Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in cities

1. Cambridge, MD, USA
2. Ocean City, MD, USA
3. Fairfield, CT, USA
4. Oranjestad, Aruba
5. Baltimore, MD, USA
6. Orlando, FL, USA
7. Williamsburg, VA, USA
8. Winchester, VA, USA
9. Alexandria, VA, USA
10. Troy, MI, USA
11. Ocean City, MD, USA
12. Philadelphia, PA, USA
13. Stafford, VA, USA
14. Florence, SC, USA
15. Tybee Island, GA, USA

Here's the map.

[Related: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 in books

The Art of Non-Conformity [notes ]
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Cracking Your Churchs Culture [notes]
Agile Software Development with Scrum
The Age of the Unthinkable [skimmed because of Alan Hirsch]
Do The Work [notes]
Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service [skimmed because of Andy Stanley]
The Personal MBA
Children of Jihad [skimmed because of Ben Arment]
Anything You Want
The Dip [gift from Dream Year]
Leaders Make the Future
Church in the Making
On the Verge [notes]
Erasing Hell
The Help
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team [notes]
Road Fever
The Circle Maker [notes]
Start Something That Matters [a gift from David Huey]
Where Good Ideas Come From
Toxic Charity [notes]

my One Year Chronological Bible which will probably turn into 2 years and 2 weeks. Hopefully =)
[Related: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 in books]

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Burn

::: Should You Volunteer at a Cambodian Orphanage?

::: Innovation from the Shopping Cart

::: Millenials and Entrepreneurial Ethos

::: Music from Verve
At Verve, we're very particular about the songs we use for worship. We want songs that allow Christians to worship God, but are completely understandable to non-Christians. Those who are new and not quite there yet may not agree with all the lyrics, but they should be able to understand all of it.

::: Church Staff Leadership Development Ideas

See all the Burn posts here.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Dear Kt,

When I was 14, the same age that you are turning today, I decided to follow Jesus which was a decision that marked everything else in my life. I'm happy to say that God has captured your life a lot earlier than mine and therefore, you'll make much more of an impact than I ever will.

When I was 14, I didn't care about much, unlike you. I didn't care about people who had less than me, both emotionally, physically, or spiritually. I didn't care about little kids and who would serve them, who would teach them, who would model maturity to them. I didn't care about far away cultures and how the more fortunate could contribute to systems to help the less fortunate gain economic footing.

But you are 14 and you care about those things. I think you care about the right things. Happy Birthday. Love, DAD

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The DecEmber Update

"Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions." - Einstein

Dear Ember friends --

Not so sure, but maybe I imagined what Ember is becoming - a tribe that's engaged in helping students burn for the world. So thanks for being a big part of that through your encouragement, support and optimism. We had some really great 2011 projects - all probably too much to tell you about here. But know that if you were to imagine some Gospel centered world changers in the emerging generation, you might envision Trevin helping me teach about missions to middle schoolers in Orlando or Lexi helping decompress an inner city missions student team in downtown Baltimore or Taylor who gathered a group of college kids from Salisbury to serve in Philly and ran an afternoon middle school service project.

You might also picture Carolyn, Baraka or Lauren - high school interns with a keen interest in the future of cross cultural service or Ben and Carver, adult youthworkers that Ember is helping coach in the area of student missions, or Amy and Dale who guide people and teams in their strengths. Who these people serve and where they go in the future and how God uses them - now that's unimaginable. [But I've got some ideas hehe.]

We are excited to try and launch some stuff in 2012 too. Lord willing, we will help prep some short term student teams. Our interns will engage in both local and global impact. We'll experiment with the combination of missions support and entrepreneurship. And we'll launch some student teams this summer based on the concepts of indigenous developing world leadership, church planting and urban/suburban partnership. Stay tuned. And keep imagining.

Thanks again for being part of our tribe. For The Ember Cast,

- tony

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Notes - Toxic Charity

Recommended to me by one of Ember's guides, this is an important book and you need to read it if you serve around the nonprofit, church outreach, or missions arenas. Much of the premise of the book lies in this statement: "Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people."

Two early examples in the book grabbed me. First was the notion that every time the author was involved in delivering Christmas gifts to needy families, the father in those families left the room. The experience sapped their hope and dignity. The second example was his church's transformation of a food pantry into a food co-op. This cooperative actually 'employed' the people that it served with roles ranging from managing the budget, to deciding which food to purchase to manning the 'storefront'.

I first learned of this dependency/sustainability issues with regard to global missions and poverty in the Perspectives class. When I ran student missions for a megachurch, we never engaged with a building project precisely because I wanted us to stay away from projects that might create dependency issues. This book is helping Ember get an even sharper focus when it comes to poverty and the poor and the projects we help facilitate.

Dr. Lupton also touches on controversial ideas such as whether short term missions is effective and African economist Dambisa Moyo's claims that aid to Africa pushed it into poverty. [See this for sharp contrast between this idea and Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty author.] Although there probably isn't a black and white answer, understanding the tension in both of these issues is part of being a global leader today and in the future. Neither short term missions or the relationship between aid and the economic ladder will be going away anytime soon.

I agreed with a lot of what this book said, especially in terms of Ember's work with students. After reading this, I'm more convinced than ever about our primary paradigm of 'catalyst'. This paradigm seeks out the indigenous, helps people do what they are already capable of doing and tries to minimize dependency on us. Ember's also going to be hosting a discussion session on this book with some of our guides and students because, like with all important concepts, it's all about executing and contextualizing those ideas. Maybe tell you more about that later.

Here's some other quotes:

The Bahamas, it is estimated, annually receives one short-term missionary for every fifteen residents.

And unlike clothes closets that place limits on the number of visits and garments a recipient is allowed, a thrift store relies on attracting paying customers to purchase as many clothes as they are able. When the customer is necessary to ensure the business's survival, there is equity of power. And parity is the higher form of charity.

Food in our society is a chronic poverty need, not a life-threatening one. And when we respond to a chronic need as though it were a crisis, we can predict toxic results: dependency, deception, disempowerment.

If we cared about, for instance, seeing human dignity enhanced, or trusting relationships being formed, or self-sufficiency increasing, then we could employ proven methods known to accomplish these goals. We know that trust grows with accountability over time. we know that mutual exchange and legitimate negotiating is energizing (people of every culture love to bargain!) And we know that employment starts people on the path to self-reliance. We know these things. And we have the capacity to accomplish them. But the will to change our traditional charity systems - now that is the real challenge.

Dead Aid:
- get off aid
- promote entrepreneurship
- promote free trade
- invest in infrastructure
- secure reasonable loans, not grants
- encourage stable homeownership

Questions for community building work
- who are the producers
- where is the energy
- what is the win and is it achievable
- who are the principal investors
- whats the organizing mechanism

The oath for compassionate service
- never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves
- limit one way giving to emergency situations
- strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements
- subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served
- listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said - unspoken feelings - may contain essential clues to effective service
- above all, do no harm

Don't presume that because an area is poor and run down it is devoid of leadership and resources. In every community, there are leaders who exercise influence - informal leadership perhaps or elected officers of a not-so-well-organize neighborhood association, but leaders nonetheless.

Getting to know community leaders first requires us to listen and respect indigenous leadership and learn the dreams of the people.

