Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Summer Team Leader Prayer #2

If you are reading this, consider yourself invited. Just email or comment if you plan on coming - Sunday evening, June 4th...

This time, we will do a rotating kind of style - so show up anytime between 7.30 and 9.30 and we will:
- have some light refreshments
- meet some leaders from other teams
- get info to pass onto your teams about SPACE Mission Advance (6/23-6/25)
- a special leadership gift [if it arrives in time]
- pray for our teams, the students and our host ministries

Some Origins 2006 Recaps

Here are some recap postings from people that were involved in Origins last week. Enjoy.

Adults learn in crisis…think about it. Part of Spiritual Leadership is creating a crisis for those we lead.

The Western Church has become at best an employment agency for those who like to study and at worst a movement of managers and administrators, but it is void of dreamers and visionaries.

You know what you care about by what you DO.

Erwin is a monster leader

And my good friend MM has his notes in part 1 and part 2. Of course, I anticipate he will have more.

Related post - What I'm Going to do About Origins, June 2004.

Technorati tags:: ,

Monday, May 29, 2006


on the way home from the beach in Easton, MD. The white sign says, "Urban Area Stay Alert"

Comparative population densities:
Easton, MD - 439/km^2
Baltimore - 3111/km^2
NYC - 10,194/km^2

Since when did Easton, MD become an urban area?

Monday Potpourri

We had a great time seeing the ponies - very fun. K especially. And she supposedly gets extra credit for going.

In the meantime, here are some links you might find interesting:

- A new definition of de-churched? Via Jordon

- Reform and Resurge Conference podcasts [the conference that Mark Driscoll's church just held]

- What a font and the Bible have in common. Via Guy Kawasaki

Technorati tags:: ,

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Quick weekend recap -
- CpR Senior Night last night. Bittersweet.
- Helping JBourq move this morning.
- Pool and a kid birthday party this aft/eve.
- Taking the girls to the beach to see some ponies tommorrow thru Monday.

For those of you in the US, enjoy Memorial Day and thank someone that fought for our country's freedom.

The Cam Team

back row - Austin, Chris, Tony, Leslie, Greg, Nicole
Elly, Tricia, Ben, Lauren, Ariell, Emilie

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cam Leader Interaction #2

[This post is specifically for interaction between the Cameroon team leaders. Although other readers - please please feel free to add your ideas too.]

What are some personal habits or tools you use to soak in Scripture in order to get ready to teach it to others? How can we translate some of these personal habits into teaching students how to study the Scriptures with others? What are some essentials and what are some nonessentials to this process?

[Edit - I've added the comments in this post]
When I study scripture in preparation, I tend to re-read stories I know pretty well. I see God as accepting of me when I felt "lost" in high school. So I love to read the Prodigal Son, Good Shepard, and Luke 15.

This is so helpful to us/me because it reminds me of the Truth that God found me at the perfect time in the perfect way.

There is only one Truth amongst all our stories and studying- that Jesus died and rose again and we need Him to be with God. So I try and "set-aside" the other "details" and focus on that.

What do you guys do?

I love to meditate on the particular scripture I am going to be sharing. I also feel that it's important to note why the verse/ story/ whatever is important to me, personally. To really feel it and soak it all in so that when I share it, it is genuine and I tend to pretend less that I know more than I know. I am also much less nervous.

gm and Nicole - good responses, thanks for your valuable contribution.

I read two things:
1 - The bigger Truth that is a common thread throughout all of Scripture - that God came to redeem all of mankind.
2 - That the personal effect of Scripture on your life must be integrated with those you communicate with. You cannot lead where you have not yet gone.

Good stuff.

I'll throw one quick idea out too. I think the idea of story is very important too, specifically finding a more commonplace story that has the same principle. Something in current day perhaps. Also, something in pop culture - like a scene from a movie or something. We will probably talk more about this - a 'redemptive analogy.'

I'll jump in more again later.

I like to read the scripture over and over again.

If it's a story, like a parable, I try to imagine how Jesus would have told it today. For example, maybe he wouldn't have used the example of seeds falling on rocky ground since we aren't an agricultural society.

I also try to think of similar wisdoms or stories that are paralleled elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes I consult resources. I've got a great concordance,, and then, of course, biblegateway.

I usually try to think about how the scripture can apply to my audience too. And that usually boils down to how it can apply to me.

I like to read the piece of scripture a lot over a couple days. Then each time I write what pops out at me or what I like or what I think about when I read it. Then I look at all the notes I have written and pick out what I think is most important, will apply most to my "audience" and is most thought provoking.

Technorati tags:: ,

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Being Replaced Because of 2506

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned a little bit about my Cameroon leaders working me out of a job. I was mostly being facetious. Mostly.

I've got high hopes for this leader team, and not just for this summer, like all of our leader teams, and for that matter, all of our students. But back to these leaders, I know that they are capable of leading, will sacrifice when they need to, and have their heads straight when it comes to their own walks with Jesus. I trust them wholly.

What has been nagging me is my own insecurity. Insecurities about unleashing them, losing control, watching them do a fantastic job. What if they lead so well, I won't be needed? What if they forget about me? What if they accidentally leave me in Cameroon?

Did Jesus ever feel this way about the 12? Wasn't He disappointed that He wouldn't be able to do the same stuff anymore? Didn't He enjoy speaking to the crowds, healing people, being in direct touch with those He wept for? When the disciples started doing it for themselves, didn't He miss it?

In the end, it's a silly dialogue and I think Jesus would say the same thing. In order to see a movement of students change the future, impact the world, make the next 500 years different, we need more than just me. We need much more. We need leaders that risk more than what I risk, love people more than I love people, sacrifice more for others than I sacrifice. And we need leaders that will create and shape even more leaders that take those levels of risk, love and sacrifice even deeper.

