Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mistletoe and Adolescents

The ancient Druids are said to have taken a special interest in in-between things like mistletoe, which is neither quite a plant nor quite a tree, and mist, which is neither quite rain nor quite air, and dreams, which are neither quite waking nor quite sleep. They believed that in such things as those they were able to glimpse the mystery of two worlds at once.
Adolescents can have the same glimpse by looking in the full-length mirror on back of the bathroom door. The opaque glance and the pimples. The fancy new nakedness they're all dressed up in with no place to go. The eyes full of secrets they have a strong hunch everybody is on to. The shadowed brow. Being not quite a child and not quite a grown-up either is hard work, and they look it. Living in two worlds at once is no picnic.
- Frederick Buechner

Monday, December 11, 2017

Missions Team Training for 2050

What does the world look like in 2050? And how should global leaders prepare for it? I'm not sure anyone can answer those questions but Ember is putting a stake in the ground as an attempt.

We've been outlining a leadership experience as the next iteration of mission team training. Specifically, this means looking at the ideas of vision, culture and teams all within the context of future. It would take place in a global city and last for a full weekend.

Vision - What does the future of missions look like?
Culture - How do I engage the future and teach my team to do so?
Team - How can I prepare my team for the future?

Granted, we know this is not for everyone. There are some people who don't do any training with their short term teams. This is short sighted and neglectful. Objective evidence proves that teams that do even a minimal amount of team building are better prepared for the field.

There are other people that walk their teams through various aspects of training - culture, skills, team building. You are to be commended for preparing your teams well. This is now the expected, the status quo.

There are a few people that will desire to be inspired for making their leadership better, for being better prepared for the future, for getting a glimpse of what opportunities, possibilities and challenges will be. This weekend might be for you.

This is still considered exploratory and emerging but ping if you are interested.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Languages and Learning Difficulty

::: I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor
So much for my TripAdvisor reviews.

::: What DC Could Learn from Baltimore about Food Deserts

::: If you want to win this world to Christ, you are going to have to sit in the smoking section. - Neil Cole

Photo: Poland sent team prep in DC.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Lentz on Influence

I was told by a mentor once, "If you want to live the life of the one-percent influencers, you will have to leave ninety-nine percent of things behind." That is a big call. And it's true. But if that one percent is great over good? I'm in.
- Carl Lentz, Own the Moment

Monday, December 04, 2017

Student Missions Strategy - Client Fall 2017

It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.
- Machiavelli
Ember has just finished a season working with one of our valued clients in looking at their student missions strategy. It's been a fantastic experience mostly because the team has been bold in challenging the way things have always been done and I've been inspired by their example of unfiltered debate.

Thinking about student missions strategy today includes execution around: nontoxic charity, the goals and why behind the actual experiences, leadership development and making sure you involve students as one of the primary stakeholders. Change is not easy. This team did it right though and by doing so, has created enthusiastic catalysts as they tweak both old systems and explore new possibilities.

Proud of our work with them. If you need a boost for your student missions strategy, reach out.

Photo: TJ, working through a healthy and helping matrix.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Friday Burn

::: 7 Reasons not to Participate in Operation Christmas Child

::: The Unsung Role that Ordinary Citizens Played in the Great Crime Decline

::: The Most Important Skill for 21st Century Students

::: God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply. - Hudson Taylor

Photo: City Center Warsaw, July 2017.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving Tradition

I may or may not participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday. But Thanksgiving means that I process all the yearly giving receipts for The Ember Cast. It is my personal way of reflecting and considering all the people that financially give so that we can do what we do. Just like every year, this habit resets my thinking. You cannot be ungrateful as you write, address and fold that stack of receipts for people that gave their hard earned money.

This year, that stack of letters represents just under 250 donations, around $27K, with over 95% spent directly on student missions projects. The majority of those donations funded our summer Italy team and the summer Poland interns, meaning over 1,400 hours of service, culture and leadership for 10 people in two countries.

That's Thanksgiving in NovEmber.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Skill of Curation

Curation is a skill that you should get good at. Because it will help you make better leaders.

It's Perspectives teaching season around here because I teach some of the later lessons, mostly lesson 12 which is 4 weeks from the end of the class. Perspectives is still one of the best tools to get people involved in global missions and if you are interested in this kind of stuff, go sign up for a class in the Spring.