The best investments, however, are not the program volunteers initiate but the capacity and connections of committed partners.

Does the proposed activity strengthen the capacity of neighborhood residents to prioritize and address their own issues?
Will the proposed activity be wealth-generating or at least self-sustaining for the community?
Do the moneys generated for and/or by the local residents remain at work in their community?
Does the proposed activity have a timetable for training and transfeering ownership to indigenous leadership?

Need does not constitute a call. [**Someone needs to unpack THIS]

Betterment does for others. Development maintains the long view and looks to enable others to do for themselves.
Betterment improves conditions. Development strengths capacity.
Betterment gives a man a fish. Development teaches a man how to fish.

Indices for measuring community health [could this be how we measure effectiveness of churches?]
- public safety
- educational improvements
- economic vitality
- homeowner/renter retention
- neighborhood associations
- spiritual vitality

The best service projects are joint ventures where the need is real and the vision compelling, the work is organized and productive, and the interests of both groups are satisfied.

If there is one take-away message that this book can offer to those in service work or supporting it, it is this: the poor, no matter how destitute, have enormous untapped capacity; find it, be inspired by it, and build upon it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Redemptive Analogy Vegas Style

::: JD Greear's Plumblines
These are all great, but below are my favorites:
The best ministry ideas are in the congregation.
Churches should be evaluated by sending capacity, not just seating capacity.
People come because of quality and options; they stay because of personalization.
In light of global lostness, excellence must be balanced by "good enough".
Preach the announcements (announcements are – or ought to be – how our people apply the mission).
Pushing out leaders creates more leaders.
When I'm sick of saying it, the staff has just heard it. When they're sick of hearing it, the church has just become aware of it.

::: Unless you equip others to do what you do, you will create a culture of celebrity. Reflect on what you do, and then impart it to others @JonTyson

::: "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to our courage." ~Anais Nin @BenArment

::: By 2020, Barron's predicts Chinese yuan will be world's primary reserve currency. U.S. goes the way of Europe. Global mission decenterd? @fitchest

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yeah, Now is the Time

from Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson:
It is one of the great truisms of our time that we live in an age of technology acceleration; the new paradigms keep rolling in, and the intervals between them keep shortening. This acceleration reflects not only the flood of new products, but also our growing willingness to embrace these strange new devices, and put them to use.
But the HDTV story suggest that this acceleration is hardly a universal law. If you measure how quickly a new technology progresses from an original idea to mass adoption, then it turns out that HDTV was traveling at the exact same speed that color television had traveled four decades earlier. It took ten years for color TV to go from the fringes to the mainstream; two generations later, it took HDTV just as long to achieve mass success.
In fact, if you look at the entirety of the twentieth century, the most important developments in mass, one-to-many communications clock in at the same social innovation rate with an eerie regularity. Call it the 10/10 rule: a decade to build the new platform, and a decade for it to find a mass audience. [AM radio, VCR, DVD, GPS...]
YouTube was significantly more innovative than HDTV, despite the fact that HDTV was a more complicated technical problem. YouTube let you publish, share, rate, discuss, and watch video more efficiently than ever before. HDTV let you watch more pixels than ever before. But even with all those extra layers of innovation, YouTube went from idea to mass adoption in less than two years. Something about the Web environment had enabled Hurley, Chen, and Karim to unleash a good idea on the world with astonishing speed. They took the 10/10 rule and made it 1/1.
In other words, if you are going to be innovative with something, now is the time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ember Guides On Site

Guides were on site last week at STJ. They:
- are highly adaptable like jumping in to help lead worship or having speed dating conversations with middle school kids.
- got excited about helping students along a journey of sacrifice, service and impacting more.
- can visualize the potential in a room of students.
- clearly articulated pieces of their journey.

Since we are by no means the experts, we are [still] learning that:
- it is hard work to cultivate a mindset of service and outreach among students. if your students already have that, be grateful.
- there are still lead pastors that will jump back in to student ministry to capitalize on untapped potential. It is so important to them that they will not relegate it to someone else.
- parents push and sometimes kids push back. And sometimes it's a front.
- sometimes, middle school kids don't want to talk. At all. That's okay.

[Related: Middle School Missions]

Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Genetic structures of high performance teams
Link via Lorenzo DellaForesta

::: RFP - technology in human trafficking
Microsoft Research and the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit are pleased to invite applications for research awards that address the role of technology in human trafficking.
Missional technology at its best.

::: Mark Driscoll on painful lessons from the early days
This is pure gold: "... we had an idealism that elders/pastors should serve for life, which meant the positions for senior leadership were taken forever, thereby locking out new leaders and young leaders whom God would bring us."

::: Profile 7 billion: avg person is 29 (median age) makes $10,290/yr (per capita gross world income) & no internet (only 27% has it) : via Warren Bird

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book Notes - The Circle Maker

I've long been a fan of Mark Batterson and National Community Church - if you've been reading this blog, you know that Ember loves to visit NCC with interns when we can. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Circle Maker, Mark's new book which comes out today.

It's a fun read as Pastor Mark talks about dreaming, praying and thinking long. And like all his other books, it's got elements of vision, risk, faith, creativity and one of my favorite mantras of his, "Everything is an experiment." Highlighted all through the book are some amazing stories what NCC has been through and inspiration about where they are heading. We've got some personal friends who have served there - there is a leadership culture of dreams, risk and faith. Having it in book form is even greater.

My favorite quote: "God isn't offended by big dreams; He's offended by anything less."

Pick up a copy - it will help you dream too.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Leading Change for Global Engagement

On December 4, the community at GRACE got to hear both a status update and the long view story of our churchs' engagement with East Africa, specifically Uganda and Kenya. Patti Hewat did a great job of outlining both the principles and execution of this specific area of the world. There's some wisdom in this process so I post it here in case you are working through some of the same.

+ pre 2006: small groups of people involved in various small projects including a building project in Uganda
+ Fall 2006: Bono speaking at the Leadership Summit, which galvanized a leadership team to engage the HIV/AIDS crisis at a global level
+ vision trip to Uganda with lead pastor and his wife on the team
+ transform from project based engagement to partnership with AOET
+ created gift catalog, mostly focused on catalytic products - buy a fishpond or goat, etc.
+ staff exchange - dir of AOET came to the US, GRACE sent a family to act as country director
+ establish medical clinic and sewing/tailor - specific vocational training
+ children's village started, which focused on adoption and integration of HIV orphans
+ primary and secondary school started
+ computer lab, school bus, teacher training, bathrooms
+ Dec 2010: We are Kenya established, primary context is Soweto, congregation contributed to a well
+ Sept 2011: about 1000 families participated in the East Africa Famine Relief Sunday

This is a case study for moving a community of faith to deeper levels of global engagement and it's amazing to me to how clear some big missions issues have been worked through in this process. My list includes sustainability, dependency, indigenous leadership and systematizing values. If you are leading change for global engagement, hoping this helps.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Friday Burn

::: A Decade of Progress on Aids - by Bono
The United States performed the greatest act of heroism since it jumped into World War II. When the history books are written, they will show that millions of people owe their lives to the Yankee tax dollar, to just a fraction of an aid budget that is itself less than 1 percent of the federal budget.