You guys and gals know what I'm talking about too - so many of you that I have met via this blog are doing the same thing. You are raising up leaders, mentoring and shaping those younger than you, empowering and freeing them to do ministry themselves. You are losing control, coaching and cheering them on, living in the chaos, and watching impact happen. Whether I have worked with you for a week or a weekend, chatted over IM or email, or read about your deep commitment, I see your heart. So lets all take a step back, get thrilled in watching leaders we have molded actually lead, and share the fun together. Let us not be satisfied until 2506 is significantly different.

Photo: Reflection from a NYC subway car, May 2005.

Technorati tags:: ,

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Now That is Passion

I believe in the nobility of entertaining people, and I take great, great pride that people are willing to give me two or three hours out of their busy lives. I don't want anyone to feel they wasted any of their time or money to see one of our films or ride one of our rides or go see one of our shows.

Why? Because I love taking my family to a movie or to Disneyland. I love it. Let me tell you a funny story. I took the family to see this film one weekend - I'll go to see almost any film that's good for the whole family. And so we're sitting there watching this film, which I won't name, and there are long stretches that are just not very entertaining. My little son - he was probably 6 at the time - was sitting next to me, and right in the middle of this dull section, he turns to me and says, "Dad? How many letters are in my name?"

I must have laughed for five minutes. I thought, Oh, man, this movie has lost this little boy. His mind has been wandering, trying to figure out how many letters there are in his name. So I told my wife, Nancy, what he said, and she started laughing, and then the story went down the row through my whole family, our four other sons, and we're sitting there as a family giggling and laughing.

And I thought to myself, If ever a child anywhere in the world leans over to their daddy during one of my movies and asks, "How many letters are in my name?" I'll quit.

- John Lasseter, head of Pixar. Full article, via Kottke.

Technorati tags:: ,

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

MM loves it

My friend MM called me from Origins in LA earlier. He, of course, is having a fantastic time. "It was everything you said it was and more." Oh man. Next year, maybe, hopefully, yes...

Related post.

Technorati tags:: ,

Monday, May 22, 2006

Book Review - Confessions of a Reformission Rev

Leadership Network was kind enough to send me a copy of Mark Driscoll's book Confessions of a Reformission Rev in exchange for a blog review after I volunteered on Mark's blog. So here it goes.

Mark Driscoll has written a very fun book to read chronicling his adventures as the pastor of Mars Hill Church, outside of Seattle. Overall, the book is a fun read. Mark's writings are very down to earth, witty, and hmm how shall I put it, blunt. Mark says it like it is. I've heard that his sermons are sometimes blunt in the same way.

Most people interested in leadership and/or ministry would enjoy his book. He shares some very valuable leadership lessons, and if you are involved in leading and mentoring people, you would probably find these lessons helpful. Mark also shares some wild stories about Mars Hill and its growth from a living room into a church of thousands. One of the subtle elements of the book, and I think this hits you a little while after you are done with it, is the passion, humility and sacrifice that Mark approaches to his life as a pastor. Undoubtedly, the man loves Jesus and the Church, and is willing to sacrifice so that his community of faith is a group of people that live for Jesus' mission.

Here are a few of the leadership tidbits I particularly enjoyed.

- On Community:
Will your church have a mission of community or be a community of mission?
The buzzword community is so often bantered about that it is nearly devoid of meaning. But since the church is a community, it is important to define what kind of community the church should be. Without a clear definition of what a missional church community is and does, tragically, community will become the mission of the church.

- On working for a church:
Believing I worked for Jesus and not the church, I decided to spend my time with Jesus, prayerfully investigating the city like a missionary, trying to figure out what Jesus' mission was for our city. Over the years, I have accepted that I'm really not much of a pastor but rather am a missiologist studying the city who leads a church filled with missionaries who reach the city and with pastors who care for the converts.

- On communicating:
I began reading biographies of legendary preachers and learned that anointed preaching can only flow out of an anointed preacher who spends time along with God in prayer and Scripture. I also started studying stand-up comedians because, besides preachers, they are the only people in our culture who stand on a stage and speak to an audience for an extended period of time. In my opinion, Chris Rock is the most skilled comedic communicator alive today, and some years later, my wife bought us good seats to see him live, which was a better study in homiletics than most classes on the subject.

- On limiting the size of a church:
I explained to them that in Acts 1 the early church was about our size and was meeting together with great unity and gladness. Then in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit dropped on Pentecost, 3000 people were saved, and they never again met as a little church of 120 people in the upper room. I explained that if the early church had the same attitude that our church had, the gospel would not have spread and we would have never heard about Jesus. I made it clear that limiting the size of the church for our convenience was a sin and that we should be a church that always exists more for the people who are not yet saved than for the people who are.

- On how to lead a church:
In congregational ecclesiology, the congregation holds the highest authority in the church. Practically, this means that the congregation votes on church matters and that some form of majority rules, basically like a democracy. The entire concept seems to be taken from a secular volunteer organization that is run by volunteers but hires a small staff and a full-time director to run the day-to-day operations.
The staff and pastor are essentially seen as employees of the congregation, to be fired if they do not meet the expectations of their employer, the congregation. As I studied the Bible, I found more warrant for a church led by unicorns than by majority vote. Practically, it seemed obvious that a congregationally governed church would not be led but would instead make decisions by compromise to appease all of the various interests in the church. Moreover, it has been proven statistically that while congregationally governed churches tend to have longevity, they cannot grow very large because they lack a clear leader. And the thought of all our young, newly saved, chain-smoking, unemployed porn addicts outvoting me on Jesus' will for our church sounded like the lunatics taking over the asylum. So I dismissed the congregational government option rather quickly.

[I think the unicorn sentence was my favorite from the whole book.]

- On staffing with the right kind of people:
I had no one who could possibly fill this role but felt compelled to wait until God let me know, so I just left a gaping hole in our leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge.

- On the idea of church:
I decided to never view our church as a church but rather always to view it like a church planter with a core group launching out to reach the city. Now we simply had a core of one thousand instead of the original twelve that began in the living room of my home.

- On assistants:
I also hired a male executive assistant, like Joseph, to work closely with me, in an effort to not be yet another pastor with a sick story about getting entangled with his assistant.

