Monday, February 08, 2016

Summer 2016 - The First Send

I first met Rachel in the fall of 2010 when she was a freshman at a college on the eastern shore of Merryland and was part of a merry band of students involved consistently every week with various community impact organizations. I was impressed by her heart, her grace, and her acting on the right things even after being so new in her faith. And she was uproariously funny.

Today, I'm thrilled to announce our first summer send for The Ember Cast - Ember sends Rachel to Amadeo Church in Queen Creek, AZ. This summer, she will be their staff social worker, helping to integrate and connect various ministries under Amadeo's leadership and resourcing those ministries to serve the Queen Creek community at large.

Rachel is in the middle of getting a graduate degree in social work and her responsibilities this summer will touch multiple social work domains including working with such initiatives like:
a food pantry that serves up to 50,000 meals a year, a pregnancy center, a coffee shop, a homeless outreach, visual and musical art classes as well as physical exercising opportunities like zumba and stretching classes, a suicide support group, a human trafficking relief organization and numerous families within Amadeo that have adopted and/or foster kids. As you can tell, lots of opportunities for a social worker to jump in and help while also quite a playground for someone to dream and forge the future.

Thanks in advance for your support. The Ember Cast exists for people like Rachel.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday Burn

::: 3.57 degrees of separation

::: Let's Kill All the Mosquitoes

::: Tiny Houses Giving Seattle's Homeless A Place to Live

::: Vision transfers through people not paper. -@WillMancini

Photo: Ember Staff, Chinatown, Philly. Jan 2016.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

ProtoGuide 2016 Reading List

The reading list. If you know other young people that read Hirsch, Tyson, or Addison, I would love to know whom and why. We begin next Monday.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Positive Trend of January Church Leadership Gatherings

An interesting thing filled up part of my social media feeds these past few weeks - something that I hadn't quite noticed this time in years past. And that interesting thing was church leadership gatherings. More than ever, I noticed lots of churches gathering their leaders together for encouragement, vision and development. Very exciting!

I was involved in this exact thing last weekend with a church outside of Phoenix. My own church had this type of gathering this weekend although I didn't attend it this year and they do it every year at the end of January - I even helped run it in 2011. Two churches I track and look up to had theirs this past weekend. It's a phenomenal thing to see happening and this focus on leadership development was one of the very integral things that drew us to our home church.

If you are a leader in a church [paid or volunteer] but don't get invested in like this every year, you should ask why not. If you are in charge of a church but don't do this kind of thing every year for the people that serve with you, you should change that. Like it or not, you are the one, or should be the one, that defines and shapes how your leaders grow. Leadership development is one of the key things that makes or breaks a faith community.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Burn

::: Most of Your Facebook Friends Don't Care About You
Dunbar's number even holds up for Facebook.

::: The Reductive Seduction of Other People's Problems

::: What Experts Will Never Tell You About Your MBTI

::: The great x-factor of leadership is not personality; it's humility. Jim Collins via @craiggroeschel

Photo: walkie talkies, one of the two things The Ember Cast actually owns.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Tips for Public Speaking

I never set out to be a public speaker and am far from it. But your grand vision may require you, at times, to speak in front of people. Overall, that is a good thing - you should always be able to articulate what you do and why you do it. The fact that people are asking for your wisdom and insight related to your dream is a privilege.

These past few months, I have been given a lot more opportunities for speaking than usual and therefore wrote down some personal tips as well as points that I borrowed from great communicators. Maybe this list will help you be a better communicator too.
Memorize your introduction. This helps make you feel confident at the beginning of your talk and frees you up to establish rapport with the audience right away.

Practice an hour for every minute of the length of your talk - Steve Jobs

Lapel or over the ear microphone - not handheld microphone or microphone on a stand. If over 30 people, you need a mic.

The crowd always looks bigger from the back. It never looks like that many people from the front or the stage.

The smaller room the better - you want it to feel packed. - Seth Godin

Don’t memorize your talk. Understand it. - Carey Nieuwhof

Practice with your technology. Don't do presentations that require wifi - this includes running things from Google Drive. Backup your presentation on a USB drive and have that on you at all times. Be careful about fonts - if you present with someone else's computer, they may not have the same fonts.