::: 16 Global Cities to Watch
Link via Dan

::: Great Travel Tips

"Ironically, the culture grows increasingly more "spiritual" while the church grows increasingly more practical". - Whitehead

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

DecEmber Kindling

+ Been spending a good amount of energy in getting some infrastructure up for 2012. Including recruiting meetings with some guides, getting an application process together and setting our guides up for success.
+ Tayest highly recommended Toxic Charity to me. Her words: "make the guides read this." First time getting book recommendations from college kids. Love it.
+ In July 2007, a group of high school kids traveled with me to Hungary. We went to NYC in January 2008. Traveled back to Hungary in July 2008. This spring, they finish college and a majority of them are doing missional stuff. Most fruit of your youth ministry doesn't show up for at least four years. Edit: I don't know what I was trying to say here. See Michelle's comment below.
+ The career list includes applied economics, nursing, international development, education. Whatever your field of study, missions can use it.
+ We've had a house guest for the past few months but only during the week and he's graciously donated some funds to Ember. One part of my Creative Revenue Plan. This was a nice surprise that just landed in our lap.
+ Trevin and I hang out next week with the middle school kids from Ember Ocean City. Looking forward to meeting them face to face. This student ministry has gone through 11 months of transition.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Concepts Baseline

Part of our 2012 application process is going to include questions in a section called Missions Baseline [or something like that.] Essentially, we want to measure how well our students are understanding important missions concepts. A fantastic idea that was Trevins because it's one gauge to measure what we do.

Here's the initial list of questions:
Describe the term 'contextualization' and give a real life example.
Give the name of a redemptive analogy in our culture.
Give a definition of cultural distance and a real life example from your high school or college campus.
What is a person of peace and do you know one?
What is the relationship between social justice and evangelism?

Like I've said before, these are powerful concepts that students in our culture can understand and make use of.

UPDATE 2012-05-20 - We are calling this our Summer PreAssessment.

Monday, November 28, 2011

2012 in dreams

Ember is looking at trying to facilitate two or three or four experiences this summer. Yes, it seems like we are biting off more than we can chew. But that's okay, I believe in big goals.
1 - indigenous leadership development in a developing country
2 - urban suburban partnership
3 - church planting
4 - local [in terms of physical distance for us] service and nonprofit orgs [and not really a full experience]
5 - [one off project - tell you more about this later]

The caveat here is that each one of these is still developing. I'm almost sure all of these won't fly but I'm dreaming here...

I'm sharing these as dream projects because I believe that if you are engaged with the emerging generation and the changing landscape of global missions, these four ideas need to be on your radar too: contextual, indigenous leadership development; cities and urbanization [yeah, you don't want me to go on about this]; church planting; and serving near where you live with orgs already making an impact. More on these later.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Leading Change
85% of people who sign up to change aren't ready for change.

::: Starting Something New
Fantastic list from Brad

::: 5 Myths About Young Adult Church Dropouts

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beginning to Multiply

Part of an email [shared with permission] from one of our guides at Ember Ocean City. Chaos, reproduction, and visualizing the future.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Missions Preps - It Is Not too Early

Although we have got some ideas for 2012, we do know that all of them will involve preparing our student teams as best we can. It's a non-negotiable based on our experience and the statistics about both long and short term mission projects. One of our mantras is that 'we help form strong teams.'

John, Ember 2010 intern, is one of our guides who has signed up to return this coming spring and summer to help teams prep. He's served on a few different cross cultural experiences and loves to see when teams get 'it.'

If you have some involvement with a student missions team, I daresay it's not too early to start thinking about how to set them up for success. Lord knows, lots of other things can torpedo them. Ember would love to help you although I anticipate our availability for prepping student teams will fill quickly this year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Burn

::: A Drug with a Self Destruct Switch
... a drug that creates a kind of viral self-destruct switch. In years to come it could be used to eradicate diseases from HIV to the common cold. "Forget the flu shot," wrote Men's Health. "How about a flu cure?"

::: MegaChurches Flying High for Now
... for younger church leaders who value mission, social activism, and innovation, the thought of maintaining the mega-institutions built by their parents generation may prove to be a tough sell. No matter what happens, the next 10-15 years are going to be critical ones for the future of the American megachurch movement.

::: Nigerias Plastic Bottle House

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Hosting Team Example

Sometimes, hosting teams is more trouble than its worth. But movement thinking has you hosting teams as well as sending them - it's multi-directional.

A clear example from EmberPhilly11:
- a checklist the group can take with them while they work.
- one person dedicated to the group from your team who knows what they are doing.
- clear descriptions of the work.
- what kind of person works best on this type of work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#EmberPhilly11 Wrap Up

Had a great time in Philadelphia this past weekend with a team of college students that Ember hosted. Here's some of the details that might interest you.

:: Schedule
Fri night - Chinatown, including cultural awareness, dinner and hearing from LT about the background of this context.
Sat 1 - Salvation Army in West Philly, urban garden, organizing a toy room to get ready for donations, various other cleaning projects
Sat 2 - Philadelphia Access Center, South Philly, various cleaning and organizing projects
Sat eve - free time while some of us went to the ER with a student who hit his head pretty hard and then started throwing up. Obviously, this was not plan A. Cat scan was clean, he was fine but with a slight concussion.
Sun - church at CCCNC where LT spoke on Luke chapter 2.
Lodging at Chaomunix Mansion Youth Hostel.

:: Observations
+ Such a privilege to work with this team. TayEst is replicating students that live the Gospel in both word and deed. This team doesn't have to be convinced about community impact, most of them are involved in two community projects every week. They already get it. It's beautiful.
+ This team already spends a lot of time in direct interaction with recipients of community impact programs. Instead, this weekend, they got to see a lot of the other side of the nonprofit world. Cleaning, organizing, and other kinds of activities that need to get done but isn't necessarily seen by program participants. This perspective wasn't intentional in our planning but worked out great anyway.
+ We could have spent hours pushing around concepts like poverty, power, dependency, sustainability, etc. with this team [see what I mean.] Instead, we bagged most of that because of the ER trip. Insight from Dea: maybe God said it was good enough for today.
+ It's difficult to host teams. Both of these organizations did it really well.
+ Loved the model of the church engagement initiative at PAC, which starts first and foremost with a community needs assessment. So many times, we are guilty of forcing our talents and skills on hosts/partners/communities. Especially when it comes to overseas short term teams.

+ Our guides were, as usual, fantastic, and a first experience for Amy as a guide.
+ I brought my family on this one - they love this kind of stuff and it's my job as a dad to expose my kids to this kind of thing. We also brought one of Kt's friends along for the first time. Mir had a great weekend.
+ Ben joined us too as part of the youth missions coaching we are doing together. Very fun to have him with us for all of it.
+ Here's a few items for continual improvement that we may have to systematize: prepping our guides better, involving the actual team's leaders more as the experience goes on, having a room to gather in. We also need a experience closeout checklist, I think.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Burn - #emberphilly11

#Emberphilly11 edition. Like always, guides get special reading.

::: Conquistador, a native, or an immigrant.