- On good advice:
Larry talked openly about some hard days in his church over the years and kindly asked me to build a church that I could pastor as a healthy man with a healthy family for the rest of my life. He said that as my children got older, they would need me at their games and activities and that my energy level would diminish as I got older, thereby not allowing me to keep the frantic pace I had set for myself in my twenties.
Larry counseled me not to start the Saturday evening service that I was planning. His reasoning was that in a few years, my five young kids would all be in school during the week and I would be at church preaching all day on Sunday. This would leave only Saturday as the one day each week that our whole family could be together. If I preached a Saturday evening service, I would spend the day preparing and would give away the only day I had with my family. Additionally, since most of our church leaders were getting married and having children, they too would be sacrificing their family time, and we would end up with a large church marked by leaders with neglected marriages and children.

- On sacrifice
I wish I did not feel so completely alone, especially when I am in a crowd. I wish I was not a target for critics who seem to put me on a pedestal only to get a better aim. I wish I did not have the responsibility of standing before God to give an account for the church that I lead. I wish I did not have to continually weep while watching people I dearly love shipwreck their faith and lives through folly, rebellion, sin, hard-heartedness, and deception. I wish I never had to climb on another airplane to go preach the gospel, because the picture of my children crying as I drive away haunts me while I am away from them. I wish I knew the future and how Jesus will prune me next so that I could wince to lessen its sting before the blow lands. But Jesus has called me to trust him by faith and to endure more pruning so that more fruit can be harvested for the kingdom. And for this reason, it is my deepest wish that Jesus keep pruning me, because I love him, want to be with him, want to be like him, and enjoy being on mission with him more than anything.

What you won't find in this book are any easy and pat answers to leadership and loving people. Driscoll is also rather blunt, like I mentioned before. There were a few occurrences that might cause some to be offended. I wasn't, so its probably not that bad.

The book is a good collection of stories and principles taken from a leader that grows other leaders, lives a lifestyle of faith and risk, and sacrifices so that others may hear about Jesus. Student, leader or mentor; pastor, missionary or church planter? You will enjoy this book.

Cam team letter drop

If you are at all associated with our Cam team, I hope you don't get a deluge of support letters. Or actually, I hope that you do. It is a team that is going to do some amazing things - both in Cameroon and earlier and later.
Chris Austin Elly Tricia Ben Lauren Ariell

Technorati tags:: ,

Tangible NYC Impact

One of our Seniors that went to NYC with us last weekend wrote me to ask if we could sit down and talk a bit. The gist is that she feels led to go back to NYC in the fall and do some ministry, nothing like what most graduating seniors decide to do around here. And that therein was one of the goals of the weekend - that we exposed kids to a different reality and that they decided to do something about it. I'll tell you more about her later.

I have a few of these types of conversations every year and every one of them is a lot of fun. Kids are excited about possibilities, trying something different, being significant for the Kingdom. These kinds of decisions, even for a short term, are unconventional, difficult to make and against the status quo. [Seth's post here is along the same lines.] I've learned a few things from these conversations.

First, and not to be a stick-in-the-mud, only about 25% of these conversations every work out. Execution is difficult. It's difficult to find connections, live in a new place, convince parents. It takes a lot of perseverance to get the logistics done, and then you have to live with it. Of those ones that actually go and do something like this, their lives are forever changed. God brands their hearts. They go on to live lives that are extraordinary. You know that whole Chinese proverb - every journey begins with a first step - and all.

Secondly, it's important to make sure that students are not deciding in an alternate state of reality - the mission trip high. A weekend in NYC is great - but doesn't look anything like living there day in and day out. It's the same idea like mission trip romances - they seldom last. [Not to mention how bad they are for the team, the hosts, the people you minister to, the youth group back home... ok I'll stop now.] Decisions need to be made with clarity and not falsely based on the high of an experience.

Finally, we should be helping these kids think through their passions and gifts. We need to set them up to be successful in the way God has wired them. A plan to live in Bangkok for a semester is only part of a good plan. The rest of the plan should help them live out their gifts and calling. Sometimes a spiritual gifts test is a good start. [I've used this Spiritual Gifts Test before.]

Photo: Some of our Seniors [and one of their leaders], van ride to NYC, May 2006.

The Essential TShirt

We had a fun time with the Leaders Prayer last night. I wish more could have come, but it was late notice and a pretty busy weekend for a lot of people [bach party for a dteam leader, soccer games, grad parties, etc.]

One of the things we missed last year was artwork for the summer. By artwork, of course, I mean, the essential piece of all good student ministries - a cool tshirt. Seriously though, a logo or image is an important piece of identity, team, and the overall environment and community.

Last night, I cajoled one of our leaders, who is an artist, to try to whip up a logo for us for this summer. It was a fun discussion, as I would throw out some ideas about this summer, and she would sketch it out. Not only that, but she would take the idea and run even further with it, and then sketch it. I'm excited to see what she comes up with, I know its going to be good. I will share it here when its done.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cam Team Prep #2

The Cam team met tonight at my house. It was our second team meeting with most of the team members there. Some good stuff.

For those of you that might be interested in our team prep material, here are our discussion points from tonight:

Rate the following statements on a 'difficulty of coping' scale. 1 - easy, 5 - I'm going to implode if I have to do this any longer.
You can't communicate because of language differences, and this produces many awkward and embarrassing situations.
No one seems to understand you or appreciate the sacrifices you've made to come and be with them.
You can't wear the clothes that feel most comfortable to you because of other's customs.
The only time you can be alone is at night in bed.
No one gives you a straight answer. They seem to say yes to everything, even though they may not mean yes and have no intention of doing what you suggest.
Nothing starts on time. People state a starting time or agree to meet at a certain time, but often things begin an hour later.
You find yourself craving familiar food. Even a Big Mac sounds great.
Worship services are very emotional, with many people speaking in tongues.
People stare at you wherever you go, and women and children often beg from you.
No toilets, no showers, no air conditioning.
Principle and Action
1. Walk with humility. Remember, you are showing up late to a meeting. God has been at work among these people long before you arrived!
2. Embrace with affirmation. Your greatest gift to the people you meet will be affirmation, not criticism.
3. Live with vulnerability. Don't be afraid of weakness - it's normal.
4. Practice flexibility. Always expect the unexpected - you're not in control.
5. Live as a student. Be determined to learn from everyone.
6. Work as a servant. Be willing to do whatever needs to be done.
7. Speak as a storyteller. Let the Spirit tell God's story through you.
One more was added - 'Cast away your expectations.'

