Monday, April 30, 2012

Exploring A Different Youth Retreat Model

This post is not meant to denigrate anyone - just food for thought. My daughter just got back from a retreat and had a great time. =)

For twenty years, I've been a youth ministry volunteer and the primary model of taking your youth group away in the fall and spring has not changed. I've served at them, overseeing cabins of students, I've spoken at a few of them, I have helped plan them. The very name that we call it, "retreat", communicates the paradigm - we take kids away to rest and relax. With the most missional minded generation ever, we should be exploring a different model.

Most of the great youth pastors I know serve in the context of believing their students can change the world. A high school student can exert influence, start a micro business, create a ministry from scratch, lead others to a richer, more sacrificial life. They know that kids should 'live on mission.' But when it comes to dreaming and planning times away with their students - almost 48 hours of life on life - they choose a paradigm that says 'live to rest.'

Jesus primary model of discipleship was on mission, on the move, for the sake of others. They certainly rested, but it wasn't until after there was some ministry breakthrough. They worshipped when they had returned from living life on the edge.

Elements of this model would include: teaching on catalytic leadership, some nontoxic charity service project and hyper worship - worship after you and your best friends have seen God come through in a big way. This type of weekend takes different kinds of planning. And of course, the term 'retreat' never, ever gets used.

If this sounds interesting to you, Ember would love to help you explore it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Burn

::: The next generation of anti-malaria efforts
An insecticide-treated wall lining for the interior of homes - think of aesthetically pleasing wallpaper. Link

::: 30 ways to love your city
Link via The Upstream Collective

::: Fascinating article about Homeboy Industries
See the progression from self to serving to systems...?

::: Olympic athletes also fundraise
This is creative revenue.

::: The Christian faith never exists except as 'translated' into a culture. -David Bosch @dansadlier

::: There is not one demon in the universe who is an atheist - Wayne Cordiero @alanhirsch

::: Live the kind of faith that ought to require seatbelts @bobgoff

Photo: Ember guides, helping prep short term student teams, April 2012.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ember ethos - part 2

+ When we put a high school student into a leadership role that could be tenuous, we lean towards more, not less, risk and we communicate that to student.
+ Guides are given honest, relevant feedback about their performance right after a project they have been involved in. This feedback is meant to be near real time and is saved as lessons learned.
+ All leaders involved in a project decompress a project right when it is over. We remind everyone about the concept of unfiltered debate before the conversation - so we talk about the good, bad and the ugly on purpose and without making it personal. [Jim Collins]
+ Sometimes our Guides lead people who are much older. Sometimes they will be lead by someone much younger.

I'm more convinced than ever that the organization structure and values of a team are just as important as the character and passion of the people involved. I have the privilege of helping define a culture for an organization that I would want to work for.

Related: Ember ethos part 1

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Burn

::: JK Rowling's plot notes from Harry Potter
via Ben Arment

::: Releasing Your Disciples
Most churches don't focus on disciple-making and if disciples do rise up from within their congregation, they don't release them. Instead, you see disciples tethered to the home church, defining the kingdom in terms of the needs of their own metroplex and local congregation.

::: Who and How Often
Entreprenuers guide - Who to keep in touch with and how often
Link via Praxis

::: In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy. - Paul Getty via Alan Hirsch

Photo:Carolyn [2011-2012 intern], Carver [2011-2012 Ember Impact Coaching participant], Matt [church planter, The Well Silver Spring], Chinatown, DC.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Detailed Short Term Mission Team Preps

Had a fantastical time with Ember guides facilitating a short term mission prep experience this past weekend. Here's the big picture on some of the values, activities, working documents and systems behind this training experience for the student teams at GRACE [my home church.] As always, feel free to steal what you can contextualize.

Friday night was a leader only experience - participants were leaders that were leading various student mission trips this summer - Uganda, New Orleans and Baltimore. The targeted concepts included navigation, team work, and an urban/cultural immersion. As our Ember team prepared, we landed on the idea of having the leaders travel to multiple locations in Washington DC and doing some kind of learning exercise at each location. Each location was distinctly different in cultural context, a key to this experience. Another key to this exercise was also done in the context of being a 'mapmaker' - you can be taught how to engage a specific culture or you can learn how to navigate cultures and make your own maps.

Leader teams departed right from the church with a set of minimal instructions and made their way to the first destination where our guides met them. From there, our guides traveled with them to the next 2 destinations, observing and debriefing when appropriate, and then all teams met back at Union Station to talk about the whole evening. This included conversations about being sent and being God's people on the move, being a mapmaker and different facets of teamwork. There is no better place to talk about movement than Union Station.

