Monday, February 28, 2011

Making Them

"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them." - George Bernard Shaw

Friday, February 25, 2011


You know your elders because they eld. - John Wimber
So my elder boyz are almost through the process. What fun to see them near the end. I can tell you with full confidence that these guys are the real deal. They are solid in character, kind, love their families and take the responsibility of leading others seriously. Honored to have served with them for a season.

If you are a Grace person and know any of them, you should send in some kind of feedback.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Burn

::: The Worst Rookie Travel Mistakes
"Our trip was very complicado"
Link sent to me via D

::: Coming Home
Love this video of a youth group coming home from a missions trip. How you release and how you welcome your students are so important.

::: Useful Travel Skills
Not quite what you might expect... And Chris is dead on.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


My dad passed away one year ago today and it's been the most challenging time period of my life. I still find myself reliving those last few months - the last Thanksgiving he was at our house, the final time my girls saw him, multiple times in the hospital near the end, seeing EMTs in the living room where I grew up. It was a dreadful time.

I took this picture sometime the day after. I don't know why either - probably just thinking that it was a weird tension between what the balloons represented versus reality.

If you are going through something like this, give yourself lots of grace and time. It gets better.

PS - My mother is scheduled to move on Friday to a retirement community. Hoping it is the best for everyone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011-2012 Ember Internships

Ember has a few spots open for 2011-2012 high school internships. Check it out below if you think you or someone you know might be interested. The info sheet is here as well. Would love for you to pass this on to emerging global leaders you might know.

Related: see what past interns have done [2010, 2008, 2006]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Deanna

Happy birthday to my wife Deanna. She's winning in the arcade in this picture, but the truth is that I'm the real winner for being married to her.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Redemptive Analogy of the Week

Lady Gaga at the Grammys, who emerged from an egg.

My friend Ben Cloud called it when he wrote, "like lady gaga being born again?" Remember, redemptive analogies are stories in the culture that reflect the Gospel.

Yes, the Grammys are still relevant even though your generation might not think so. My middle schoolers and her friends watched and talked about it. And yes, you can watch something like that to look for these analogies.

Image from

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Burn

::: Homelessness simulation game
Flash based simulation game that outlines some of the big issues facing the homeless. Really amazing - you should play this a few times.

::: Middle east protests - country by country
Clickable map with demographics and summaries - really well done

::: Rethinking Youth Ministry Retreat Planning
- Gone are the days where if a student went last year, had a great time, and even connected with God on the trip that they’d automatically sign up and bring a friend next year.
- Gone are the days where families could afford to send students to special retreats and functions with relative ease.
- Gone are the days where I am willing to roll the dice and sign random contracts based on faith and my "guesstimations".
Some great thinking in here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GLG - Starters and Initiators

Starters and Initiators
Global leaders work with teams. The most difficult part? Building them. Here's some food for thought about the kinds of people you are going to need to recruit to your teams.

Let's retire the term entrepreneur. It's outdated and loaded with baggage. It smells like a members-only club.
Instead of entrepreneurs, let's just call them starters. Anyone who creates a new business is a starter. You don't need an MBA, a certificate, a fancy suit, a briefcase, or an above-average- tolerance for risk. You just need an idea, a touch of confidence, and a push to get started. - Jason Fried, Rework

Building a team of enthusiastic and talented people is one of the greatest challenges for leaders. A resume gives little indication of a candidates true mettle. Rather than focusing exclusively on an individuals experience, truly effective managers instead measure a prospective employee's ability to take initiative.
When you stumble across an Initiator - someone who has passion, generates ideas and tends to take action - recognize your good fortune. Nothing will assist your ideas more than a team of people who possess real initiative. - Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen

I'm posting some writing from a global student leadership guidebook that I'm working on. Let me know if you are interested in the progress of this project.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The 2010 Ember Cast Annual Report

Ember's 2010 Annual Report is now available. Special thanks for Leslie who worked on this from idea to execution.

Of course, lots of people made 2010 what it was for us, from supporters to participating students to partners to a fantastic Board to fans that are cheering. Read on and celebrate with us.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The 2011 Bill Gates Letter

Love this letter from Bill every year. Like always, it's a great read about some current global issues that you should probably be aware of. Lots of great learning in here, so take a dive.