The other leaders then had a short discussion on parts of one body - I Cor 12 - while I went to get some ice cream [no, not really.] [Topic for another post - are these leaders trying to work me out of a job?]

Their homework --
Answer this question, in the form of a short (10-15 minute) Bible study – "I am interested in learning more about Jesus and what the Bible says about Him."
For those of you also prepping teams, feel free to use any or all of the above. I know I've said it here before, but the Short-Term Missions Workbook is one of the best resources out there.

How Do You Explain Some of This?

Besides singing along and laughing my head off, I had to try to explain some of this to one of my kids. "You listened to that stuff?"
Via YSMarko

Technorati tags::

Unfinished Task Population Ticker

In NYC last weekend, one of the Seniors saw an ad about how many people die of AIDS everyday and commented how crazy that seemed. No doubt the number, at 8000 per day, is staggering.

I found this Unfinished Task Population Ticker a few weeks ago, from the IMB. Even more staggering.

IM Fun

From EmGberg's away message...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Super Kule Intern

Emilie, the SPACEintern, is officially done with her internship. The last major work effort was the Senior Mission weekend, which was her dream followed by her execution. It was a great weekend and all of her hard work was worth it. We talked about how we could measure success before the weekend started - the measurement she ultimately decided on was that it was a success even before it started because of how much she had personally learned. I think besides other measurements, that is a good one because leaders are life-long learners.

Our first ever SPACE launch was in September of 2003 and included having lunch with some homeless people as well as working in a food distribution center. Emilie was one of the first ones we invited and she has been at literally every SPACE gathering since then. Since then, she has seen us do some pretty fun things, all in an effort to mobilize students to live lives larger than just themselves, including:
- feeding moms of newborns
- nursing home Vday party
- raking a whole mess of yards around our community every November
- decorating pastors offices for Pastor appreciation
- multiple homeless experiences in DC, Baltimore and helping with GCC's Cold Weather Shelter
- helping with mission teams for extended periods of time in NYC, Washington DC, Bridgeport CT and Trinidad
- helping host missionary friends
- prayer walk around our local mall
- critiquing the effectiveness of large festival evangelism events
- attending workshops about urban youth ministry
- meetings with the whole cast of characters that make up our 2006 summer team leaders
- this coming summer, she will be one of the Cam team leaders
As you can tell, she was an obvious choice to be a SPACE intern.

Of course, in full disclosure to the sometimes funny, chaotic and unpredictability nature of SPACE, Emilie has also experienced:
- someone locking the keys in the church van [with the engine running] while on a homeless experience
- having all 60 or so students kicked out of a nursing home because we were too loud
- watching a teammate have to catch and kill a live chicken in Trinidad [Edit: As Matt commented, this was at Emilie's request...]
- and most recently, only having 20 seconds to prepare before speaking about how much God means to her in front of a church for homeless people

Emilie, you:
- are kind hearted towards people - you always find the best about people. Your optimism about people will serve you well as you lead - you will see their potential and gifts more than their shortcomings.
- are directionally gifted - you are like a GPS unit. You can find your way around the corner and through the subway. You will sense God's direction as you go from nation to nation, city to city, person to person.
- have a heart for those outside AND inside. You long for those outside the Kingdom, for them to experience true life to the full. For those inside the Kingdom, you aspire for them to be amazed at how God can and will use them to impact with a crash.

SPACE is watching you expectantly as you create and shape a future where God's glory is magnified by those who don't know Him yet.

Photos: Emilie and I in Battery Park, May 2006; serving at the Capital Area Food Bank, Sept 2003; guiding a team through the NYC subway, May 2005

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I got an interesting email over the weekend while I was in NYC with our Seniors. The point person for our DC team made a decision that her and her husband needed to speed up their cross country move and therefore could not be a part of the DC trip and team anymore. Interesting. Well, these things happen. People move in and out, plans change, life requires us to be flexible.

I'm off to meet two of the remaining leaders in a few minutes to try and recover some momentum and get this team back on the right page. Sure, it's a little bit frustrating. This was the one team that I thought had it all together - their team was assembled, all the students had support letter material in their hands, the trip [with CSM-DC] was even totally paid for. They just had to write letters, meet as a team a few times, come to Mission Advance and then go and serve and have fun together. I make it sound so simple don't I?

In God's grand plan, I know it's not a big deal. There is a bigger reason for the change in plans and since I'm not the center of the universe, it will be okay. In the meantime, better to have to reguide a team before they are on the field than to have to do some kind of recovery after they have left.

Technorati tags::

Team Leader Prayer

The church must be conceived in heaven before it is born on earth. It must first be a glimmer in our Father's eye. - Neil Cole
If you are reading this and if you live in MD [or not] and you want to come to my house on Sunday night and hang out and pray with some of our summer leaders, feel free to come. Just let me know via comment or email. Very informal with some light snacks, around 7.45-8.30.

Technorati tags::

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Current Reading

I signed up with Leadership Network to post a review of these two books after I have read them and just got them in the mail in the past few days. They are both fun reads. Fun.

Monday, May 15, 2006

SPACE 2006 Senior Weekend

We had a fabulous weekend in NYC with some of our graduation Seniors. Big thanks to Jeremy Del Rio for hosting and connecting us with a few local, indigenous ministries in the East Village for us to serve and bless others.