Saturday included a general mixer, some team building exercises and a series of quick 10 minute teaching rotations on sharing your story, global world realities, case studies in culture and contextualization and movement thinking. We wanted teams to experience working together as well as get some informal teaching. The more teams spend together before they hit the mission field, the better. The team building activities are always a big hit - high school kids should learn by doing.

From an Ember guide perspective, the working documents needed for this project included: instructions for Friday night activity [just enough directions - not too many], a debriefing how-to guide, and instructions for each of the team building activities. Regardless of the documents, each guide needed to be 100% engaged - observing the leader teams working [or not working] together or how teams did the team building activities, etc.

Our 6 Ember guides did amazing [amy, trevin, lexi, carolyn, kristen.] They navigated the unknown, improvised when needed and engaged every leader and student to think about the values each activity tried to impart. I'm not only proud of the work they did, but I'm proud of the culture of Ember that they are propagating. They trust each other which provides the foundation for unfiltered debate as we evaluate the event. Our evaluation was over lunch right after the event ended. An added plus if you are a guide: I write a feedback letter to every guide after every event where they have served.

See some pictures here. If you are involved with student mission teams and are interested in missions team preps, get in touch.

[Related: Mission Advancing, NY Mission Cast, Mission Preps with Bay Area]

Monday, April 16, 2012

Praxis Labs Culmination Event

I attended the Praxis Labs Accelerator Culmination event [Easter Monday #2] and dragged Trevin Hoekzema along. It was quite an event and I'm really glad I went. 10 startup social entrepreneurs gave their 5 minute pitches to the audience, we heard from a panel of the accelerator's advisors and we voted for 3 finalists on who should get $100K in capital funding. Lots of elements from this evening embodies the 21st century missionary. Some notes from the advisor panel below. I'm also writing a report for Ember's board of directors. Let me know if you would like a copy of that [tonytsheng AT].

Henry Kaestner
God centered organization - faith, family, work, fitness in that order - has those very public values.
Important traits of leaders: why they do it and can they articulate the reasons why

Managing growth and scaling and organizational culture:
It is one thing to acquire and retain customers
another issue to retain employees
employee retention speaks directly about the culture of the org
how committed are the founders to creating the culture of the org - this is done with input and intention
culture is defined at the early steps of an org

Steve Graves
scalability - better reason to scale than 'just because i can'
launch -> prove -> scale
you can skip the prove step with lots of resources - money, network, etc.
why do we scale? should we scale?
we must prove the right things, especially as people of faith
feed and nurture the person and the org
there is a composite score of life - husband, father, employee, neighbor
you must manage and lead yourself in multiple roles
live a life of healthy grace - juggle - realistic expectations

Josh Kwan
past investing has been based on guilt or feeling good about ourselves
calling, purpose, accomplishing impact - asking tough questions
social entrepreneurs are the 21st century missionary <<-- this is why I went

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Burn

::: The 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made During My First Year on the Mission Field
Link via Larry

::: 21 tips for traveling the world
Link via Chris Guillebeau

::: America's most important airport cities

::: The day will come when an intelligent machine will replace the pastor & 'feeling' shepherded, the church will not know the difference. @skye_jethani

See all the Burn posts here.

Photo: Ember guides with Patrick Donohue, second from the left, Serve the City Baltimore, March 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Monday #1

Joshua Symonette [that's him standing in the blue] and I first became friends during a Vision Trek guide training weekend in Green Lake Wisconsin in 2008. He's the best example that I know of a leadership maven and he seems to know every ministry leader in DC.

On Easter Monday, Joshua hosted a small gathering of DC ministry leaders around the topic of diversity. Not only diversity of race, but of economic class, thought, and experience. It is undoubtedly an important topic for the Church today.

Loved some of the discussion which included ideas like: the default behavior of Christian leaders should be risk which includes crossing certain lines; the phone book of the leader tells you how diverse they really are; and the impact of the collaboration between Run DMC and Aerosmith for the remix of Walk This Way.

PS - Joshua has his own wiki page too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Mission Book

Larry McCrary is one of the creators of The Upstream Collective, a different kind of missions organization that exists "to see churches think and act like missionaries." Larry connected me to some great folks for a little project I was working on a few months ago and recently asked me to write a little contribution to The Mission Book.

