Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Burn

::: Ethan Zuckerman - Seven rules that appear to help explain how developing world innovation proceeds:
- innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
- don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)
- embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)
- innovate on existing platforms (We’ve got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)
- problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)
- what you have matters more than what you lack (If you’ve got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)
- infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa - see my writings on incremental infrastructure.)

::: A new reality for aid workers

::: Historic images of Paris

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What Have I Done to Them?

The other night, I went in to Em's bedroom and found this - a world map transparency on her mirror.

Book Review - Three Cups of Tea

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." - Persian proverb

Fabulous book - highly recommended. Many of you readers would love this book. The author tells an amazing story that intertwines dreams of the future, incredible resolve, and immersion into a different culture all for the sake of building schools so that girls in Pakistan could be educated. Of course, the bigger backdrop is about empowerment, tangible skills and the way a society changes when females are educated. This is a great story of one man and what it takes to implement the girl effect.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I believe that:

+ When God wants something done, He is going to raise up a person and a team of people to do it.
+ That each person is created infinitely unique and created to be creative. Because we are created in the image of the One that creates, all of us have an intrinsic ability to do something different from everyone else. Yes, potentially everyone.
And also, creativity is a distinct difference from artistry. Case in point - I don't have one artistic bone in my body - I cannot draw, paint, sculpt, and can hardly color. But I like to imagine and experiment.
+ If you keep doing the things that you are doing, you will get the same results. If you want different results, you need to do something else. Perhaps, you need to create, instead of maintain.
+ There are businesses, ministries, and entire industries that have not even been imagined yet. But they will be.
+ If our [yours and mine] influence puts limits on the creativity of God's people, we all lose.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Try This - Serving the Homeless

What: Serve the homeless.
Why: Because jesus said to care for the poor. Every major metro area has a segment of homeless and in fact, homelessness is much more prevalent in suburbs than most imagine. Most of our students have no idea that this is a huge segment of the world. Movements always begin at society's fringe.
How: Each kid packs two lunches. Give a lunch away and sit down and start eating with your new friends. Keep a box of granola bars in your car - give them away when you run into people. Watch how your own kids respond.
Other partnership ideas - team up with a local homeless soup kitchen, shelter, etc.
The next level - at a minimum, you might only provide a meal. On the other extreme, you might end up moving into someone's life or partnering with a local, indigenous holistic homeless ministry. However, do this consistently at the same spot every week, and you might make inroads to real community.

Oh and... sometimes, our local chick-fil-a would give us tons of mustard/mayo packs for our sandwiches.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


From 2003 to 2008, Tony Sheng served as the coordinator of student missions for a local church, investing in students in the areas of culture, global missions and leadership through a ministry called SPACE. During his tenure with SPACE, he helped form a student missions ethos based on partnership, cultural engagement and long term perspective. With a sharp focus on leadership, he pioneered the following:

- the use of the StrengthsFinder and Myers Briggs Type Indicator as tools for leaders and teams to optimize performance and impact, not only with his mission teams but throughout his faith community.
- Mission Advance - a weekend long collective training experience for all summer teams.
- funding and support guidelines and support materials, including two experimental support-based events.
- initiating some of the first teams to visit and serve GCC long term missionaries.

He is also a technology professional and lives in Columbia, MD, USA with his wife and two daughters. He is currently involved in very informal mission/leadership guiding and coaching and is part of an elder internship program for the 2008-2009 year.

MB type: E N T/F J
StrengthsFinder: Developer, Woo, Futurist, Positivity, Arranger

+ Connect : [tonytsheng at gmail dot com] : LinkedIn : Twitter

Thursday Burn

All from the November 2008 issue of Fast Company. You should be reading this magazine too.

::: - the global platform for human rights media and action
YouTube for human rights - founded by musician Peter Gabriel

::: Reconfiguring Cashews
"And we're working on how we can simplify packaging and save on fuel. We just reconfigured our cashews. They were in a round canister, and we put them in a square canister. It sounds crazy, but we saved something like 560 truckloads a year of that one product. That's significant savings."
- Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco

::: Design, social business and the world's big problems

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vision Trekk Wisconsin

I had a great time at Vision Trekk Wisconsin this past weekend. The focus of the weekend was to learn a bit more about how to guide people through their personal results of the StrengthsFinder, Myers Briggs Type Indicator and APEST assessments, all in an effort for personal and leadership development as individuals, teams and leaders. The weekend was held at Green Lake Conference Center, about 90 miles north west of Milwaukee - GLCC has it's own interesting story of renewal and mission.

Working through the assessments also included a larger backdrop of spiritual formation including Erwin McManus' The Character Matrix and Alan Hirsch's Missional Incarnational Impulse Frame. Although it's important that leaders guide people through knowing themselves, character and mission form a vital context for influence. A core value of the weekend was also "movement" and therefore, many of the skills we learned were meant to be implemented "on the move." There was very little classroom time - instead most of our learnings were out in the woods. Cold, Wisconsin woods.