The overall goal was to take our graduating Seniors away for the weekend and give them a chance to serve and impact as well as see the world from a different perspective. For the past two years, NYC has proven to be a great place to do both. This year also had the special privilege of our SPACEintern Emilie putting together most of this trip as a capstone internship final project. Great job Emilie!

Here is our rough timeline along with some of the activities we were involved in:
Th 3.30pm - depart GCC
Th 10.00pm - arrive East Village, staying in the Abounding Grace church building, which is a fabulous old building that used to be a bank in the 1860s.
Th 10.30pm - cultural exercise in the neighborhood

We sent the teams out in small groups of 3 or 4 into the neighborhood to observe the mix of cultures in this area of the city. Their task was to jot down as many world cultures and/or subcultures that they could identify. They could talk to people if they wanted, but the bigger emphasis was just listening and observing. Each team had a list of about 20-30 cultures when they came back. The goal here was exposure to the mix of different people here in the city - something they never see in the suburbs. And here in East Village, a few blocks from the Bowery, not even ONE hint of the area being unsafe.

F 09.30am - up and ready to go to work
F 10am-1pm - helping at a center in GenXcel's Avenue D center, spicing up kids art projects and painting a mural in one of the classrooms.
We also ate bag lunches in one of the parks across the street.
F 2pm-5pm - cleaning up GenXcel while the SPACEintern and I drove around looking for a good place to park a 15 passenger van in East Village. Although it took a while, it was a great way to get familiar with the 10 block radius.
F 7pm-11pm - helping host and serve at GenXcel's end of year 'Celebration of Excellence'
F 11.30pm - recap and debriefing, focusing on new things they experienced today, and the ideas of deciding what you MUST do having seen the realities of the world.

S 11am-5pm - sightseeing most of the day including Veniero's Pastry Shop, a classic East Village thrift store, Ground Zero, Battery Park and lunch
S 6.45pm-9pm - arrived late to Apple Core coffeehouse. The Apple Core coffeehouse is a faith community of homeless people that gather every week for fellowship, praise and worship and a meal - consider it a church of homeless people. Although we got there kind of late, we helped sing for worship, serve some food and hang out with the congregates. In addition, it was a great opportunity for two of our graduation Seniors to get up front, with only a few seconds notice, and tell a quick story of how God is real in their lives.
S 9.30pm - depart for MD
S 2.30am - arrival back at GCC

Here are some observations from the weekend:
- One of our goals was to expose these graduating seniors to what the world really looks like. It is urban, it is multicultural, it is quite different from the suburban existence. I don't think you can go to NYC without acheiving this goal.
- Abounding Grace and GenXcel is a great example of a local church ministering indigenously and contextually in their own community. The past few times I have brought teams to NYC, we have worked with mission agencies rather than local churches. All have been great experiences, but this one was unique in that concept.
- Everytime we end up in NYC, I meet more and more people that are interested in hosting our teams.

- I appreciated Apple Core Coffeehouse because 'church' there was not complicated, it was simple. This different expression of 'church' is something that our students need to see - something is wrong if they graduate and think that GCC is the only way to do church.
- Jeremy told me that East Village has historically been an area that has attracted people on the 'fringes.' Reminds me of what Neil Cole says about the fringes - that church planting happens on the fringes and not in the suburbs [can't find the quote but I'm sure its in Organic Church.]
- This weekend works best when the kids' Dteam leaders come along, like they have in the past two years. MpM, JG, and CCortes [the former two are going to be involved in Mission Advance, while CCortes is one of our LA team leaders] came with us and are just great leaders. It was great to provide an experience for them to serve alongside with their kids. As a component of the student ministry, SPACE works well when we explicitly partner with small group leaders for these kinds of experiences, building on the context of a church student ministry with it's own leaders.
- I'm not sure arriving back at church at 2am and then having students drive home in cars they left all weekend is such a good idea.
- Adolsecents need a lot of sleep. It's an important fact as we plan schedules.

Photos: our team in Battery Park; MM and one of the Xcel students during the Celebration of Excellence; working on art projects at Avenue D; painting the mural at Avenue D; helping with worship at Apple Core; two of our Seniors speaking at Apple Core [click on photos for larger size]

More of my photos and Emilie's photos

Technorati tags:: ,

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mothers Day

To all you mothers - hope today has been great. It's been a little hectic around here - as some of you might have read on D's blog - but in the end, I think it turned out okay. Suffice to say, the Senior weekend was a big success [more on that later,] balancing family with other not-nearly-as-important-stuff [including students in NYC] is always tough and I have a whole mess of Mega Cup puddings on my counter.

My mother believed to her dying day that it was a sad woman indeed who didn't have a young child somewhere in her life. She also felt there was no excuse for not having one. If you didn't have one hand, you could get one - in Sunday school, in a church nursery, a pintsize human who lives down the street - all the while, relieving a young mom and adding something worth more than a hill of beans to your life. She'd tell you that you could find a child almost anywhere you find a lot of life. But find one indeed. Because to her you would be a miserable soul if you lost touch with children. I am deeply indebted to my mother for teaching me that one way to be rich was to be rich in children. And, thank goodness, they don't have to be your own. - Beth Moore

Technorati tags:: ,

Thursday, May 11, 2006

We made it to nyc.

We made it to nyc. Kids doing a culture observation in area near nyu. Jeremy (see sidebar) is hosting us. More later

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Senior Weekend Names

If you would, say a quick prayer for these Seniors that are going with us on the Senior Mission weekend this coming Thurs - Sat.

Grace Alyssa Ben Katie Kyle Chris Michelle

Pray that their hearts would be changed, that they would see the reality of the world today, that they would live lives that tell a grand, epic story. I'll probably post a little bit while we are there - there meaning the secret location.

Technorati tags:: ,

Mission Support Letter Metrics

OK, one more post about support letters for right now. I was thinking that it would be kind of interesting to see what kind of response I have personally gotten over the years regarding support letters. So I dug through some old files. And here's what I got:

The numbers below correlate to this breakdown:
# of letters sent
# of people responded
% of responded/sent
amount needed
amount raised
% of raised/needed
[Note that 1992 and 1993 are missing some data.]