::: Rural, urban and suburban poor

::: If instead of asking ourselves What would Jesus do? we asked, What did Jesus do?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Prepping Philly

Putting together some final touches for Ember Philly 11 coming this weekend. Various items include:
+ guides Deanna and Amy and one of our interns, CS
+ first pick for some cultural immersion - Tasty Place restaurant
+ Ben joins us as part of his youth pastor missions apprenticeship
+ working with two community service orgs in the city - looking forward to learning a lot from both of them
+ tangential teaching material, tried and true, The Forgotten Ways
+ visiting LT's church on Sunday

Monday, November 07, 2011

NovEmber Kindling

+ Very excited to work with TayEst and her team again this coming weekend in Philly. Our upcoming weekend includes cultural immersion, learning from community impact orgs and hopefully some Chinese food. Excited to watch some leadership transition over the next few months.
+ Been working to facilitate and handoff a beginning service project for 7th-9th graders for a church around the corner. The biggest challenge for some student ministries getting into community service is purely logistical. Christianity is a movement and therefore requires us to move.
+ Putting on my recruiter hat for the next 8 weeks to get the best emerging leaders we know to run some stuff for us. More about 2012 projects soon.
+ Did you see Andrew Jones' presentation on resourcing missional entrepreneurs?
+ Doing some rethinking about the high school internship. I love it conceptually, but I know we can tweak to make it even better.
+ My 13 year old told me a few months ago that our church's growth plan should include church planting.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Burn

::: A "Light Shield" That Can Repel Mosquitos

::: A Shoe for the Visually Impaired

::: 20 Presentation Secrets
via Ramit

::: 30-50
"The latest cultural trends are almost always the children of ideas crafted around 30-50 years ago." - Mark Sayers

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Missions Support - The Creative Revenue Plan

In the Spring of 2008, my team wanted to reinvent a fabulous idea for some creative funding to support some summer student missions teams: the tried and true Silent Auction. We were going to do this one better though: combine it with an ice cream par-tay. And even better than that, we were going to crowdsource it by engaging a faith community of 2000 families, inviting them to be a part of it by contributing their talents - products and services they could contribute to help fund student teams.

You know the idea - someone has a product or service they donate to the cause. Whomever buys the product or service ends up donating the costs to the org/team/whatever. For example, I own a car washing business. I donate two car washing packages to the org. Whomever buys those two packages ends up donating the price to the org while I wash those cars, potentially earning more business and helping fund those students with my talents in the process.

Due to a specific financial policy from the HigherUps, we were actually not able to crowdsource it to the whole congregation. Instead, we ended up with a mediocre event and raised a few hundred dollars and continued to miss engaging thousands of families with incredible cross cultural projects the students in their very own church were doing. But no, I'm not bitter.

I still believe in the core of the idea - that we all have gifts and talents that can be donated for the better of someone else. Combine that with the latest fundraising developments, like the missions support letter in desperate need of being tweaked; and donor, cause and nonprofit fatigue; and you have a slight shift in how Ember is approaching missions support for 2012. It's called the Creative Revenue Plan.

Each participant on our summer teams is going to be required to come up with the Plan - a way that they can use their talents and gifts to help supplement their student missions support, anywhere from 10-25%. Gifts, talents, products, services: here's some that have been thrown out already: babysitting, powerwashing, homemade jewerly, and throwing a LAN party. This plan also gets documented in support letters so that the potential support team realizes the level of commitment and initiative that our student missionaries are going to exercise. I don't know how well it will go but here's hoping.

This is another vital step in preparing our emerging global leaders to lead. You know that the skills of establishing rapport with a potential customer, the ability to pull others to help you accomplish a project, the challenge of selling your skills - those are amazing things to learn about. The sooner a young person gets those experiences, the better. Not only for their missions team but for their future and for the future they lead in.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Burn

::: The World population gets to 7B any day now.
Check out a great interactive map. Link.
And check out which number human you are via Sam Radford.

::: New Technologies You Will See by 2021
Link via Charles Lee

::: Will Dropouts Save America?

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Releasing It for Greatness

I'm officially releasing an Ember project to two very capable guides. I'm releasing it because the guides have the capacity and proximity to run this project better and I trust them and know they have the Ember ethos. And I'm releasing it for greatness.

It's a small afternoon service project for a youth ministry that is taking some first steps towards community service and evangelism and social good. I know TayEst and Emily are going to do a fantastic job introducing some students to the concepts of poverty and sacrifice. It will be hosted by Em's grandfather's on the boardwalk ministry, which has some deep roots in Ocean City, Maryland, a well known resort town to Merrylanders. Emily served here all last summer, and by the way, she was on the AZ 2010 team and her dad serves on Embers Board of Directors.

Some of the greatness I can predict - like maybe satisfaction of walking some younger people through serving those less fortunate or knowing the meal you packaged really made a difference. The rest of the greatness, lets remember in 2511.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Determining Success as an Innovator

One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism. Jonathan Fields, Uncertainty.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Thing's For Sure About 2018

If you didn't realize it, 2018 will look very different than today. Well of course you say.

In the next 7 years, leadership transition will be thrust upon us. The Boomers drop from 55% to 28% while the Millenials expand from 11% to 48% [from Rex Miller]. Not only is this a sheer numbers play, this is also a leadership mindset move. If you didn't know, Millenials think very differently than Boomers and that kind of change in thinking has lots of implications for all organizations.

The issue is not: can they lead us. The issue might be: will you start trusting them now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half
This is, if you didn't realize, huge news.

:::Immigrant Changes In Largest US 100 Metro Areas
21 metropolitan areas gained at least 100,000 immigrants between 2000 and 2010; among those, Baltimore (72%), Orlando (72%), Las Vegas (71%), Atlanta (69%), and Riverside (52%) saw the fastest rates of growth.

::: How to Find Great Talent
Everybody should be searching for resilience, and hardly anyone does

::: Are the Suburbs Really in Decline?

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Missions Mantras

When it comes to lists of values or vision statements, I like what Guy Kawasaki has said - mantras trump mission statements. B and C and I have been spending the last few weeks on some student missions mantras. My hope isn't that these leaders adopt our mantras but they can if they really want. A better option for them would be to come up with their own list. And then, hopefully, those mantras drive strategy, execution and systems. Here's a quick list of mantras that Ember holds to - this is what we value and why we do what we do.

Catalyst is the primary paradigm.
In every apple, there is an orchard. [Alan Hirsch]
Context and culture matter.
Leadership identification and engagement is 25% of your job. [Bobby Clinton]
Start with the starters and sponges.
Get the right people on the bus. [Jim Collins]
The Gospel comes to you on its way to someone else [Alex McManus]
Students can be taught to live like missionaries in their own culture.

Note that some of them are indeed stolen. After you steal them, then systematize them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Interactive Map for the Future Global Cities

::: Demographics in Europe
The gravity of Europe’s demographic situation became clear at a conference I attended in Singapore last year. Dieter Salomon, the green mayor of the environmentally correct Freiburg, Germany, was speaking about the future of cities. When asked what Germany’s future would be like in 30 years, he answered, with a little smile, ”There won’t be a future.”
History has much to tell us about the relationship between demographics and national destiny. The declines of states — from Ancient Rome to Renaissance Italy and early modern Holland — coincided with drops in birthrates and population.
Demographics is one of the first things to consider when looking at context.