Here's some stuff I learned for the first time:
+ About Polio:
- still exists in 4 countries
- like other viruses eradication is key or else it can come back with a vengeance, due to acquired immunity
- eradication energizes global health for fighting other similar diseases

+ Smallpox is the only successful disease eradication program ever

+ On childhood vaccines:
- Lives can be saved if we can reduce the costs of vaccines and raise enough money to buy and distribute them.... The most direct way of saying this is that every $2,000 cut in the most effective aid spending causes a child to die.
- The huge infectious disease burden in poor countries means that a substantial part of their human potential is lost by the time children are 5 years old... A group of researchers at the University of New Mexico conducted a study, covered in The Economist, showing the correlation between lower IQ and a high level of disease in a country. Although an IQ test is not a perfect measure, the dramatic effect you see is a huge injustice. It helps explain why countries with high disease burdens have a hard time developing their economies as easily as countries with less disease.

+ On malaria:
- Of the 99 countries with malaria, 43 have decreased cases of the disease by more than 50 percent.
- Turkmenistan and Morocco were recently declared malaria-free.

+ On AIDS:
- The best tool would be a vaccine for HIV. The scientific progress on this has gone well. The positive results of the trial in Thailand were a turning point for the field, and blood samples from the volunteers are being studied in depth for lessons about why that vaccine worked but only to a limited degree.
- There has also been an explosion in the discovery of antibodies that block HIV infection. Scientists don't yet know how to make a vaccine that will cause patients to generate lots of these antibodies, but there are several approaches that look promising and will be ready to go to trials in the next few years.
- The number of people dying from AIDS has gone down by more than 20 percent in
the last five years, to fewer than 2 million annually.

+ On agricultural development:
- When farmers increase their productivity, nutrition is improved and hunger and poverty are reduced. In countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, investments in seeds, training, access to markets, and innovative agricultural policy are making a real difference.

+ On excellence in teaching:
Our project to learn what the best teachers do—and how to share this information with other teachers—is making significant progress...We're learning that listening to students can be an important element in the feedback system. In classes where students agree that "Our class stays busy and doesn't waste time" or that "In this class, we learn a lot almost every day," there tend to be bigger achievement gains.

Best quote: "Given all the lives that are at stake, I am impatient enough about this that I am willing to be viewed as a troublemaker by people who are happy with the status quo."

And sorry to those of you who I got my RT about this but in Mandarin. Maybe it's a hint that you should learn Chinese?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday Burn

::: Books Andy Stanley thinks you should read
Link. [My wife found this on facebook.]

::: The Infrastructure that is Aviation
fascinating stuff about airports, global goods and infrastructure

::: YPulse on MTVACT
As MTV ACT’s Jason Rzepka explains it, there’s a 1/9/90 rule: 1% of activists are highly engaged, starting rallies and leading charitable drives; 9% are involved in a limited way, signing petitions and sharing news articles with friends; and 90% are disengaged. It’s the latter group that MTV hopes to motivate.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

GLG - Movement Thinking

Movement Thinking
Most of us think in terms of addition. We are thrilled when one or two people chooses to follow our lead, someone gets excited about one of our initiatives, an individual donates to our cause. But global leaders banish this excitement about addition. Instead, they hold their breath waiting for multiplication.

For our leadership to really mark history, we must be about movement thinking. The rate of our leadership must be catalytic at an exponential rate - not just adding followers here and there. Consider the following statistics from the World Christian Database: in mid 2010, the percentage of Christians versus the total world population is 33.2%. The projected percentage in 2025 will be 33.8% - almost no negligible change as the world population increases by 1.5 million people. Addition doesn't help.

I'm posting some writing from a global student leadership guidebook that I'm working on. Let me know if you are interested in the progress of this project.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Platt and Tangible Rebellion

Our 13 year old has been reading Radical by David Platt. You've probably seen a ton of amazing stuff about him recently. I'm most interested to hear feedback about his closing talk at Catalyst West next month. My guess? The audience at CatWest is either going to love him or hate him. Kt loves the book - it might be fitting for middle schoolers because it's giving them tangible rebellion against their parents [in a good way.]

