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.