::: Students Departing Church Once They Graduate
Interview with Josh Griffen from Saddleback

::: Soda Bottles Providing Low Cost Light
Link via Ben Boles

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Idea Experiment #1

Earlier this summer, I was challenged to think about an idea model for Ember and not just think about the idea [or ideas.] So I jotted some details about other possible side projects that Ember has expertise in and could possibly contribute to. Dea and I bounced these back and forth, edited the copy and sent it to the Board for fun. These would be cool projects to work on, they fit Ember, maybe they would contribute to a portfolio of revenue. August comes along and out of the blue, one of these projects becomes a tangible opportunity, dropped out of the sky.

We are working with two pretty awesome youth pastor type people doing some coaching in the area of youth missions. The content weaves in and out of concepts like current global missions issues; philosophy of student missions; and tactical missions planning. It's pretty fun so far and the feedback is pretty positive so far. Most of it is a once a week email on one of these subjects and follow up conversations and a face to face or video chat once a month. One of these people is local and the other one is actually going to fly here to join us on an Ember experience in November.

Tell you more about these results in the next few months, but I knew this would be an experiment worth trying - youth pastors already have a tremendous amount of responsibility and workload, so if we can help them, we will. And I'm already thinking that we'll do it again if we have willing participants.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I've been thinking about a leadership principle Vince Antonucci shared at M a few weeks ago: "Your assumptions create your crowd." Vince spoke about it in the context of creating a faith community, but really, give it some thought and you'll see how it applies in so many domains.

I've spent the last 8 or so years surrounded by some amazing young people. Their dedication, tenacity, ability to learn, and resolve to change the world always continue to impress me - we are better for being around them. And of course, not everyone is interested in the kinds of things we do, which is totally fine. But... how did we get so lucky to be around these kinds of people?

I think Vince is on to something. We assumed certain things and that created our specific crowd of students. Here are some of the things we assumed:
+ that kids want to change the world
+ kids can and will have influence
+ give students some information and guidance about the way the world really looks and they will make significant decisions that they otherwise wouldn't
+ suburbs could be the epicenter of potential

I don't think they are ordinary assumptions people make for middle or high school kids. And that's why the Ember tribe is extraordinary.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Better World - Nike
Absolutely fantastic.
via Ben Arment

::: A Poverty Stricken Muppet on Sesame Street

::: Six Ways to Never Get Lost in a City

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Donating to Ember

Thank you in advance for your prayers and support for funding, empowering, and embracing emerging global student leaders. We couldn't do it without you.

Ember is a 501c3 organization. You will receive a donation receipt in the mail within 30 days.

After entering the value of your donation and clicking the Donate button, you will be sent to an Amazon Payments webpage where you can login with or create an Amazon account and confirm the payment method. Note that Amazon charges 2.9% + .30 for each transaction, so donating, for example, $100 would cost a fee of $3.20, which Amazon collects. Thanks for considering a donation to include the transaction fee.

October Kindling

+ Ember is working with a college community impact team in November - we're hitting up Philly. Always excited to work with TayEst and her team.
+ Initial feedback on a youth leader missions mentorship something something something we are doing. Yeah, we have to find a better name. But that's some good feedback, I think.
+ You should have seen the interns jump in last week at the M conference. They loved meeting people and saying hi and telling people who they were and what they were doing there - it was beautiful. They were for sure the youngest people there. One of the speakers came up to me to tell me how impressed he was with them. [They were like this before I got to them...]
+ Even more beautiful - the way they befriended a stranger on the rental car shuttle bus. I can help them learn about global missions but they already know how to be kind.
+ Matt Klingler is launching a church in downtown Silver Spring in the next few months. If you are in that area, this is one to watch.
+ Summer 2012.
+ It's also not too early to think about end of the year tax donations. If you want to donate to fund some emerging global student leaders, help me help them learn some tangible skills.
+ I have an appointment for a colonoscopy with a guy named Dr. Butt. True story.

Monday, October 03, 2011

M-M-M #theimn2011

Amazing time at the M conference hosted by Kensington Community Church in Troy, MI, outside of Detroit. Like every event by Alex McManus I have attended, I was challenged by the content and inspired by the community. Long post here that includes some notes, mostly for me, and some observations.

: Alex McManus
The future will be unimaginable but God will still be with us.
Think big : Start small : Build on your successes : Pray : Never Give Up
For someone like me, church is hell because they want to hold on to the past. [Alex is way futuristic]
Structure versus essence of Christianity
The Scriptures serve as energy and propulsion to get us somewhere.
Massive movements exist across cultures.
What will win the world is a massive migration of many Christ followers reaching 5 or 10 people each.
The only trouble we have leading without an ego is that we don't want to.

Our Post Human Future
What it means to be human is the most important question of the 21st century. The depreciation
of humans and appreciation of technology.
Without Jesus we become subhuman.
2 years ago South Korea established a policy for the ethical treatment of robots.

Stories that we like - stories that close the gap of the world as it is and as it ought to be, and personal stories
What is the conflict - no conflict=no story
What am I fighting for
Every hero is called to a quest
The human story is a story of becoming. Not 'human beings' but 'human becomings.'
If the Bible isn't true, it ought to be.
Looking at the Bible versus looking through the Bible.

: Steve Andrews - one of the lead planters at Kensington
God has given you great people.
Every community wants to crown a king - don't be that king.
If you are over 40, everything you are doing should be empowering the next generation.
Ego is their first red flag for potential leaders.
No listing on their website of who is in charge.

: Dave Nelson - lead pastor of K2, Salt Lake City
The Christian church has given Utah to the Mormons. We will work on the other 49 states.

: Vince Antonucci - lead planter of the Verve Church, Las Vegas
[Vince's delivery of this talk was technically literally perfect. Eye contact, intonation, not one filler word, engagement with the audience. Truly an art form.]
How is it possible that I lived until 20 years old never hearing about Jesus?
How are there less people going to church now than 30 years ago?
We are reaching people but we are not reaching lost people.
They did 300 interviews of all kinds of people before they even started a church.
The church's first purchases were a moonbounce, cotton candy machine and a karoke machine because they heard people were desperate for community. [MPM looks at me and says 'ice cream truck.' Yeah, it's an Ember thing.]
Your assumptions create your crowd. Every word, image, song, etc is highly critiqued from a nonchurch point of view.
Tommy - church planter apprentice who works part time in a tattoo parlor and is going to launch a tattoo church.

: Rex Miller
Language is a technology.
The word - spirit, spoken, print, broadcast, bits and bytes
The medium shapes our worldview. The dominant form of the word shapes our world.
Left brain vs. right brain
Eras - oral, print, broadcast, digital - music, art, architecture
We are currently in a space between spaces, a dangerous time. This is the time to discern about digital culture.
The kinds of people most open to change: eager, adventurous, afraid, fed up
New technologies don't eliminate - they marginalize - the old ones.
Next era is cloud/mobility.
'Literate' is now an obsolete word. [I'm not sure I agree with that.]
Churches need to get away from tax exemption because of it ties us to the government. Instead, get involved with commerce, culture, charity and community.
6 megashifts - turbulence/uncertainty, smaller footprint, generation tsunami, digital natives, mobility, death of industrial mindset
The S curve [very much related to the diffusion of innovation]
2018 - massive shift in population of Millenials vs Boomers. mindset will change as well.
Any change that is fundamental raises conflict. Implementing change is a function of a non-anxious leader.