1992: - 28 - 9 - 32% - ? - ? - ?
1993: - 19 - ? - ? - $1100 - ? - ?
2000: - 20 - 8 - 40% - $350 - $575 - 165%
2002: - 16 - 8 - 50% - $425 - $675 - 158%
2004: - 23 - 9 - 40% - $300 - $630 - 210%
2005: - 34 - 18 - 52% - $2000 - $1580 - 80%

Kind of interesting huh? Let's make some assumptions from the data:
1 - That's a lot of letters.
2 - Best case, only half of the people actually respond.
3 - Most of the time, we raise more support than needed.
4 - It would be interesting to compare this with trends for actual mission agencies. We also should take into consideration that this is specific for summer/short term trips.

Also pulled out of the detailed files, an example of such clear and concise writing from a support letter for the 1993 Dominican Republic team, and I quote,
"Spanish is the main language there and I know almost next to nothing."
But trust me, man who knows next to nothing [but not nothing, mind you,] to be in charge of your kids for a few weeks.

Photo: My DR team in Santo Domingo, July 1993.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Letter to Parents About Release

I've been reading Seth Barnes' blog quite a bit lately, looking at older posts and stuff and recently added him to my blogroll on the right side there. Seth is the founder and director of Adventures In Mission, one of the best short-term student mission agencies around. Adventures seem to not only be focused on missions, but also explicitly focused on the concept of discipleship via missions - which is a little unusual for a missions agency. That is one of the core value's of SPACE - since we are a component of a student ministry, a long range goal for us is discipleship because our leaders and students come from the same community of faith. If you enjoy some of the topics on this blog, you will also enjoy Seth's. [Edit: The cool dudes at Youth Ministry Forum also highlighted Seth's blog a few weeks ago - not sure how I missed it...]

Incidentally, we have a graduating senior from CpR that is going to India in the fall, with Adventures. She told me the other day that the level of personal contact with staff from Adventures has been amazing, she personally talks to someone almost every other week. I think that is unheard of - and really, really cool.

Seth posts about a letter a colleague has written to parents regarding releasing their kids to serve the nations. Good letter in light of my recent post about parents understanding mission trips.

[Related post about parents worrying about mission trips, from June 2004.]

Monday, May 08, 2006

Death and Life

Interesting night tonight. D and I went to a DaVinci Code thing at Grace - the whole idea was to talk about the book/movie and give people some more information about some of the story as well as some ideas for how to talk to people interested in it. It was some great information. And I'm thrilled that our church set up a time like this - the team that put it on was great. The first part was kind of an introduction, there was a coffee break and then some breakout workshops. We left after the first session. We felt sort of bad about it, but we needed a date. So we went out with her aunt and uncle and had dessert. It was fun. And I'm still at that maturity level where I like to sneak out of things just for the sheer thrill.

About half way through, I got a call on my cell. The father of one of our high school ministry graduates had a heart attack suddenly this afternoon and passed away. I don't know all the details. Later on, I got a text message about it as well as a few IMs about it. The information traveled fast. I'm sure that this guy has lots of friends huddled around him, being present in the time of trouble. It's the Church being the Church in the midst of death.

Later I was IMing one of our team leaders on the LA team. We chatted about a few things about the team and stuff and as it was coming to a close, I thanked him for the work he is doing. He replied something about not feeling like he was doing much yet. And I wrote back something to the effect of - you are doing more than meets the eye. The dreaming, the anticipation, the praying that our team leaders are doing - that is some serious work. The creating and shaping the future, the paving the way for kids to make an impact, the willingness to innovate and create so others can experience the spiritual, the modeling of living a life on purpose to bless strangers. It's the Church being the Church and creating life.

Technorati tags::

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Parents Just Don't Understand

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." - Voltaire

Whew - sometimes parents are really intimidating. I just got off the phone with one such parent and they just about raked me over the coals about "not enough details" with regard to the Senior weekend we have coming up. I didn't realize some people live in an alternate reality where their plans always work out perfectly. Also, they've been in the ministry for a while and have much more experience than I about outreach ministries. They didn't say that, but it was certainly implied. Whatever - got to have some tough skin sometimes.

In the end though, parents are the ONLY ones that understand - that need to feel comfortable about letting their kids go. Go out the door to the park. Go out to the library. Go to school where there are drugs, high powered vehicles with amateur drivers, and bad cafeteria food. Go on a missions trip to bless and serve someone they have never met. It's not my job to validate their decision. It is my job to tell them that we have done some reasonable planning and that careless risk is not part of the ethos. In the end, only they can decide. And sometimes, parents aren't interested in you trying to convince them. Don't worry, you will know within the first few minutes of the conversation.

Some may not agree with me, but spending your energy trying to convince and beg these parents for their students to participate may not be the best use of your resources.

And in case you are wondering, we have lots of details. We are working with a friend, and his ministry, who have lived in this area of town all of his life. His whole extended family has ministered in this community for decades. They would not bring students in if it was unsafe. I have at least five very capable adult leaders. I've got health forms, emergency contact numbers, copies of health id cards. I've personally led four trips to this city. [I'm still muttering to myself, "Let it go."]

Oh and one more thing... If you are a parent, try to take it easy on the people that sacrifice week in and week out for your children. They are on your side, they endeavor to grow and stretch your kids, and get them living lives of significance. Just like you, they want your kids to make a difference in the world. And you know as well as they do, sometimes that kind of life - and not just a weekend, but a whole life - requires some calculated risks and traveling down an alternate path. Your disposition while you interact with your kids' youthworkers speaks volumes.

Photo: To make up for such a caustic post, one of our Seniors, LR, on the Merry Go Round at Columbia Mall.

Technorati tags:: ,

Various Cam Team IM Fun

(13:51:23) LB: she asked me why i couldn't just be normal and go the mall
(13:51:57) LB: i was like, i'll take that as a compliment mom


(00:04:27) me: hey ben - email me your letter for africa dude
(00:04:27) Ben **AUTO-REPLY** : dear tony:

i know that it is 5/6. and yes i know my support letter is due today. i PROMISE i will have it emailed to you by midnight. as soon as i finish writing it.



