Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Things are going pretty well here in Orlando - thanks to those of you who are thinking of us. Monday's teaching session was stepped in ADD while Tuesday's teaching was much more engaging. I'll be writing a post later after we return outlining all of the details, in the meantime, feel free to follow #emberorlando hashtag for the updates.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Architect of Decay

He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.
- Harold Wilson. Quoted in On The Verge.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dream Year #3 - The Dreamers

Not only was going to Dream Year fun for the content - it was a great environment to meet other people working in various stages of their ideas. Lots of varied ideas including church and ministry stuff, nonprofits, musicians, media and business ideas. Like I've mentioned before, the future will require leaders to start and initiate new things. Dream Year oozed of that.

Here's a few dreamers you might be interested in tracking:
Moo Kim - major media company
David Huey - Hungry for a Day NPO
Bittersweet Zine - quarterly publication of local and global issues
Gary Waldron - The Aragorn Project, mens mentoring journey
Joshua Symonette [who i met at vision trek]
Colleen who i have known forever
Mike Hall - youth ministry motivational speaker

One of the most interesting observations from Ben:
NCC [National Community Church] is a culture of dreamers.

This concept is especially relevant to me, having served in various roles, for small amounts of time, on leadership teams at different levels in my own church. It seems to be much easier to guard your resources, direct people towards a certain level of conformity and give people a token blessing all for the sake of 'strategic direction' rather than embracing the dreamers and releasing them. The more difficult task, of course, is to create a culture where people are free to do the things no one is doing to reach the people no one is reaching.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Home Improvement - Tool of the Devil

Home improvement is not anywhere near my realm of expertise and it always seems like something at my house goes wrong when we aspire to pursue something along the lines of student missions. One year it was a broken glass table, another year was a garbage disposal, another was tile falling off a shower wall. I'm convinced it's the great Deceivers way of exhausting us and making stressing us out. A few days ago, it was a basement flood. Sometimes it works. And sometimes, in between the stress, it makes us consider that we might be on to something good.

Appreciate your prayers for our travels to Orlando, the staff at Lake Aurora camp and the middle school kids we are hanging out with - we fly out tomorrow and then help teach Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In 500 years, we might really know how good it was.

[PS - See some of the videos here.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Text

When a church plant grows quickly, it's usually because of the relational network that preceded it. Nothing travels as fast as a powerful cause that's laid upon a social movement. It's like a baseball that's loaded into a pitching machine. It goes from zero to ninety mph in a short time.
How many times have you heard the familiar story of a popular youth pastor who decided to plant in the same town and ended up with a megachurch on his hands? This wasn't just an overnight sensation or spontaneous move of God. It was the result of God's building his church for years and years through this leader's ministry.
- Ben Arment, Church in the Making.
This is the textbook for our Ember guides for this summer and not because any of them are church planters.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Camp, Content and Context

Chris has been one of Ember's biggest fans ever since before we started, so its a big honor to work with him at camp this summer.

We've been in close contact in the past few weeks as our outline and content has developed. It's one of those essential ministry/missions concepts that you inherently understand but maybe can't articulate - the concept of contextualization. You know that whatever you are teaching has to fit into the context of the people you are teaching. Context and culture are important. You already knew it but when someone pointed it out to you, a lot clicked. We're convinced the same happens with middle school kids this summer.

Also in the content bag - person of peace and redemptive analogies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Minority Youth and Media Consumption
Asian youth are especially drawn to computers [my family had a good laugh at this statement...], spending nearly three hours a day (2:53) in recreational computer use (the figure is 1:17 for White youth, 1:24 for Blacks, and 1:49 for Hispanics).

::: Future Travelers
+ Comfortable dreaming about and living in the future before its become a reality and in pursuing, discovering and vetting new paradigms
+ Typically in the pioneering group or very early adopter group

::: Rate of Texting Slows?

::: Bill Gates on being a geek for a good cause
Hey, if being a geek means you're willing to take a 400-page book on vaccines and where they work and where they don't, and you go off and study that and you use that to challenge people to learn more, then absolutely. I'm a geek. I plead guilty. Gladly.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 Days Until Camp

Doing some Ember planning last night - you probably know these two. Trevin and LexiPap. Lex traveled with us in 2008 and also has a family lineage of missions - she's been all over and has a grandfather who was a career missionary in the Far East. She's hopefully working more with us soon.