From the November/December issue of Mission Frontiers, some amazing stats about a megachurch doing some serious moving:
+ 450+ participants are immersed in Brook Hills' own Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program.
+ Demand exceeds capacity (over 2,500) for biannual 6-hour Secret Church Bible studies, modeled after "underground" church meetings, to prepare disciplers to train local leaders in mission lands. [See the blog about this via Ben Arment]
+ 70 families are currently helping meet the county's foster child and adoption needs, with 15 more in training.
+ 500 people have participated in Brook Hills short-term outreach, beyond their normal context, while several hundred more have gone with Brook Hills' Missions Partners.
+ 40 families are committed to exploring relocation to minister in inner-city Birmingham. Seven have already moved, and six more have their homes on the market.
+ Over 200 individuals are in various stages of preparing for long-term cross-cultural service.
+ 2010 budgeted expenses were cut by 18%, affecting everything from worship to Sunday School snacks, while general budget mission giving rose to 24%, on top of $1,000,000+ in designated mission giving.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Summer Missions Prep

Some of you probably have some short term missions plans starting to gel - the Super Bowl is over after all. Let me encourage you - first, your plans will probably change. Second, invest a lot of energy in preparing your teams.

Short term teams are notorious for being under-prepared. My three big areas to prepare in? Ministry skills [skills based on what you are actually there to do], missions inspiration [big picture of the world and why we are going there] and building a high performance team.

Ember might be involved in helping some teams prepare for the summer - as we started to think about some of that kind of planning, it reminded me of one of the biggest successes in my previous student missions role - the success known as Mission Advance, a 24 hour immersive experience involving all three of those above.

I'm also reminded that preparing our teams requires innovation and creativity - it doesn't and shouldn't look the same each year. In fact, one of our crazy ideas would have been to run Mission Advance in a urban context: transporting suburban students to the city, with a service project, ministry skills training and facilitators helping the team leaders. Context and culture lessons would have been front and center. That idea is free - take it and run with it if you want. [Here are some other ideas you might want to try.]

If you're interested in picking some of Ember's expertise in training student missions teams, comment or email. We would love to help your students get ready to shape human history.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Does Not Exist to Give You a Job

It brings me back to this: What is the highest priority? I've been a pastor here for 34 years, and I see a primary responsibility to constantly, constantly, constantly bring the church back to outreach. We are not here for ourselves. We are here for others. To the people in the church, I have to say, "You are here for the people that are not yet in the church." I say to our staff (probably too often!), "The organization does not exist to give you a job. You work here to fulfill the purpose of Jesus Christ for this organization. If at some point you can't do that, it's not that we're mad at you or you're a bad person. It's that we've got to go on, because we've got to stay focused on what we're all about." That's my job.
- Leith Anderson, as quoted in Cutting Edge, Winter 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Book Notes - Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

I've heard lots of great things about Dr. Samuel Chand but never read any of his stuff until now. Cracking Your Church's Culture Code is a great read and has lots of insight into the intangibles about organizational and team culture. Long time readers know that one of our mantras is "context matters." More recent readers know that I've been involved in some significant areas of organizational change in the past few months. The combination of both concepts comes together in this book.

Dr. Chand writes in chapter 1 that this book is really for top leadership teams in churches and nonprofits - people that make the decisions at the top.
The commitment to value people all along the organizational hierarchy must be implemented from the top down.
He also cautions others about being agents of change, implying that unless it comes from the top, you'll be hitting a brick wall and will eventually need to leave the organization. I'm not sure that's completely 100% true, but no doubt his book outlines some great tools and perspectives for you to either be a great agent of change or a pain in the a** to the people you work for.

Here are some great snippets:

6 keys to culture:
Culture is the most powerful factor in any organization.
Culture is usually unnoticed, unspoken and unexamined.
Culture determines how people respond to vision and leadership.
Culture most often surfaces and is addressed in negative experiences.
Culture is hard to change, but change results in multiplied benefits.

Thresholds of organizational culture - cultures that are:
inspiring <-> accepting <-> stagnant <-> discouraging <-> toxic

About change:
Changing culture always creates conflict. When we choose respect instead of manipulation, and honesty instead of avoidance of issues, most people will thrive, but a few resist even healthy changes.