My personal set up - Dell 14inch laptop - uses HDMI out to an HDMI:VGA converter. Does not work well for video. Slides in Powerpoint. I try to minimize words unless it is for a class, like Perspectives. Otherwise, lots of pictures that don't mean anything unless you are present for the talk. The HDMI-VGA converter works well.

I always run slides from my computer. This allows me to make very last minute changes if I need to. This also allows me to dig up info as needed. If you send your slides, the hosts almost always need them 1-2 weeks early.

Get there early to do a tech set up.

The 10:20:30 rule. 10 slides. 20 minutes. No smaller than 30 size font. - Guy Kawasaki [This will not work for teaching classes obviously.]

Check out

For weddings, I use a tablet. Make a PDF of the talk and blow up the font then speak from the PDF. You can tap it without it doing weird stuff - like a Word or Google doc.

I don't use notecards at all. Sometimes, I will write out the words to my introduction in manuscript style to get my mind moving. I then memorize most of that for the talk.

Have a 4:3 and a 16:9 presentation if you think a 16:9 projector is available. 16:9 looks better.

Right before your speech, flex your face muscles for a few minutes. Make funny shapes with your mouth. Smile a lot. This helps you face be limber.

When pricing, include prep time as part of the time spent on the project.

Purchase a presentation remote.

Pace your voice by the kind of talk you are doing. For example, leadership sessions=faster pace, wedding message=slow and dramatic.

No gum, no phones, no sunglasses. - Rachel, wedding coordinator

Your audience is not full of antagonists. They want to hear what you have to say. Treat them as the customer not as people out to get you. They want you to kill it. But they, not you, are the most important.

Presenters too often focus on delivery and forget content; delivery is the first thing to suffer from nerves, but content won’t. It’s your bedrock. - Tim Ferriss

If you speak with a tablet, you can take pictures from up front in secret if you want. Like at weddings, take a picture of the procession from the very front [Tim Jones]

Monday, January 25, 2016

4 Days with Amadeo Church

Those of you that have been around here a while know the names of Ben Cloud and Amadeo Church well. Deanna and I spent last weekend with them and it was an absolute joy. We love their faith community and the way they continue to risk, create and innovate for their city and for the Gospel.

Ben invited me to be a part of their yearly envisioning gathering, a time when they gather their leadership and dream and imagine the upcoming year and it was an absolutely honor to be with them for this. It was such a privilege to interact with Amadeo and her leaders. I also preached at their Sunday services - three of them. I've actually never 'preached' the sermon before so that was an interesting experience.

I loved the interactions for the envisioning gathering. All credit for the content of those sessions goes to our Ember Guides who have done the hard work of modeling catalytic leadership with so many students and teams in so many venues around the world. It was so much fun to distill what we have learned into a series of interactive talks.

For certain, Ben and Mandy have shaped the ethos of their faith community. It readily shows up when most everyone can repeat these phrases with just a small prompt. Some of my favorite Amadeo mantras:
Everyone plays.
Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.
Do the stuff.

Ah Arizona for the weekend while Baltimore had a record snowstorm. And wow the fresh squeezed orange juice. And seeing some other great friends at Amadeo. Congrats and thanks Amadeo for a milestone weekend!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Burn

::: The Facebook Loving Farmers of Myanmar

::: Packing List for A Month on the Road

::: 5 Emerging Traits of the Most Successful Church Planters

Photo: parking garage, Philly.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ending Extreme Poverty in 15 Years

Amazing visualization of the flow of extreme poverty - this is amazing news. Hans Rosling at his best. Another reason why we are living in some of the most amazing times in human history. Via

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ember 2016 Philly Leadership

As part of the 2016 summer student missions initiatives of Grace [our home church], Ember spent about 24 hours this past weekend in Philadelphia doing some team leader training. It was our privilege to work with a great set of leaders - humble, interested and totally engaged in being their best as they lead their students cross culturally this summer.

Most of the weekend was centered around the idea of decoding and navigating culture. If you've been around Ember for a while, you've probably participated in one of our culture scavenger hunts - this weekend was much of the same kind of thing, using City Center and Chinatown as our context. Both of these areas are rich with resources for this kind of experience and our teams were able to check out lots of interesting sights. The big win, of course, is to be able to teach your students how to navigate and decode culture. This weekend was hopefully the start of a shift in perspectives for leaders first.