Planning tonight included topics like:
- Baltimore street church.
- what does an Ember guide really do.
- finalizing summer camp outline, including topics such as contextualization and global poverty.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Short versus Long

Wait a minute. Didn't that coach say quitting was a bad idea?
Actually, quitting as a short-term strategy is a bad idea. Quitting for the long term is an excellent idea.
I think the advice-giver meant to say, "Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment." Now that's good advice.
- Seth Godin, The Dip [one of the books given to us from Dream Year DC]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teamwork Misconceptions

Loved this fantastic article about the misconceptions about teamwork.
Misperception #1: Harmony helps. Smooth interaction among collaborators avoids time-wasting debates about how best to proceed.
Actually: Quite the opposite, research shows. Conflict, when well managed and focused on a team's objectives, can generate more creative solutions than one sees in conflict-free groups

Misperception #2: It's good to mix it up. New members bring energy and fresh ideas to a team.
Actually: The longer members stay together as an intact group, the better they do... Whether it is a basketball team or a string quartet, teams that stay together longer play together better

Misperception #5: It all depends on the leader.
Actually: The hands-on activities of group leaders do make a difference. But the most powerful thing a leader can do to foster effective collaboration is to create conditions that help members competently manage themselves.
Read the other three misconceptions too. Hopefully, if you are leading a missions team this summer, this article makes you think about some of these high capacity leadership topics.

And if you are that missions leader, hopefully you've gathered your team at least a few times this spring and summer by now. Because, like #2 up there, the more time your team spends together, the better the overall missions experience.

If you are in charge of a summer missions team and haven't done any prep work.... well good luck, and one piece of advice: don't wear the team shirts to fly out of your hometown airport. [Contact Ember if you are really desperate...]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dream Year #2 - Idea Models

Finding a successful model for your idea is like turning the tumblers in a combination lock.
Many many of us have ideas, but not many idea models. At Dream Year, I learned that there's a pretty clear distinction and that we need both. I've been spinning over the whole concept when it comes to Ember.

Not only that, most of the young people I come into contact with have good and even great ideas. [Notice that many of them are not content with running with your ideas...] But they are missing the idea model. Plant a church, start a nonprofit, create a third space for a marginalized subculture, create mediums to tell stories about global issues - lots and lots of ideas. Their thoughts may need some help to expand.

As you can imagine, this translates into cross cultural service as well. Global missions at the core is about one idea, but throw in context and culture and the possible idea models number in the infinite. It would do us well as we to guide future global leaders to come up with the best ideas as well as idea models that support them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Burn

::: No Housing Bust in DC
Another reason why the suburban [DC] high school kid is a landmine of potential.

::: Rwanda's First Ice Cream Shop
Link via gracifer

::: Wave At The Bus
Link via Marko

::: Family Time Makes Most 13-24 year olds happy
Link via jason dukes

::: TED announces their global fellows
Note: 1 - the unique and innovative set of ideas they all have.
2 - how many of them are listed as basing themselves in multiple countries.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Andrew and Eric

Stunning post by Andrew, Ember 2010 intern.
When I first met Eric he greeted me with big handshake and a hug. It was clear that he would be somebody I was going to get to know better during my time here. He basically showed me the ropes of how the feeding program works, and answered every question for me that I could think to ask about Kibera. What I didn't know at the time was that he lived in Kibera himself. I didn't find this out until a few days later when he was showing me through all the streets and alleys of the slum. I think what struck me the most was that he was so overly giving, caring, and hard-working. Sometimes its easier to assume that people who are in poverty got there by their own means (i.e. they were lazy, addicted to drugs/alcohol, a criminal, etc). But I've found through the example of Eric and a lot of other people I've met in Kibera that this is simply not true. Some of the hardest working people can be found in the slums, but their efforts simply don't equate to what our efforts do because of their circumstances. What amazes me every day is that Eric keeps such a positive attitude about life, and he still gives out of his poverty, something absolutely biblical (Mark 12:41-42).
Four summers ago, he was an average suburban high school kid. Three summers ago, he traveled with a team I lead to Europe to hang with some cross cultural church planters. Last summer, his internship culminated with working with a stateside church plant and spending a week in the desert.
Captivate a high school kid early enough with how the world looks and how they could contribute and eventually, they might make decisions that will affect humanity.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Dream Year #1 - Money

The content on finances probably had the most impact on me at Dream Year. Now I'm no business guy but hearing Ben say that revenue must be more than expenses makes sense to me. =) These other ideas also resonated:
- Nonprofit is a tax strategy not a business strategy. Your idea needs to be profitable to be sustainable.