On graceful exits:
The hardest conversations are often with the top volunteers, many of whom know the struggles and have great compassion for the person leaving.

On processes of change:
Involves knowledge, attitude, behavior and institutional behavior. [no one talks about the last one]

On chaos:
I've seen leaders experience chaos in countless ways, but three of those ways stand out as unique challenges: redefining failure, creating a sense of urgency to take advantage of opportunities, and managing conflict.

On innovation:
Truly innovative leaders and their teams not only encourage people to dream new ideas and find solutions but also have found a way to transform the inevitable failures into platforms for future success.

On identifying mediocre staff members:
- stubborn and resistant to change
- reactive rather than proactive
- lazy and unprepared
- makes promises but seldom delivers
- shirks responsibility and blames others
- identifies problems without offering solutions
[Paul Idzik, COO of Barclays Bank]

Four areas on hiring or promoting:
competence - can you do the job
character - can i trust you
chemistry - can you fit in our culture
capacity - can you grow with us

He writes about the diffusion of innovations model, which I'm a huge fan of:
Leaders shouldn't have anyone on a team who is slower and more resistant than a middler. [early/late majority - 68% of the population]

On goal, task and control orientation:
Olan Hendrix, author of Three Dimensions of Leadership, observed, "Generally, religious organizations start with a goal orientation... deteriorate to a task orientation... and finally degenerate to a bottom-line control organization."

On the future:
Your effectiveness will always depend on your ability to see the future. To be an effective leaders, you must understand the difference between change and transition. Change is the event and transition is the emotional, psychological, and social response to that change.

Probably my favorite paragraph:
When leaders face transitions like those described in this chapter, they often instinctively ask, "How much am I going to bleed when I go through this?" But that's the wrong question. A better question is, "I know I'm going to bleed. How can I help my team get healthy as quickly as possible?" When a surgeon has to amputate a man's leg, does the man want her to use a scalpel or a butter knife?
Great book. Pick it up, prepare yourself for some organizational pain and then ask for the scalpel.

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

Thursday Burn

::: Steve Addison on India
+ There have been followers of Jesus in India for 2,000 years. Today Christians account for less than 3% of the population, but they are directly involved in 20% of primary education; 25% of care for widows and orphans; 30% of work with the handicapped, AIDs patients and lepers.
+ 70% of India's 1.1 billion people live in its 600,000 villages, the rest live in the 5,000 towns and 380 cities.

::: Newest country in the world - #193
The people of Southern Sudan appear to have voted overwhelmingly in support of independence: total turnout was about 97 percent with almost 99 percent of voters casting their ballots to create the world’s newest nation.
Link via KatieS

::: McKinsey report on cities

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Salisbury Community Impact Notes

This is our gift to the future. Whether you are a church planter, a campus ministry leader or a nonprofit, this information should provide you a good snapshot of a moment in time - what did these areas near Salisbury look like in November of 2010? What did the community need back then and who could help them? What difference could the government, a few social entrepreneurs, and a highly committed group of students make? How could the Gospel redeem not only individuals but communities in Salisbury?
Our follow up report from the Salisbury Ember Cast experience in November of 2010 is now available. Click here for more.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

February Kindling

+ Big sigh of relief for the Leadership Collective flying like it did. Lots of initial positive response, which is great. I feel like most of the stuff I'm involved in isn't going to see real results for a good number of years - the Collective might fall under this as well.
+ You might have noticed I haven't been writing a lot about the interns this school year. The truth is, for various reasons and no fault of their own, their interaction with Ember has kind of fizzled out. Both Ryan and Donna are still involved with some good leadership opportunities and pulling them away would have been a case study in ignoring context.
+ Unfortunately, direct work with student global leaders is in a dry spell right now. Plan A for summer 2011 isn't looking good either.
+ This does mean I have some bandwidth so I'm eager about what ideas, connections and projects might emerge. I'm also doing a bit of planning for Fall 2011.
+ My mom is making a deposit on a retirement community this week. Hoping to get her moved in within this month.
+ Bought yesterday and waiting for it to go live. Didn't buy it for so long because I'm really cheap. But actually dreamhost offers a npo discount. Told you I was cheap.
+ I recently re-remembered that the 'primary role of spiritual leadership is to create and shape ethos.'