Monday, April 23, 2018

Experiencing Creative Revenue

One of our Italy-Greece team members is hosting a variety/talent show this coming Friday as part of her Creative Revenue Plan. If you would love to support our team but can't give financially or not sure what else to do, this would be a great way to show your support. Come meet and hang with our team and be entertained by some high school talent - we would sure love to see you. Here are the details:

Friday April 27th
The Church at Severn Run
8187 Telegraph Road, Severn, MD 21144
Doors at 6pm, show at 6:30pm
$10 cash at the door
There will be snacks for sale.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Burn

::: American Airlines' AAirpass
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::: Where is the OLPC now?
I bought one of these in 2007, big fan of the ideas behind it.
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::: Sydney to split into 3 cities
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::: Live to the point of tears. - Albert Camus via Jon Tyson

Photo: Blackheath, Australia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Evangelism as Exploration

This raises the general question: How do churches effectively reach New Copernicans? My assessment is that churches need to provide authentic experiences of following Jesus into the arenas of their deepest longings (justice, beauty, love and spirit), giving them an opportunity to connect their personal story with a larger narrative of meaning, particularly couched in a relationally humble 3-D posture. Millennials want to see that you practice what you preach, that you love the world you live in through your work and not just your words.
Most importantly, this will require revamping how we think about, frame and teach evangelism. Even the word evangelism is a stumbling block for many millennials. The immediate reaction is "What are you trying to sell me or do to me that I don't want?" This is a fair reaction in light of the church's typical approach. We need a new picture for evangelism. It is less about closing a mortgage as joining an exploration.
- The New Corpernicans, Millennials and the Survival of the Church - David John Seel, Jr.

Monday, April 16, 2018

IG Team Meeting #6

When we get the chance, most years that I lead teams, I try and drag the team to a Perspectives class when I can. If I'm teaching it, I'll intro the team to the class too. It gives our team a chance to learn some of the content in the class, which is still one of the best collection of content about global missions, and it inspires and challenges the people taking the class. If a 16 year old has signed up to spend 2 weeks in an unreached city, what are you doing about your convictions?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ember April Dinner

In the Spring of 2011, I met David Huey at a Dream Year weekend here in DC. We hit it off based on lots of similarities, including both of us running a nonprofit as a 'hobby', day jobs in technology, and a passion to live lives larger than just ourselves. David runs Hungry For a Day and we've kept in touch over these many years. David was gracious enough to fly up here to be our Ember April dinner guest. Some notes from our conversation below:
The book that changed it all - A million miles in a thousand years by Donald Miller
Wanted to live a significant life just wasn't sure how. A life having a good job and going on good vacations wasn't enough.

Made some money even before they knew they needed it.
Sold college football t shirts, made about $3K
About a year and a half later, started Hungry 4 A Day

Bless others out of abundance
Inspire others to sacrifice
Give out of excess of time, treasure, talents
Did not want to be the primary financial donor for his nonprofit
Other people give way more than he does

Basic premise is that people can choose to donate money to specific projects sponsored by H4AD. Most projects last 2 months. Some samples include:
Serenity steps sex industry hot dogs and prayer
Got a food pantry up and running
Food truck in st pete that makes gourmet pb&j sandwiches - buy 1 and 1 gets given away
Set up a bakery in an Iraqi refugee camp
Thanksgiving project where they partner with churches to do thanksgiving meals. Started with 50 people first year now up to 22k people last year.

God provides when you don't know it
Someone wanted to give them a truck
They had decided early on that they did not want to be in the food distribution business so no warehouses, trucks, etc.
They accepted the truck and then found out someone else in their network needed it.

Ideal partner org for them is someone with a small budget not a huge operation.