: Erwin
Transactional versus transformational - speak to them versus speak for them
We must first read the story before we begin to write it.
Economics is an agreement of values.
You don't have to see the future to create it.

The best storytelling is where the person has an aha moment - it's self discovery.
retell -> remember -> relive - it must cost you something emotionally
communication patterns - linear, sequential, systemic

Christians are still arguing about things that the world thinks is reality.

Divergent vs convergent thinking
The Scriptures are full of divergent patterns
Our education system focuses on convergent thinking. Exposure to cultures and traveling helps us learn divergent thinking.

Everyone has someone in their brain they talk to outloud. It is the composite of all the people in your relationships. The more different people you know, the more this composite is different than you.

You can either create safe spaces for people to share or you can create courageous people.

We don't realize what frameworks dominate our thinking. Examples of influencing culture from a minority perspective.
Whoever tells the best story wins. The truth is drowning in a bad story.
'Christian' now means plastic. Like 'Made in Japan' in the 80s.
You pick your clothes because of the tribe you belong to.
Containers of culture are all around us. Everything you touch creates and shapes culture.
Imagination is still seen as evil.
You want to create culture - you better start dreaming.
The Stories You Tell - The Things You Make - The Dreams You Make Real

Beauty isn't supplemental to God, it is essential. God created an array of aesthetics.
The new commodity is creativity.

: Dave Gibbons
Scarcity births clarity and creativity.
large transition right now - the amount of money transferred from west to the east
1500 pastors leave the ministry every month.
Your first day in ministry should be like walking into Narnia.
Medici effect - where multiple domains intersect.
1 - stepped into discomfort
2 - local indigenous leadership
3 - the role of the holy spirit

No longer about crapping on institutions - its now helping them to be adaptable and hybrid.

: Lorenzo Della Foresta - church planter, Mosaic Montreal
Montreal - churches everywhere but they are empty
.3% of people there go to any church
The most unreached in the Western Hemisphere
Average charitable giving in Quebec is $130/person/year
If you need money to do it - you are probably not the one who should.
Dan Sadlier
My team also had lunch with Dan Sadlier and Josh Korn. Dan, up until recently, served as the director of high school ministry for Kensington's 5 campuses and Josh is one of the high school campus directors. I wanted to sit down with them to hear the story of Detroit Reverse, a suburban and urban youth ministry partnership. This idea is something everyone wants to do but few people pull it off. Except Dan. Our lunch was one of the best parts of our time in Detroit and Dan is a global catalytic leader that many can learn from. Dan now splits his time between Vision360, Kensington's church planting team, and running the internship program there.

: I traveled with Trevin, two interns, two members of the Ember board - Dale Swinburne and Matt Maloy - and a local church youth missions catalyst, CPugh, who is an old friend. It was a phenomenal team to learn and interact with.
: My interns ATE. IT. UP. Sponges. Not only did they love the teaching but they were already processing it together on the way to the airport. And they are just really really nice people. Kind, gentle, welcoming. You should have seen them making friends everywhere we go.
: Kensington has seen 4th generation church plants.
: CPugh is involved in a new Ember experiment which deals with some youth missions mentoring and it was great to toss ideas back and forth for a few days. Tell you more about this later.
: About 140 people in attendance, almost all of them were church planters except our team.
: You probably inferred this from the notes, but no one in the church leadership world talks about this kind of stuff except the McManus brothers. This kind of perspective is critical for leaders that will engage the future. Of course, I loved it, but the real investment of my time at M was for the Ember interns and the people they will reach.
: My big takeaway was about the divergent thinking and if my own kids are going to be prepared to lead in the future. We have begun thinking about that as a family, possibly the 'travel more' idea.
: Yes we drove on 8 Mile.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Where would you invest $1B dollars?

::: Under/Overpass Projects

::: Toxic Nectar Used to Kill Mosquitos
[Think malaria...]

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

wed pm #theimn2011

rex miller the millenium matrix
eras: oral print broadcast digital
we are in space between spaces - dangerous times
after gutenburg there were 200 years of danger.
this is the time for the Church to discern about digital culture.
'literate' - this word is obsolete.
2018 the massive shift when millenials take over. shift in population as well as thinking.

What it means to be human is the most important question of the 21st century. - Alex McManus

wed am #theimn2011

The future will be unimaginable but God will still be with us.

Great people are all around you. Kensington church has no info on its website about who is in charge.

The Christian church has given Utah to the mormons.

Massive movments exist across cultures.

Your assumptions create your crowd.
Vince Antonucci gave a top 5 ever leadership talk. Verve Church in las vegas.

dessert on fire

intern dessert ember style

Monday, September 26, 2011

Board Mtg #3

Confession: I have no idea how to work with a nonprofit board of directors. So when we ventured to start a nonprofit, working with a board was a topic I didn't give much thought to. Even though there is lots of literature that tells you that you should really think a lot about this. You know the drill, founders just want to work the work and not deal with administrative details like buying insurance or working with a board.

After almost a year, we've had only three meetings. But our last meeting, last weekend, was so electric. You know the feeling - when a team you are on is on the same page and fired up about it. Reviewing 2011 so far and seeing what's next - it IS exciting.

Here are some of the catalytic topics from the evening:
+ Overcommunicate - I send a weekly email to the board, most every week, especially when there is a lot going on. A big win.
+ What would you spend $10K on? - My answer was based funding projects that would help students grow in their social entrepreneurship abilities.
+ What drains you the most? - Of course, this question is all about strengths based leadership.
+ Failure and risk - We want to build a culture in which people are allowed to fail in order to grow. As someone who is highly risk averse [yes, its true] this is a healthy push. One day, there will be projects that are run by someone besides me.
+ Pipeline - We are gradually building a bigger pipeline of which to identify and resource global student leaders.

One year later, I'm more challenged and encouraged at this team's love for the students we serve and the future that they will impact. This board is resolute about our students' growth, leadership development and ability to mark human history. I'm also more confident than ever we have the right people on the bus and they occupy the right seats.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Burn

::: The Transformational Index
Link via TSK

::: Migrations Map
Where do people come from and go to for a given country.

::: The ROI on studying abroad

::: The Great Famine - Horn of Africa

::: More Than You Think - The Shipping Container
What the shipping container has done is just about entirely take away geographical distance as a determinant of freight costs. It really doesn't cost much more to ship something from China to Europe than it does to ship something inside Europe. Beijing, Brisbane, Brindisi and Birmingham, they're really all just nodes on the container shipping routes and getting from one node to another costs about the same amount, wherever in the world they are.

::: The World's Rudest Hand Gestures

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I spent a little bit of time on twitter the other day tracking the Social Good Summit, hosted by Mashable, 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. The Summit is "where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions." This recap from Day 1 has some good stuff including content from charity:water, the director of the One Laptop per Child, and stats on global literacy.