I can't divulge a lot of what we actually did this weekend, since I think for some of you readers, a Vision Trekk would be a really fun thing for you to experience [Developer.] Suffice to say that even as someone who has worked with lots of teams - building, recruiting, walking them through exercises so they work together better - I was pleasantly surprised at a few of the elements of the weekend. I didn't expect them at all and they helped bring the knowledge into reality.

There are a few other steps in the process to officially become a VT Guide - we'll see where that all goes. Besides the fun of being Mr. Cubicle trying to keep up with a ton of adrenaline junkies, it was a lot of fun to be immersed in this type of leadership community for a weekend - lots of these people are doing transformational things and it will be neat to see how God uses each of them for impact [Futuristic]. I also got to spend a ton of time with my friend FrankW, who is a church planter in Paris, France. We talked lots about mission, culture, teams, family and how he won't room with another Extrovert anytime soon. [Well, maybe I did most of the talking...]

If you are looking to engage your team along the lines of leadership, adventure, Strengths, personality and impact, a Vision Trekk could be for you. Get in touch with me to find out more.

More ideas that I'm documenting here for myself [and maybe for you]:
pilgrim bands [Tom Bandy]
The glory of God is man, fully alive - Irenaeus [Wild at Heart]
John 10 - gatekeeper - shelter inside the gate - impact outside the gate
'Without giving our lives away, we risk becoming little more than many possibilities that slept.'
'Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.' - CS Lewis

Images: ENTJ - big time E, barely T; my team during the urban trek phase, outside of an Octagon house that was part of the Underground Railroad, Ripon, WI.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

20/20 Vision for Schools

Long time readers know that Jeremy Del Rio is a friend and co-conspirator. I've watched from a distance the past few months as he has launched the 20/20 Vision for Schools initiative. Initiative is one good way to term it. A better description might be movement.

Here are a few movement bullets from the 20/20 vision presentation:
::: 20/20 Elements include Vocational Calling, School Engagement, Student Leadership
::: Cities lack traditional, paid, full-time youth ministers but no shortage of kids.
Therefore, redefine youth minister.
Anyone God trusts to have a meaningful relationship with a young person is a youth minister.
::: 50-80% of every congregation is already directly connected to a school
::: What school needs can your church can continually serve?
Examples: Tutoring, Mentoring, After-School, Arts, Music, Coaching, Advocacy, Parent Training, Leadership Classes, Organizing
More at the 20/20 vision links on Jeremy's blog.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Try This - Leadership Urban Plunge

What: a leadership urban plunge
Take your core leaders for a weekend to a new city
Give them a budget and access to the internet for a few hours the first evening - and challenge them to come up with a plan to make a kingdom difference with this money - and they have to set it up last minute, now.
Give them an experience for serving, reaching, and moving in ambuguity, the unknown and a new environment.
Treat the city as an exercise in immersing in a different culture. Take advantage of the natural diversity.
Why: Because leadership of the future will most likely be in an urban context and will have to navigate among many unknowns, learning and growing as they go.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vision Trekk Guide Training

Vision Trekk is an identity centered leadership development program that combines elements of adventure travel with instruments and assessments to better understand who you are, what your style is, where you are best fit and why you lead.
I'm flying out to Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin late next week to participate in guide training for Vision Trekk. I originally connected with the VT guys during our first summer in Hungary - they are on retainer with Christian Associates to come in and optimize and catalyze all their church planting teams. Not only are they serious about contextual leadership development, they realize that their investment spans an impact of generations and nations.

I'm looking forward to getting some formal training with each one of the assessments [StrengthsFinder, Myers Briggs and APEST.] Long time readers remember that we have used the first two assessments with many SPACE teams and leaders and I think my experience is only the tip of the iceberg. Combine all three tools together, contextualize it among a team, all while serving in a different culture and you fire on an amazing amount of potential. It's going to be like a weekend of Tony-Sheng-graduate-school.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dear Girls

I hope you remember our trip to Europe this past summer as another amazing time for our family of traveling, serving and experiencing life together. I know that your mum and I had such a great time - we loved that we could all pour our lives out to invest in friends around the world.

Among so many other memories, I hope that you remember:
- Kt : How your heart broke about those homeless people in the park in Paris. And that when you couldn't finish your sandwich later that day, we saved it with that juice box. And a few minutes later, you gave both to that man near the Eiffel Tower. It really didn't matter to him that you had eaten right from it. Sometimes we already have what others need.
- Em : When you jumped out of the subway train, all by yourself. Lucky - for all of us - we were able to grab you before the doors shut. Probably one day, you will have to walk through those doors alone to do only what you can do.


Thursday Burn

::: Community Service and college apps
It matters. And to colleges too.

::: "Every church will contextualize. The question is what year will you contextualize to."
- Mark Driscoll via Ben Arment

::: "Between you and the year 3000 AD stand only 13 lifetimes. In terms of lifetimes — which are steadily increasing due to medical progress — 10 centuries is just next door."
- Kevin Kelly via Andy Crouch

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Try This - Community Icons

What: What are the icons of religion in your community? Statues, parks, worship buildings of other religions. Take an afternoon tour of these sites with your students. This may require you to do some prework with regard to the significance for each one of these sites. For extra credit - contact in advance one of the worship buildings of another religion and ask them if you can go on a tour. For even more credit, weave in a discussion on third spaces.
This opens up discussions on what kind of religions exist with people your kids go to school with.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Book Notes - Type Talk

Most of you know how much I love the Myers Briggs. These notes are mostly for me - from Type Talk.