Favorite Book - A million in a thousand years Donald Miller
Favorite Place - Iceland or Hawaii
Favorite Food or Meal - Mexican food
Another career - I actually love my job

How often do you go hungry for a day
2 or 3 times a year

How many sought out Jesus from tday outreach

Gave up NFL and fantasy football to get things done

Advice for young people:
Travel when you can
Get out of your own biases

Monday, April 09, 2018

Creative Revenue Plans - 2018

Ember believes that missionaries of the future will rely on a 'portfolio of revenue.' [credit for this term goes to Ben Arment.] In other words, they will need to actually make some money outside of personal donations. Since 2013, our summer teams have been required to dream and execute a Creative Revenue Plan - a way to make some income based on their talents and gifts. This unique income will go directly towards 10-25% of funding of their missions experience. Prayer and financial support letters are also required.

Creative revenue has proven to be one of the most exciting things happening with our teams every summer. Their required inception makes students imagine what using their skills look like. The execution of the plans requires dealing with customers, communicating both about the product/service and the why behind it, and experimenting with pricing and costs. And over the course of 3 months, students get to see incremental progress that amounts to a pretty significant financial bonus. Since 2013, this creative revenue has totaled to be just over $20K, averaging about $4K every summer.

Photo: One of the team's offerings this year, bath bombs.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Wheat in heat
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::: I am the Nameless African from Your Last Instagram Post
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::: It is Time to Reckon with Celebrity Power
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Good Friday in Sydney

Cross equals love. Thank you Hillsong.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pinetops Foundation - The Great Opportunity Report

Some of you might be interested in this report entitled "The Great Opportunity - The American Church in 2050.' Published in February from the Pinetops Foundation, it is a very interesting and dense [139 pages!] read and I found it via a tweet from Jon Tyson. In essence, the Foundation asked themselves what the best use of their money. What they found was that the American church is at a pivotal moment in history, what they called 'the largest missions opportunity in American history.'

Their recommendations circle 5 major initiatives: Church Planting, Youth Missions and Formation, Digital Platforms for New Audiences, Caring for the Poor, and Cultural Leadership. A few highlights and suggestions from the report:
::: Starting New Churches
+ Need to triple church planting efforts for the next 30 years
+ Average church size - 186 people
+ Median size is 75 people
+ One church per 680 Christians in America today
+ 4000 church plants start every year. 3700 churches close every year - net 300. Not even close to keep up with population growth.
+ New churches are the most effective form of evangelism.
+ Real estate investment trust - hold properties for church planting.

::: Mission for Youth [obviously the section I was most interested in]
+ "However, we are learning from the data that a youth-group model as the primary means of forming young people in a culture that is increasingly at odds with the Gospel is not enough. What does work is actively serving together on missions (domestic and foreign), active training in what following Jesus means, and serving alongside other adults in the church."
+ Surprisingly, one of the least impactful factors on substantial faith was a teen’s peers. It is the adults in their lives that ended up having the most impact, contrary to what we may think of teen culture.
+ "Historically, great movements of faith have been catalyzed by mission minded youth. In many cases, the very act of moving out in faith creates the context for faith to be strengthened and confirmed. It is our desire to see the next generation mobilized for missions for the sake of those both inside and outside the church."
+ "Critical opportunities for youth formation are missed when youth are not integrated into the fabric of the church, encouraged in their faith by multiple adults, and given opportunities to lead in corporate worship and missions."
+ Creation of a gap-year program prior to or during college that emphasizes cross-cultural evangelism or integration into a church plant.

::: Reaching New Audiences for a Digital Age
+ PewDewPie - 55M youtube subscriptions, 15B views. 75x more than total number of people that heard Billy Graham preach live over his whole life.
+ Casey Neistat - 2B views, 7.6M youtube subscriptions. Would constitute second largest denomination, behind the southern Baptists.
+ 2% of all people on Twitter follow a religious leader, house of worship or pastor.
+ "There is a conspicuous lack of Christian innovators and communicators among prominent social media innovators and leaders, and none that we could find with a substantial presence focused on those outside the faith about the faith."