Technorati tags:: ,

Friday, May 05, 2006

SPACE Mission Advance

[This is very, very rough...]

SPACE Mission Advance is a weekend fully devoted to prepare you for your summer mission experience. You will find yourselves tossed into a grand epic sometime this summer. And this weekend will help give you the heart and soul to weather the mission, fighting against the forces of good and evil.

This weekend will be about both preparation and building. We will prepare you for your summer mission experience which will include conversation around culture, mission and the state of the world. We will also build your team as you travel, learn, and relax together and work on an outreach experience to impact Rehoboth Beach as a team.

This opportunity will be an integral part of your growth as a SPACE summer missionary. You will not want to miss it.

Find the logistical details below.

Packing List:
clothing for a weekend (no tank tops)
sleeping bag and pillow
a modest swim suit
beach towel
bathroom stuffs
Bible and notebook
surf and/or boogie board
some extra cash for food on the way there and back and on the boardwalk

Cell phones and personal music players are allowed, but you may be asked to put them away at certain times throughout the weekend. Illegal items are not allowed.

Times and Location:
We will be departing GCC on Friday 6/23 at 5pm.
We will be returning to GCC on Sunday 6/25 at 2pm.
Cape Henlopen State Park, about 20 minutes outside of Rehoboth Beach
We will travel via private cars, all cars will be driven by a SPACE adult leader.

$35 - payable to Grace Community Church
Payment, signed permission form and copy of health id card are due on 6/10.

Technorati tags::

A Mom on MySpace

A Mom on MySpace:
After consulting with a circle of friends and relatives, I relented. I would let Taylor have a MySpace site, but only if she agreed to follow some rules.

The first was that her site would have to be set to "private." That meant that only those she had approved as "friends" could see her page.

Next, she could not add as a friend anyone she did not personally know. We also agreed that no foul language or inappropriate materials could be used.

And, most important, she had to give me complete access to her site, including a password that let me view hidden e-mails.

Taylor was so excited that she immediately agreed to everything and signed the contract that we had drawn up.

In the high of the moment, I felt good, too. I had found a way to allow my daughter an activity that she seemed to love while protecting her from online predators -- my biggest worry.

But in the days and weeks to come, our honeymoon glow would turn to alarm on my part and an increasing boldness on hers. And I would find it harder and harder to balance my parental instincts with technologies that seemed to me to be rewriting the rules of adolescence.

Read the full article - Mom on MySpace, via YPulse

Technorati tags:: ,

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Different Kind of Culture Shock

1. Your hands and house may get messy
2. You may have to welcome in messy people: physically and emotionally
3. You may have to give up some comforts to help get things done
4. You will have to give up your privacy some: big churches provide good hiding places, small churches provide intimacy and dependence upon one another - culture shock will come to those who are not aware and prepared
5. You may have to store church equipment and be burdened
6. You may be asked to do something you don't enjoy doing and are not gifted to do
7. You will have to be flexible and bend as you consider other needs over your own
8. You may not be in control of everything
9. You will have to get use to people leading in ways you are not use to
10. You may actually be held accountable for your beahavior: ego, jealousy, selfishness, pride, comfort
11. You may have to get sweaty and work in areas where you used to depend on the magic fairies to get stuff done
12. You may have to welcome and tolerate the messy children even though you have grown beyond the years of having children.
Culture shock from being part of a church planting team. Read more at The Amadeo Church, Gilbert, AZ. Remember, "Church planting is the best method of evangelism."

Cam Leader Interaction #1

[This post is specifically for interaction between the Cameroon team leaders. Although other readers - please please feel free to add your ideas too.]

Your leader application asked you to describe the most riskiest, yet not necessarily successful endeavor you have attempted. Envision a situation or scenario in the context of our upcoming trip which will grow and stretch you in the same manner, keeping in mind that it might not be successful. Describe that situation to us, the more details the better.

[Edit - I've added the comments in this post]
The other night I heard a man, Martin Ssempa, from Uganda speak about the horrifyng situations in Uganda and Sudan. He talked a lot about the documentary film, Invisible Children. I would recommend that everyone see it. He also spoke about the spiritual aspects of Africa. He spoke about the intense spiritual warfare that went on for any person, especially a Christian, when they visited the continent. The presence of witchcraft and sorcery is very real and very powerful all throughout the countries in Africa. This isn't something that I had really taken into deep consideration. But, given our mission, it is vital information. I think that it is the spiritual battle that I will undergo that will test me the most. Being in another country can and will certainly stretch me, but I think it is the war between my faith and these alternatives that will be the biggest stretch and also the biggest growth experience. It is likely that I will encounter spirits that I have never encountered before. I think that God will use this to help every member of our team including me grow exponentially. It will definitely be a battle, but I am trusting 100% that God will use it to reveal magnificent things to us about our faith in him and about the works that he is doing all around us. The end. :)
I guess I should have put the situation in there... I think we'll come into contact with a lot of teens that believe in witchcraft and sorcery. And, despite the fact that we want to ignore it, we must admit that it is real. What they experience, although not true and not right, is real. There will be real forces up against us attacking us. Satan will want to change our words around, confuse us, and try to make us forget the glory of God and our purpose- serving the nations with the love of God. There will be powerful arguments against us and we will want to give up. It will be our challenge to press on and know that Christ is the ultimate winner.
LB, Good and valuable contribution. Thanks for sharing.
I think that this trip will be awesome. However, I know that God is in the business of making his people like him- great. He wants us to see the bigger plan of how He is bringing people together. I think that this trip in general is going to be an 'eye-opening' experience for myself. I feel like this trip is going to further open me up to have compassion for the world. I think that in itself is a huge concept. I am not sure how to put it in words, but to truly say "so long status quo" is huge. ps.. I totally agree with LB
Gm, Great contribution - thanks for jumping in. And you bring up a key concept - God is interested in us as part of His plan for the rest of the world. It's going to be important for us to focus on what kind of God He is, versus the amount of risk we are taking on.
Even though I asked the question, I'm sort of answering...