If you are new to the Myers Briggs, this link is a good introduction. Having used the tool for the past 15 years in all kinds of individual and team settings, I'm still learning how to leverage it for helping people understand themselves better and how to work together better in team contexts.

I used to score ENFJ but now score ENTJ. In other words I used to be more fluffy and fun.
We believe the T-F function to be the one most closely related to how intimacy is defined: an F wants to experience intimacy, a T wants to understand it.

Js and Ps
1. Perceivers must generate alternatives. This is their true nature.
2. Judgers, after listening to P's alternatives, take charge. Ps will be grateful for this, as it helps them focus on what they want or don't want.
3. It is the nature of Js to moan. They must complain immediately if something interrupts their schedule or changes their plan.
4. The 'hit-and-run' method - in which you introduce a new idea to a J, then leave the room for a few minutes - allows the J necessary time to moan without getting into a needless interpersonal conflict.

Sensors are impatient with fanciful schemes; iNtuitives are impatient with many details.

Organizations whose goal setting is determined largely by Judging types often turn into the slow-gain, solid, steady, Fortune 500 types. P-type goal setting often leads to organizations that are high-risk, rapid turnover, innovative and sensitive to changing markets and trends.

Perceivers don't always say exactly what they mean. In typological terms, Ps, as their name implies, usually share their perceptions instead of their judgments and think they sound more definite than they actually do - particularly as far as Js are concerned - because they need to hear very definite concise statements.

An SJ - I love schedules. I make them and I stick to them. I can tell you exactly where I'm going to be at six o'clock tonight.
An NJ - I love schedules too but I don't stick to them. I always have a schedule but I'm always changing it.

ENTP - A few years ago at our wedding, one ENTP couple showed up a day early. Another ENTP gave us our present a year and a half later, although she purchased it a month before the wedding. As iNtuitive-Perceivers, ENTPs aren't particular well grounded in specific, time-oriented details.

A key thing to understand about Introverts: They need to do everything at their own pace, a pace that is internally directed. When the pace is dictated by others, problems can result.

J parents - P children: Perhaps a better technique - and one that speaks to Js needs for structure - is to make a list of all the areas in which the child needs shaping up. Negotiate which demands the child can meet. The danger, for a J, is to make each demand as important as the other, without recognizing the need for trade-offs.

Sensors, true to their names, tend to be more in tune with the sensual aspects of a party - what people wear, table decorations, the food. iNtuitives tend to be far more tuned into the event as a whole - who is there and who isn't, what's going on, with whom can they talk or dance, are there any good contacts they should make, how it's all going to end. They are more in tune with the overall ambiance than with its specific components.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Try This - Culture Exchange

Now that I'm no longer in charge of any student missions initiatives, I can actually impart some ideas for mission, culture and leadership without feeling like I'm spilling the beans. Like anything else on this blog - take it and use it if you want.

What: A Culture Exchange
Why: Because the world is full of different cultures. The more effective your students get at navigating cultural differences, the more successful they will be in life.

Details: two or more teams of students
doesn't matter where they live or come from
share their favorite:
clothing style
bring something from your context that is unique

Deeper: talk about worldview
What are some significant elements of their culture that symbolize how they think life works?

Friday, October 03, 2008


+ Would clear the accumulated debt of the 49 poorest countries in the world ($375bn) twice over.
+ Is almost 5 times the annual amount of extra aid needed to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals on poverty, health, education etc ($150bn a year)
+ Is about 7 years of current global aid levels ($104bn in 2007)
+ Is enough to eradicate all world poverty for over two years (UNDP calculates it would take $300bn to get the entire world population over the $1 a day poverty line).
via Marginal Revolution

I Wish I Knew

Evaluation. Lots of questions we are working through. Such as:

+ Is the only hope for the 10-40 window the Church in the West? What about the Church of the South [South America, Africa] or the Church of the East [China and East Asia]? And what do we do accordingly?
+ Who has compelling strategies for the intersection of the global urban migration and unreached people groups?
+ What is the balance between a local church's resources and the Church [big C] being an incubator and catalyzing agent of talent, passion and resolve?
+ Is it really fair to God [not that He needs it to be fair] that we even declare limits on resources?
+ Have I plateaued as a leader?
+ Will the leaders that we have invested the past five years in continue to rise to the next level?
+ Where is my camera?
+ How much experimentation will hurt my children? [Boy that sounds weird.]
+ If I'm not deliberately part of something organic and decentralized, am I part of an institution by default?
+ Where will I make the most impact?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wishing for Possibility

"If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility."
- Søren Kierkegaard from Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wednesday Burn

[Administrative update - the "RocketFuel" series is being renamed to "Burn."]

::: The Box
The BBC has painted an ordinary shipping container with its BBC logo, outfitted it with a GPS transmitter, and released it into the wilds of global shipping routes.

::: The Speech Accent Archive
The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed.
Link via

::: How Wired is the Class of 2012?