families!  Please consider joining us this summer at one of our events or next Fall for our next round of family gatherings!

    And can just give a shout out to these ladies who volunteer and give so much to our kids??! They attended each lesson with hearts so full of ways to love our kids- YOUR kids! Yes, we were filled personally and spiritually, but we were filled so we could pour out; so, we could live our lives with intention and love for your kids! Another piece of our trip that wasn't included in the conference was a meal we shared on the last night. After we were finished discussing all the things from the sessions, our beautiful staff member, Kayla, led us in an exercise. What started as a simple, "tell me one thing you love about each person here", became a deep, loving, and personal conversation about how we speak truth into each other's lives. This was so uplifting and encouraging! So thank you, to my fellow volunteers, for speaking much-needed truth into my own life!

    The second day of our conference had us back together with 4 different sessions of worship and motivating speakers. The overall theme, Be Human, was present in each speaker's teaching. We learned how to respond to a child who has a "broken soundtrack." This means a negative or untrue thought has burst into their thought process and is replaying in their minds as they spiral downward. But "when you bump a kid with the truth, it will change the arc of their life." This means that we need to teach them to replace that negative thought with the truth of Jesus. I was actually able to speak truth into my own daughter this week as she encountered some negativity at school!

    ln these divisive times in our life, our calling is to give "absurd amounts of love." If we don't continue handing kids love and hope, the next generation will not survive. They will lose their compassion, their own hope, their bravery, their resilience, their stories, their integrity. So much is at stake! We need to stop looking at people's words and start looking at their hearts! Instead of being offended every time someone disagrees with your opinions, see them for a human being who just wants to be loved, as we all do. We are created with the capacity to choose and to have relationships like no other species on the planet, so we need to choose life, abundance, creativity, and freedom if we have any hope of surviving! How we love others will show the world He is who He says He is!! One of my favorites quotes from the final day is this: "If unity is Jesus' biggest prayer, then division must be Satan's biggest ploy." And he is winning, family. Let's stop being offended at everything and start loving. The faith of an entire generation is at stake!

    Becky Fitzmaurice