On the right in this picture is Pastor D, who helped coordinate a class last week and is a local and global missions pastor. The class was held at his church and most of the students in the class were people from there. I loved what he did near the end of our time - he engaged the class with two very specific, contextual questions about the material and how it related to their church and their global efforts. It could have been a talk show he was moderating. Or a panel discussion. Or a really good dinner party conversation. In essence, he curated a discussion.

In today's tech culture of constant news and noise, if you can help the people you lead concentrate, dig and learn, to converse over a specific topic, to help them uncover wisdom from others in a conversation, you will have achieved a difficult and great feat.

Monday, November 20, 2017

ProtoGuide 17-18

One of our best core competencies is the ProtoGuide Experience, an experience designed for high school seniors where they work with The Ember Cast at a Guide level, participating in as much as they can. This year's ProtoGuide is Meghan B and, although it took a little time, she's getting into the blogging thing. Check it out [scroll down], or even better, follow it from your favorite RSS reader.

I am a firm believer that this is still a unique, niche experience for the emerging global student leader and it's our joy for Ember to offer this kind of experience.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Burn

::: The Most Successful Kids Have Parents Who Do These 9 Things

::: Syrias Students Going to School in a War Zone

::: You Are What You Carry

::: "To BE the church, you're gonna have to stop doin' so much church stuff.” ~Bob Roberts Jr.

Photo: Bilingual bulletin. Oct 2017.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Well

We have started a new experiment this year as part of some Ember staff development: a monthly staff dinner with special guests. The goal of this is to gather our staff to hear from some of the most creative, missionally imaginative and innovative people we know.
This month's guest was Mandy Memmel [sorry for the bad pic Mandy] and her daughter Jolie. Mandy is the founder and executive director of The Well in Curtis Bay, which originally started as a vehicle for womens mentoring but has flourished into community development for all of Curtis Bay. We've conspired with The Well a few times and have loved it. [here and here and here]

Our conversation was fascinating and included topics such as:
Food desert - grocery stores won't come into Curtis Bay because it isn't profitable.
Social enterprise - The Well is starting to develop a series of micro businesses that will provide a locally sourced product and also employ local women from the area.
High school kids love slime - yeah I don't even know.
Workforce development - The Well has also started some workforce development, meaning they teach local women job skills and employ them.
Gentrification - Port Covington is a huge city development that will impact long term residents of Curtis Bay, possibly raising housing costs and price these residents out of their community.

Mandy is a leader you would follow.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ember BOD - Nov 2017

Some thoughts and themes from the last Ember Board of Directors meeting, last weekend. Maybe these will help you in the areas of organizational clarity, missions mobilization or working with volunteer teams:

+ Ember direction - Would be helpful to the board to get a feel for this consistently once a month.
+ Re-articulate Ember mission statement. We do a lot of things surrounding our core mission. Good to articulate that again.
+ Expectations for participation - We need to be clearer on the expectations of people that participate in our experiences.
+ We've been exploring the idea of doing some re-imagination with some of our team training competencies. Small discussion on key volunteers who would be engaged around this idea.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Measles Vaccine has Saved more than 20M Lives Since 2000
Link via Future Crunch

::: Saline Soil Rice Experiment a Success

::: Is France Reached?

::: If a leader can't ever be questioned, he's not a leader. He's a bully who just happens to have a job. - @edstetzer via @willmancini

Photo: Sicily. July 2016.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Board Prep

Prepping for the Ember Board of Directors meeting the past few days. Mostly, it's recapping stories from this past year and looking to the future. It also includes some 'business development' and some financial details.

The people on this team are my biggest advocates. And their support catalyzes teams, churches, communities and decades if not centuries. I'm fortunate for their insight and wisdom.

You don't have to run an organization to have one of these. Maybe it's time you gathered a personal board of directors.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Giving Away Money is a Complicated Business

Giving away money is a complicated business, as I appreciate more and more all the time. I have met so many decent, optimistic, generous people who want to make a difference, but they become disillusioned with the difficulty of finding the right fit for their philanthropic interests. Almost by definition, the causes that need the support the most often do not have the infrastructure, management talent, or strategic plan needed to deploy large amounts of capital efficiently. It's tempting to pick projects that are straightforward and "doable." There is nothing diabolical about that. The problem is that those kinds of projects are one-offs. The gains may not be sustainable, and the impact tends to be local or limited. Meanwhile, there are other global organizations that do good work, but they have grown to a size that limits their ability to innovate, and administrative costs and approaches seem to produce produce fewer and fewer returns.
- Forty Chances - Finding Hope in a Hungry World by Howard G. Buffett