First Christian Church | Pittsfield


Orange Conference - Bethany

07.26.22 | Elder's Corner | by Bethany Dunham

    Orange Conference 2022, or OC22 as I’ll refer to it here, was full of emotions. You could find us laughing, crying, and worshipping all within minutes of each other. Exhaustion was something else, with the small amount of times we saw the back of our eye lids, we powered through. But I will never forget the 72 hours we spent together, the six of us from FCC, along with the 6,000 other Christians learning and worshipping together. Did you know there were 70 different denominations at OC22, including some from Norway? What an amazing God we serve!

    My hope is that by reading all our letters, you will get a sense of what OC22 meant to each of us. When I sat down to write this, I started going through all my notes and I fully intended on including everything! But I took sixteen pages of notes, so then I thought “they may have to put extra postage on the newsletter so probably not a good idea.” Each of us attended different sessions on Thursday, and we chose those sessions depending on what area we served in the church. I chose YOUTH.

    But before I break into the sessions, this years theme at OC22 was BE HUMAN. And wow, aren’t we all human? That’s the one thing we all have in common. Doesn’t matter age, political view, race, color, gender identity (yes, I went there). Whether we like raisins or don’t like raisins. Because God created humans in His image, we are part of His story. We all want to know who we are, where we belong, and what our purpose is. We can find our identity in Jesus, because he makes us enough, and we belong with God’s people because we are part of His story. So here we go….

    Session 1-The Social Dilemma of Human Technology

    Am I using technology or is technology using me? Guilty! I felt convicted. We often times pull out our phones to pass time while waiting in line or in the waiting room. But then we find ourselves in a habit of waiving our face in front of it to check notifications, or to see if enough time has passed for another life on Candy Crush. I’m guilty as anyone who can relate. By being intentional of what we are viewing on our phones, we can change the algorithm’s content and context. Our youth are watching us and can be the same for them. Did you know that 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones? They continue to worry about who liked a post, or how many likes they received. While at the same time, worried about who didn’t like the post or not getting more likes than so-and-so. This session taught me to ask “How does this app make you feel?”. If the answer is anything other than “Good”, DELETE IT! We can show our

    youth how to use technology and social media for the good. FCC offers RightNow Media, a great resource for individual studies or group studies. I find “YouVersion” or the “Bible” app, a great resource as it has daily devotionals that go along with the verse of the day. We have to get these into our youth’s hands. Technology isn’t always bad, but we have a responsibility to the next generation to show them how to use it and social media in a Christ centered, positive way.

    Session 2- What Parent’s aren’t Telling You, but Need to Know

    Every parent still has more influence on their children than we do. We only get 2-4 hours a week with their children and that small amount of time is so precious, but not enough. For the rest of the time, parents are the ones planting seeds. As quoted from the session speaker, “If we want future generations to win, we have to help parents win.” Be curious, not judgmental, ask questions. Every parent is important, every parent is human, and every human has a parent. But what does this look like in the church? Our youth need to see us worshipping beside them. One thing I love about Sunday School is worshipping with the kids before breaking into our small groups. They’re loud, they’re having fun, and they dance!

    There was a question asked to current youth leaders “What is something someone could have done to better support your parents?” The answer, “I ran into God because a church bus came to me. I wish it would have come to my mom.” Could this look like more family events, or someway the church can get involved with schools and families? It got me thinking, and I don’t know the answer, but I believe with God, anything is possible. Philippians 4:13

    Session 3- LGBTQIA

    For me, this is hard subject. And I questioned whether to put it in my report. However, I do feel it is important to remember that we are called to “Love each other as I have loved you”, John 15:12. I’ve been reminded time and time again Jesus will meet me where I am. Who am I to get in the way of someone else meeting Jesus where they are? And because of that, I hold onto the love for people that Jesus gives us each and every day.

    Session 4- Lead Yourself

    Doug Fields, a youth leader for 40 years said “Be the leader you wish you had.” This stands true at home as a parent, at work as a boss, or at church as a leader. We need to feed ourselves as much as we’re feeding those who look to us. When we notice we are easily discouraged, our connections with Jesus are rare and lack depth, and we leave a series of disappointments. It’s time to confess and change.

    So I’ve been asking myself since we got back from OC22, “Where do we go from here?”. We all sat down one night to unwind over appetizers and got to share and listen to everyone’s sessions. We have ideas for our communities and ideas for our schools. We talked about how to love like Jesus, and what that looks like for ALL humans. And my favorite quote of OC22 was by Danielle Strickland when she said “The potential for every seed is not just to grow one tree but to grow an entire forest. That’s the potential that lives within every human.” The next generation depends on us and my hope and prayer is that with the Orange philosophy, we can do big things for our youth, families, and communities.

    Bethany Dunham