- Your idea might need other ways to create revenue.

- The 100% donor model might be endangered.

All of these ideas are certainly relevant to Ember. And they are just as relevant to how we prepare students to lead in the future - especially to those that might be interested in vocational ministry, specifically outside the traditional structure of a local community of faith. Granted, the 100% donor model, like other models, has a Biblical precedent, can invite a lot of others to be a part of your team and is a true faith walk. The other side of the equation is that we are seeing less and less career faith supported missionaries, in some contexts that status actually gives you more barriers to entry, and the global economic recession has not helped the situation. In today's global economy, you could study just about any field and there is a way that would help get you to the mission field.

Perhaps some of us need to give more flexibility to the emerging generation and their adaptability to bring different avenues of revenue to the future ministries and organizations they will create. For instance, I was told that it was unbiblical to host a poker party to raise money for a short term missions team. Poker is irrelevant to me, but you would have to agree that its a major subculture right now. The stigma of making money and being associated with 'nonprofit', 'missions' and 'ministry' should be end. [Lots more great stuff about this idea in the book Uncharitable.] I'm thinking about how Ember is going to experiment with this too - do you like to play poker? [just kidding...]

My bet is that similar to the many varied dreams I heard about this weekend, future global leaders are going to create ministries that don't even exist yet today. They will dream them, build teams to help run them, and more now than ever, they will need to create varied portfolios of revenue that help fund them.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Unpacking the Dream

Lots to unpack from the Dream Year weekend - I'm going to try to post some of my learnings and how they relate to Ember as a business in the next few weeks. I'm also anticipating that lots of ideas are relevant in how we prepare students to be global leaders in the future as well. Advance warning though - due to the nature of the Dream Year process, there won't be very detailed notes on the concepts covered in DY. [The pic is what was in my bag from DY...]

In the meantime, I can tell you that it was a pretty intense time of learning for me. I had maybe one business class ever so those particular topics were great for me and very much behind my motivation to attend in the first place.

The community of dreamers that was gathered was also amazing. It included church planters, pastors and coaches; founders of various nonprofits; some very talented media people and various others.

Special thanks to Ben Arment for doing this. Every one of my readers [yes you] would learn something from him.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Burn

::: Married US Households Now in Minority
You do think about this when it comes to student ministry, don't you?

::: Bilingual people are smarter

::: Extremely granular HIV map

::: The World's Most Livable City - Istanbul

::: Your Stock Goes Up Even If You Fail
I can make the money back. I can get back on my feet. And I can try again. But I can never recover from what I didn't try at all.
Loved this post and I will be hearing this kind of stuff all weekend at DreamYear - be jealous.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June Kindling

+ Our summer camp outline is coming together pretty well I think. 3 days on site. Ah Florida.
+ Trevin has landed a part time position with Baltimore Serve the City. Love seeing the connections being made. Seems to be tons of momentum with lots of churches, npos and para service orgs.
+ Sent out 92 support email letters. Heard from lots of friends which was awesome. The walk to the mailbox is filled with anticipation.
+ Got invited to a birthday party. In Prague.
+ What's your cap on how you do fundraising? What's out of line - poker, gaming, cigar and wine bar?
+ Looking very forward to #DreamYear this Friday.
+ Even though I'm writing this last night, in one hour, I hope to have Hillsong United tickets.
+ 15 minutes in catching up with KellanD included how he flew to surprise his girlfriend in Senegal; what a remarkable experience in cultural distance that was; and info about a phenomenal internship he scored this summer in renewable energy. Tell me a career like that won't get him to the nations.
+ Participating in a little beta project with one of my virtual mentors. The project is fun enough but learning how he thinks is once in a lifetime.