Here's some interesting, intruiging and inspiring ideas that I pulled:
+ USAID released open source maps of the famine in the Horn of Africa and their FWD [Famine, War and Drought] site, which has a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to learn more and get involved in the drought.
+ 80 miillion Livestrong wristbands sold since 2004 - the first social network around a cause.
+ 100 M kids from grades 1-8 are not in school because of poverty.
+ We have a business model problem in health and education. Technology is going to dramatically lower the access barriers. - Jeffrey Sachs [you know about him right?]
+ Every child in Uruguay has a laptop.
+ Skype CEO - Our goal is to connect 1M classrooms.
+ 99% of the way there in eradicating polio. Only the second disease to be eradicated on the planet.

[And my favorite two...]
+ 84% of today's young people believe that it is their duty to change the world for the better.
+ The 21st century is a lousy time to be a control freak [speaking about the decentralization of power and information.]

Bound to be lots more great stuff the rest of the week. This is not your parents model of charity and philanthropy any longer. Mobilizing people for a cause is now a different ballgame.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Yes, I turned 42 yesterday. I will have the world know though, that a few weeks ago, I played one of those guess your age games at an amusement park. And I won in a big way when the guy guessed that I was 24 years old.

Monday, September 19, 2011

9 Languages in One Hour

This is Joe, the tour guide we had when we recently toured the Capitol building in Washington, DC. We were impressed with his knowledge of the city and the building, his hospitality and ability to greet strangers [yes, he's probably a woo], and his knowledge of facts about our country. But the hands down best thing was his ability to converse in multiple languages. I don't mean just greet, I mean have a conversation. In one hour through our tour, he conversed in Polish, Turkish, German, French, Hebrew, Chinese and the languages for Northern India and Southern India. You read that right. He said he's been studying languages since he was 8 years old. A few weeks ago, he was practicing Kazakh, hoping that someone from Kazakhstan would show up, and they did. Amazing. If you go on a tour, you should ask for him.

In the grand spectrum of God's story, since most of you live within an hour of Washington DC - the nations capital, a city unique among the world, where people from almost every nation routinely come to, why oh why would God put you so close, for this time in human history?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Burn - Epoch 2011 edition

The first ever Epoch 2011 Missions Gala happens this year in Atlanta at the end of October. It's a one night black tie gathering to celebrate global missions and looks to be like an amazing event. Ember was honored to be nominated for an award and although we didn't make it to the final nominations, just getting on the nomination list is humbling.

For this Friday's Burn, check out organizations, definitely playing out of the box:
The Trash Mountain Project

Surfing the Nations

The Beltline Bike Shop

And read from Tim about the genesis of the gala. Great case study about idea to execution.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Notes - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Lots of people have been recommending this book for years and I only picked it up because someone gave it to me. I should have read this much earlier. These specific notes are right on target.

1 - Absence of Trust [which leads to]
2 - Fear of Conflict [which leads to]
3 - Lack of Commitment [which leads to]
4 - Avoidance of Accountability [which leads to]
5 - Inattention to Results

#3- Lack of Commitment
The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty:
Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when compete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered. Great teams ensure that everyone's ideas are genuinely considered, which then creates a willingness to rally around whatever decision is ultimately made by the group. And when that is not possible due to an impasse, the leader of the team is allowed to make the call.
: Certainty
Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct. That's because they understand the old military axiom that a decision is better than no decision. They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong - and then change direction with equal boldness - than it is to waffle.
Contrast this with the behavior of dysfunctional teams that try to hedge their bets and delay important decisions until they have enough data to feel certain that they are making the right decision. As prudent as this might seem, it is dangerous because of the paralysis and lack of confidence it breeds within a team.
It is important to remember that conflict underlies the willingness to commit without perfect information. In many cases, teams have all the information they need, but it resides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must be extracted through unfiltered debate. Only when everyone has put their opinions and perspectives on the table can the team confidently commit to a decision knowing that it has tapped into the collective wisdom of the entire group.

The worst enemy of a team that is susceptible to this dysfunction is ambiguity, and timing is one of the most critical factors that must be made clear.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Clarity of Talent

I would like to think that Ember treats talent a little differently than most. Values that I think our organization should embrace include ideas like "In every apple, there is an orchard" [from Alan Hirsch, meaning every Christ-follower is capable of world transformation] and "the best way to find leaders is to grow them" [from a lot of various people, I think]. Deliberately unleashing people is a learned skill.

There's also a high value in knowing these leaders have talent built into them already - they come to us with skills, experience and knowledge. That's why we take our interns through the StrengthsFinder assessment. If you've read this blog for a while, you know what a big fan I am of the assessment [here, here and here for instance.]

Ember is incredibly fortunate to have the resources of Dale Swinburne, one of our board of directors, who coaches people and teams through the assessment. He's done this kind of coaching for hundreds of people and teams in the nonprofit and faith based world and if you know him, you know this kind of stuff is generative to him, based on his, ahem, strengths. Believe me - it's like he's using a crystal ball to look into your life.

That crystal ball, along with other experiences with Ember and without, hopefully informs our students with some clarity into their gifts and passions and talents. The StrengthsFinder is fast pass into leadership self awareness and understanding your team better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Decoding Culture - Demographics

To celebrate our 17th anniversary, Deanna and I spent a weekend at a hotel in downtown Winchester, VA. Quite a difference in cultural context. Small town, nestled in the mountains, with an emerging fringe artist population. It was a slow weekend and good for us.

Sometimes, the first step in decoding culture is to understand demographics. How old are the people that live there, what do they do for work, what kind of economy exists there, what kind of income is there, how dense is the population. Compare this kind of info to where you live. Right when we got there, I happened to find a magazine devoted to the business community. All of this info - right here for the taking...

The next best step - what do these demographics tell you about the people that live here?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Giving $10 a day away, every day
Most of you will love this.

::: The Camel

::: Ten Things You Should Know About Time
My favorites:
we live about 80 milliseconds in the past, when you remember an event in the past, your brain uses a very similar technique to imagining the future, and we have about one and a half billion heartbeats.
Link via Hacker News, which is one of my favorite new news feeds [yes you Activators and Starters...]

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

East Africa Famine Response

Most of you readers have probably heard of the desperate situation in East Africa right now in terms of the famine - the worst drought in 60 years [Justin has a good summary]. Grace Church decided to contribute a small part to the relief efforts by working with Stop Hunger Now to pack meals and help fund the delivery of those meals. In unprecedented fashion, the whole church, from 2-3 year olds all the way up to families, were invited and mobilized to be a part of this project. The project was a major marker in the history of our church.

When I heard about this opportunity, I immediately signed up our Ember interns to be a part of helping out. Our role was to float during the middle and high school packing times to help people out - a 'May I Help You' role. [Like every internship year, this event is a good example of a valuable learning opportunity that pops up that I would have never been able to predict.]

I wanted our interns involved to learn a few things. First, a church like Grace is an anomaly among churches in America. Combine the resources of a megachurch with an effort like this and you experience something highly unique. Secondly, the task of mobilizing every person in our spiritual community is huge. We had over 900 people serving - but that's still not everybody. Finally, pay attention to the backdrop and logistical details of setting up for something like this. If not everything runs well, 900 people show up with nothing to do.

163,080 meals packaged, Stop Hunger Now has a great set up if you and your group is looking to do this same kind of thing. They do 2 or 3 of these kinds of events every week and the set up and logistics is really well done. Rough approximation - for about 200 students doing the meal packing, we were doing about 1000 meals every 10 minutes or so.