Short term mission teams are notoriously under prepared. They don't understand how to navigate cultures, they don't know their teammates well enough and they wear the same t-shirts in the airport. Some say that 50% of short term mission teams do detriment to the visibility of long term missionaries - I believe that to be true. I also believe this is easily fixed.

We've had a great deal of success in focusing on three concepts when helping missions teams prepare: serving, movement and awareness. And when you work on these three, you get a team, not just collection of people going somewhere together.
Read more of my entry here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Burn

::: Did You Like Church?
Like we repeatedly say in our services, "We're not trying to impress you, we don't care if you enjoyed the service, we only care if it changes your life."

::: Global Patent Applications

::: How Much Do You Read?
33% of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57% of new books are not read to completion.

::: 12 cities. Urban areas. Saddleback.

::: 6 Powerful Web Tools
Especially number 2 - web photo editing
Link via Dawn Nicole Baldwin

See all the Burn posts here.

Photo: Ember guides and friends [and wife], STC Baltimore. July 2011, Patterson Park Pagoda, Baltimore.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Missionary and Third Culture Kids

One of our good Ember friends is collecting some advice and tidbits for a friend who is moving to another culture to teach missionary and third culture kids. If you've got some experience in this arena, like you are a parent of some TCKs, or you have taught them, or you grew up as one, I know Emily would love to hear your advice in 3 sentences. Or pick your brain. Leave a comment or contact info.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Perspectives - Don Richardson

Don Richardson spoke at a Perspectives class last week and I dragged some of our Ember team to it. It was every bit what we expected - great content from a global missions patriarch. Don also coined the term 'redemptive analogy' that I use all the time. Below are some of my notes. Long time readers know that Perspectives started all this silly student missions stuff in the spring of 2003. [If you knew that date, you HAVE been reading a long time...]

For the Sawi, treachery was their highest value. Judas emerges as a hero.
When people live as tribes, tribialism prevails. You only care about yourself.
Cultural compasses:
Indian prophecy of an upside down tree.
Chinese encoding of characters.
Extended family - peace through a new birth.
Abstract concept of new birth.
Jesus spat - nothing related to Jewish culture. He didn't have to use saliva to heal. Marilyn Lazlo - Wycliffe translator and the tribe that related to Jesus healing with saliva. Did God look 2000 years in the future to this tribe?
Could there be some details in the Scriptures not for you but for someone else.
People say missionaries shouldn't go to unreached tribes because they ruin a culutre. This assumes no one else will go - evil corporations, political commercial etc.
87 tribes went extinct in 57 years.
Survivor International - anti missionary organization.
Polygamy - older men sacrifice their daughters to increase their harem. Young men take daughters and leave to different villages. 90% of violence within clans are due to polygamy.
Tribes were addicted to soap and salt.
Missionarys are the object of novelty. Young single men gravitate towards the missionary, while older men feel slighted. Missionary becomes a bad influence in the eyes of elders. Must find a way for the elders to know they matter.
Animistic societies - if people die, its witchcraft. Someone needs to be blamed, who is guilty. Quota of pain - antiBiblical.
Natural symbols suggesting eternal life. Lizard sheds skin. Caterpillar into butterfly.
3 measures of exponential growth - 1st 250 years after Pentecost, the early church
# of believers
# of ecclesia - households
# of culturs in which there were churches
The creeds are missionless. They were written during a dead time for the Church.
Also, there were probably 50-60 people there, lots of different ethnicities. The average age was probably 50, there were maybe 5 high school or college students, I brought 3 of them.

Monday, April 02, 2012

April Kindling

+ Our summer Ember projects are finally starting to take some shape. Lots of adjustment and pushing and pulling.
+ Doing lots of planning for a short term student missions prep engagement. 3 hours on evening with team leaders and 4 hours the next day with leaders and students. Seems like a sweet spot for Ember as well as a conviction - most short term teams seem like they could have done just about anything and been better prepared.
+ Watch for signs of some Creative Revenue Plans coming very soon. Our teams are pretty behind in terms of financial milestones, but we'll give it a shot anyway.
+ The futurist in me is already thinking about Fall 2012. One emerging theme is reproduction.
+ Deanna has lost almost 40 pounds now. The discipline she has shown through this has been incredible. Our 11 year old Em got glasses. I got some lotion for a rash.
+ Reading Mike Breen, Jon Tyson and Vince Antonucci. If that doesn't slam the status quo, I don't know what does.