::: Caring for the Poor
Increase church-driven care for the poor via better approaches to resource mobilization
Increase the effectiveness of church-driven care for the poor via investments in social entrepreneurship, cross-church collaboration, and more effective tools
Help the broader society see the good works already being done via awareness building

+ For example, time and time again empirical data demonstrates that people give more:
In response to an optimistic vision and hope for change, instead of an appeal to guilt and shame.
When there is a compelling vision instead of an appeal to “keep the lights on.”
When there are social proofs—people know that their peers and people they respect are also giving.
When they can connect with the recipient on an individual or emotional level

+ Mentions for
Praxis Labs
[I've been following Praxis Labs for a few years now and love what they are about and how they do it.]
When Helping Hurts
+ Elevate PR efforts [see Dan Pallotta - The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong]

::: Building Long term witness - Christians on the university campus
+ We believe that if we are to see millions of youth come back to Christ, and millions more accept him for the first time, we need both a strong ground game of local church ministry reaching one person at a time and a strategic long-term effort to articulate the Gospel in our culture. To do both well, we believe we need to reinvest, like we once did, in leadership development pipelines that equip emerging leaders to articulate the Gospel persuasively and with distinction in the world. We also think we need to invest in and help convene Christian academic and thought leaders who inhabit the front lines of thought and discovery and are wrestling with the ideas of our time. It is as Mark Noll wrote over two decades ago: “The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that there is not much of one.”
+ Dense networks
+ Clapham Sect [see more here]
+ Top 40 colleges, Christians comprise less than 5% of professoriate
+ Christian tutors in the Roman Empire
Obviously lots of other great information in this report - I highly recommend downloading it and at least skimming the Intro and the Summary. Here's a few other reflections with regard to The Ember Cast:

+ The gap year idea is a big win. We've sought to do this when we can even though these have been either a summer or semester in duration and these have been some of our most fruitful projects. Whenever we have done it, it has been centered around a church plant. [Summer Sends - Poland, Arizona (1 and 2)
+ Designing a gap year, helping drive more funds to the poor, serving in a church plant, creating a digital platform - all of these require someone that can dream and execute. Both of these skills are exceedingly rare but both can be taught and learned. If anything is needed in the global missions space, it is future leaders that can dream missionally and then roll up their sleeves and get to work. We at The Ember Cast see both of these skills as vital for the emerging generation and they form a subtle backdrop to our culture.
+ These kinds of initiatives and the people involved will push the imaginations of the leadership for many existing churches. Big challenge.
+ If you start a church, you should start it with the DNA that you will reproduce, right from day 1.
+ Lots of adults that work with students, me included, default to the perspective that peer identity is the most important thing to a teenager. But the fact is adults can make more of a difference when we invite, engage and challenge students to live lives that are bigger than themselves. Those of us that work with students need to be reminded of this often.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Raise the Bar - Mission Support Letters

If you've been around Ember, you know I am extremely overly critical on this every Spring: the average mission support letter is an example of mediocrity. Most letters encourage the prospective missions person to spend minimal time and effort presenting an idea to someone else. We see others blast social media with links to GoFundMe pages and then just wait for funding to roll in. We do the minimum when it comes to engaging people that are normally thrilled to support us. Sadly, a lot of people have turned support raising into sales transactions.

Instead, my suggestions - take them for what it is worth:
1 - Spend 4 hours designing a nice looking letter. Get some ideas from newsletter templates on Google Docs or Microsoft Word. You can ask me too - I have about 25 great examples.
2 - Resist the urge to blast your socials with links for support. People want to hear from you, but not like that.
3 - Lean on sending your letter to people that you know would be thrilled to support you and what you are doing - you know who these people are. Save a small percentage of your letters to give to people that would be long shots - they might be interested but might not.
4 - Follow up when you get support - thank you note, email, text message within 24 hours.
5 - Seriously consider using your talents, gifts and network to augment the support you need to raise. But that is another topic.

If you see yourself in vocational ministry or nonprofit work for the long haul, you will need to raise money. And many times, this is a leading indicator of whether or not you can actually do the work. Get in the habit now of doing it right.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Burn

::: Everything You Wanted to Know about Shipping Containers and More
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::: MIT's New Device Can Pull Water from Air
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::: The Rise of a non-Christian Europe
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::: We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. - R. Buckminster Fuller

Photo: Lunch. Highlandtown Baltimore. March 2018.