More images here, especially if you are interested in how the packing was set up.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Re-Entry in 2011

When Spillane treats injured seamen offshore, one of the first things he evaluates is their degree of consciousness. The highest level, known as "alert and oriented times four," describes almost everyone in an everyday situation. They know who they are, where they are, what time it is, and what's just happened. If someone suffers a blow to the head, the first thing they lose is recent events - "alert and oriented times three" - and the last thing they lose is their identity. A person who has lost all levels of consciousness, right down to their identity, is said to be "alert and oriented times zero." John Eldredge, quoting The Perfect Storm in Waking the Dead

Re-entry seemed to be a theme for Ember this summer. Three significant people in our circles experienced this kind of culture shock and these are people who have spent a good amount of time traversing cultural and physical distances.

Andrew and John both experienced re-entry shock and I was significantly worried about Andrew. When we had dinner, he had scattered thoughts, was somewhat disengaged and very confused about his time in history and here in suburbia. John fared better, although when I saw him right after his trip, he was really jet lagged. Fortunately for them and me, I needed a house sitter two different times this summer. They helped me and Phoebe the dog both of those times and they told me that the quiet of an empty house was a gift for them to think. Kind of like a neutral location, a key debriefing concept if you have the luxury of making something like that work. Michelle had a little different experience, telling me that she never experienced culture shock in South Africa, but did experience it in Italy while there meeting her family. All goes to show that re-entry shock is something to expect and not to dismiss out of hand.

For these three, re-entry meant processing their experiences about poverty, race, the Church, community and God's unique call on their life. You know, the easy stuff that marks milestone events in someone's life. The other difficult thing about re-entry is finding your voice. Although lots of people think they want to hear about your experiences, you know 2 minutes into telling your stories who is really interested and who thought they were interested.

Two small but important roles that a mobilizer plays: help people reenter their home culture well and help them find their voice from their experience. Both are vital for empowering the next generation of global leaders.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Birds Eye View of 6000 airports

::: Plastic Water Bottle Light Bulb

::: Tunnel to the Other Side of the Earth

::: Great interactive map about People Groups

::: How Long Do Countries Have Until Their Populations Disappear?

::: When Not To Quit: Man Revived After 96 Minutes

::: From Church Planting Success to Genocide
via Rudy

::: October 31 - The Birth of the 7 Billionth Person

::: How Old Is your Globe - or When Did Those Countries Appear?

::: The Waffle House Index

:::Test for Malaria? There's an App for That
via whitney johnson

Missions Debriefing Tips Tweets

i shared a debriefing tip on twitter every weekday in August - here they are summarized. Probably too late to use with your teams this summer... but who knows...

+ august is missions trip debriefing. i'll be sharing some tips through the rest of the month.
+ write 3 summaries of your experience you can share in 20 secs, 2 mins and 20 mins.
+august is missions trip debriefing. i'll be sharing some tips through the rest of the month.
+ write 3 summaries of your experience you can share in 20 secs, 2 mins and 20 mins.
+ Seths Great 30 questions.
+ let them talk and talk and talk. most don't get to talk about their trip enough and hardly anyone really listens.
+ signs of culture shock-disillusionment, lack of motivation, withdrawl. happens with reentry more than you think.
+ let someone else run debriefing for your team. at end of the trip, your willpower might not be enough to get it done.
+ journal journal journal. get your thoughts, no matter how scattered, on paper. you will value this later.
+ list new things: people, experiences, concepts, ideas about the world.
+ three opps for debriefing: instant, daily, post-trip. if you look for teachable moments, be ready to debrief instantly.
+ debrief in a neutral location if you can. extra day in layover, airport meal, tourist spot, hotel lobby, flight home
+ wait 30 days before making major commitments or decisions. [not many people besides me like this one]
+ be patient and challenging to yourself. post mission change isn't easy. but its why you went.
+hang with someone from you team after you get home. talk about one thing that changed you
+ send your supporters a letter with your 2 minute summary. try to get invited to dinner.
+ find a patron of missions at your church. buy them coffee.
+ take the perspectives class.
+ identify environments of different cultures where you live. spend an evening there.
+ keep in touch with your hosts and let them know how you have changed.
+ offer your talent, time and finances to someone doing what you did.
+ start a missions book reading list. start following missions thinkers on the internets.
+ think about your future involvement in missions with the filters of 'teams', 'sustainability' and 'indigenous'.

[Related - student missions advice tweets]

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hello Sept Ember

Despite not posting, August was a very full month. And like every year, I'm looking forward to the fall and September, my favorite time of the year. Here's some other random August stuff.
+ I broke my addiction to blog statistics after 2 weeks of not posting. One of the very good side effects of not posting. What's best about blog stats - finding out who the sponges are.
+ Lots of meetups with people. Including one of two new experiments for Ember, catching up with college kids in and out of town, and a church planter coming back to the DMV.
+ Had two very interesting meetings for the missions leadership team, of which I am still an advisor to, at our home church. Getting things done in this context has not been about generating ideas or the diligence to execute. It has completely been about the structure of the organization. Not only a case study of getting the right people on the bus but how do you get the wrong people off the bus.
+ Obvious fact that we know but don't act enough on: The wrong people on the bus will turn future talent away.
+ Biggest takeaway from lunch with one of Ember's board members: the concept of tentmaker is not only flexibility for funding but a physical mobility as well. The Gospel comes to us on the way to someone else.
+ A friend snagged me a ticket to see the very last session of the Global Leadership Summit. I loved the concepts of Erwin's talk but think the odds of organizations making that happen are low.
+ Had a brilliant phone call with the director of mobilization for the US Center for World Mission after he found Ember on the interwebs. Model mobilizer because he was doing this kind of stuff 20 years ago.
+ Dea and I had a fabulous anniversary weekend at the end of July. Em loved summer camp. The girls spent two weeks at their grandmothers hanging out with their 18 month old nephew. Our girls started 8th and 5h grade earlier this week.
+ Thanks for still reading this blog. Lets get to it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

August Kindling

+ Debriefing the STC Baltimore team last night included the three topics of context, sustainability and indigenous. I continue to ask why hardly anyone is discussing these all important concepts with students. Interesting: a suburban youth ministry whose ethos included youth gatherings in the inner city with no big deal.
+ Grace high school team leaves for DC Sunday. They'll be working with CSM DC.
+ Happened to meet the owner and founder of Icing Smiles last month at a swim team event. They've experienced the kind of explosive growth that lots of starters could really learn from. She incidentally goes to our church.
+ There are probably some people in our churches that are doing amazing things but are unknown to all of us. That may have more to do with church leadership than you think.
+ Some of Ember's favorite people are coming home to disturbia in waves. Could you people be in the same zip code at the same time?
+ Met Kirk Crager face to face - he hosted a SPACE England team in 2008. Best insight - England is a culture that is highly segmented via economic strata because a class system has existed for centuries. No, not segmented like the US. Segmented like you don't go to the same church or live in the same community.
+ Sad that our guide gatherings are ending after the summer. Loved Wednesday evenings dreaming and executing with John, Trevin, Lexi and Tayest.
+ Deanna and I celebrate our 17 year anniversary this weekend. No it doesn't seem that long.
+ August is blog sabbath. See you in September.