Interesting cultural nuances of Philly that I learned about this weekend:
+ Most of the food service workers in Chinatown are actually Latino.
+ Love Park was packed with skateboarders. And I mean packed.
+ One of Philly's best community catalysts, LT, gave us a little tour on Friday night. Love his heart for his city and it was the best way to kick off something like this. Part of his tour included the stories about an alley right behind his church and how that space is being transformed and redeemed.
+ We stumbled upon Rosa's Pizza, which the pizza place where you can donate a slice to the homeless. That was so cool to see in person.
+ If you are in City Hall, take note of how distinct all 4 exits are.

Our Ember team did great and were awesome resources as these teams went out exploring to create a culture exercise for other teams - I'm proud to note that they were all high school or college students, working with leaders who were older than them. The only location details we gave the team we were working with was coordinates - that was fun. We also gave this team a set of very detailed conversation topics for the ride up, including taking a mobile friendly Myers Briggs test, discussing the Tuckman model of group dynamics, and reflecting on a few significant quotes about team leadership.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Burn

::: Street Lamps Tackle Dengue by Luring Mosquitoes With Fake Human Scent

::: What's the biggest threat to polio eradication? Terrorism.
Link via NextDraft

::: Isochronic Distances from London [How long it takes to travel]
1914 versus 2016
Link via Chris Blattman

::: I dream my painting and I paint my dream. - Vincent van Gogh via @STORY

Photo: Decompressing Urbana15 a few weeks ago.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Announcing the 2016 ProtoGuide

Today, I'm thrilled to announce that ManderK joins The Ember Cast as the Spring 2016 ProtoGuide. The ProtoGuide experience is our capstone offering that combines deep learning about current issues in global leadership and real time serving on various Ember projects. For Mander, we are working on setting up a few engagements where she will work with some of our trusted partners in her specific areas of interest. The rest of the time, she'll do some reading, writing and helping with Ember projects. She'll also spend some dedicated time learning from and getting to know our Board of Directors.

The ProtoGuide concept is one of our best and my favorite. The seeds of it were conjured up in 2005 when a high school student sought to do an internship with me and we've tweaked and grown it since then, almost every year. It gives me a chance to hang with some amazing young people, it represents our best teaching and forms a leadership pipeline for Ember Guides.

It's not for everyone - you have to be interested in this kind of stuff, you have to have enough time to invest in this and you have to laugh at my jokes. But Mander is all of that and a well known quantity - we've known her since she was a little kid. She also was a part of both X teams in 2013 and 2014. I'm excited for what and how she is going to learn this term as a ProtoGuide and I'm pretty she's going to help us crank up the possibilities for ProtoGuides of the future.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Photo: Parc Jourdan, Aix-en-Provence, France, July 2014.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy 15th!

Dear Em -

Happy 15th birthday today - Mommy and I are so proud of you!

This past year, we watched you finish middle school [thank the Lord] and adjust and navigate and eventually thrive in high school. We know Algebra 2 GT hasn't been kind to you, but you are persevering and that is great.

And of course, you have continued to share your heart and soul this year - allied bowling, helping at The Well multiple times, and jumping in to Ember projects. And although you were the youngest person on our Prague team, you made significant contributions in planning and leading. You've got the adventure in you alright and we are thrilled at how you are playing an important role in moving the Kingdom forward.

Keep seeking the Lord - He will show you the path and give you the strength and daring to live out His will.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Friday Burn

::: Stop Sending Missionaries

::: 9 Productivity Tips from People Who Write About Productivity

::: Why the Post Office Makes America Great

::: Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photo: Decompressing Urbana 2015.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Preparing for Summer Time

Leading student teams in cross cultural experiences is one of the toughest jobs there is. Most of the time, it's executed by volunteers who have real jobs and young families and give up vacation time and time with their kids to shepherd students to another culture. The set of responsibilities is huge and never ending. If you have teenagers in your house, this is not a surprise and you probably think some of these people are crazy.

However, there are things you can do to help your leaders be their best. You can give them some leadership tools. You can help them see culture with a new perspective. You can teach them the good and bad things that can happen with teams.

Summer 2016 will be here before you know it. It's not too early to plan some student missions training. In fact, if you have some kind of oversight for missions and/or students in what you do, this kind of stuff is your responsibility.

The Ember Cast would love to help you prepare your student teams. Get in touch.