In terms of the riskiest things I've done, in the summer of 2004, my oldest daughter K and I spent four days at Teen Missions Bootcamp, a training ground for where they build teams and get students ready for the mission field. Four days of hardship included no electriccity or water, living in tents, and relentless mosquites (160 bites between the two of us.) Risky because it meant flying with a 6 year old for the first time, going to a place I had never been before and a rough sounding experience. In spite of those risks, or maybe because of them, it was a succesful experience - especially for K. She still fondly looks back on it as a milestone because of the hardship, adventure and unknown. Risky mostly from a physical, health and comfort perspective. There was zero risk in terms of anything else - like reputation, effort or energy or other resources.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Some Thoughts About Support Letters

My Cameroon team is in the midst of writing their letters. There is at least one other SPACE team writing them right now, two other teams will be starting [I hope!] very soon. Here are a few things off the top of my head about this process:

#1 - Everyone that gets your letter is going to be overjoyed. They love to hear about your life and how God is using you. Don't hold back about how God is calling you.

#2 - Everyone that you are sending a letter to should be overjoyed. It's probably not a great idea to send a letter to someone that you are not on good terms with. If you do that, it makes you look like a leech - asking for support from someone that thinks you don't even like them.

#3 - Your letter should sound like an epic. Because your life is.

[Related posts: my 2006 letter and my 2005 letter.]

My 2006 Summer Missions Support Letter

Dear < >,

We are having an absolute exhilarating time helping out in a student/missions capacity at Grace Community Church in Columbia. As the coordinator of student missions in our ministry component called SPACE [Students Prepared to Act for Christ's Empire], this summer we are endeavoring to send out 5 different summer mission teams. In addition to some of the recruiting, training, and administrative work, I am personally leading a team to Cameroon, Africa. Hopefully, you are excited as I am, since your friendship has been a vital part of our ministry over many years.

The team that I will be leading represents some of our most mission-centric students - ones that have a keen interest in cross cultural ministry, church planting and making an impact as the global, mobile Church in a postmodern, post-Christian world. Three of these students continue on with me from last years Brasil team. I also will have four other leaders on the team, representing the next generation of emerging, student missions leadership, making a total team of 12 students and leaders. Let me tell you, it will be a blast leading this team.

My team of 12 will be traveling to Yaounde, Cameroon from July 26 - Aug 7. Our hosts in Yaounde, along with their in-country team, are focused on building Cameroonian youth ministries and training indigenous youth workers. Our primary ministry tasks will be a combination of running and helping a day camp focused on initial discipleship and building relationships within the context of sports, tutoring and English classes with Cameroonian students that have already been started by the team there. Since our hosts are a GCC supported family, our connection is significant. We are not only excited about the tangible ministry tasks, but also about encouraging and serving them however we can and about catalyzing relationships with high schoolers for them to continue on with after we have left.

The total cost per person is $2400 and your prayer and/or financial support would be greatly appreciated. Financial support can be returned via the response card and return envelope. Specifically we would love you to pray for:
- God would keep us relatively healthy.
- God's protection against evil.
- That our host team will have a greater impact and stronger relationships due to our time there.

For more real time updates on SPACE, check out the blog - Team updates during the trip (depending on connectivity) will probably be posted there as well.

Thank you again for your partnership and friendship with SPACE. God has knit our hearts with so many of you - all due to this adventurous mission He has called us to. It's an honor to serve Him with you!

Photos: some of the SPACE team on a Winter Expedition to Bridgeport, CT., Jan 2006; map of Cameroon; the Sheng girls at Easter 2006

Related: Historical Mission Support Letters [2007, 2006, 2005]

SPACE = tony's cloning process

From an IM conversation:
(14:27:57) EmGberg: i'll WRITE the post for you
(14:28:11) EmGberg: just got back from a great missions weekend.,
(14:28:29) EmGberg: we took 6 kids to chicago, to visit space graduate EmGberg, whos attending wheaton college
(14:28:35) EmGberg: our team, plus Em, went into the city
(14:28:49) EmGberg: and met with homeless people. . . .[insert missions expereinece here]
(14:28:59) EmGberg: this fuliflled several Space purposes
(14:29:09) EmGberg: we got to whisk the kids away during the school eyar for some focus, which is always fun
(14:29:24) EmGberg: we got to experience [insert missions experience] and help people
(14:29:45) EmGberg: we also got to spend some time with EmGberg, showing kids a little about "life after CpR", plus encourage a ministry graduate
(14:29:52) EmGberg: all in all, a great success. Here's some pics
(14:30:17) EmGberg: man im impressed with myselkf
(14:30:22) EmGberg: i bet if you posted that
(14:30:29) EmGberg: people wouldnt be able to tell it wasnt written by you
(14:30:34) EmGberg: *blows on fingernails modestly*

Technorati tags::

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mentor Reception

Tonight I went to a reception held for all the mentorships at one of the local high schools, where Emilie our SPACEintern goes. All the interns had presentation boards about their mentorship and a lot of the mentors were there as well. There was a little speech and then mentors that were there got presented a certificate. It was pretty neat.

Emilie and JF [who mentored under GCC's youth administrator] have a lot of guts. They got school credit for working in a church, while going to public high school, one of the most unchurched post-Christian environments around these days. I would have NEVER done an internship like that in high school, where my faith was on such huge display. Note the header on Emilie's board, "Reaching Out to the World: Students on Christian Mission." It certainly speaks volumes about their resolve and nerve.

Some of the interns did some amazing stuff. This type of venue ought to be the first place we recruit talent - passion was all over the place.

[Related post: Mentorship End]

Get Me a Medic

Well, 50% of the Shengs are on antibiotics. I guess that is progress. The other 50%, they are just trying to stay hydrated. If you come near us, wash your hands really good.