Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Global Vision Team - Belgium

I'm traveling to Belgium in late June on a vision team with some global strategy leaders with GRACE. Our purpose is to scout out some faith communities, ministries and social enterprises for some potential long term partnerships as part of GRACE's efforts to in Europe. This partnership also has some specifics like focusing on the emerging generation, being involved in a church planting movement and helping us learn about post-Christian culture. I'm excited to both go there and to participate on a team like this - I've never been on a vision team before but read lots of vision team reports. It's a unique purpose that requires some interesting skills so I'm looking forward to learning a lot.

The first part of something like this is similar to traveling for other reason - check out the demographics. For instance, Brussels has a population 1.8M with a population density of 16857/sq mile. Compare that with where you live [DC is 617K and 10065/sq mile; Baltimore is 619K : 7671/sq mile.]

But what we are going to be doing is a lot of observing and discerning. Here's some of the big things I'm thinking through:
cultural icons - symbols; heros; organizational, environmental and physical structures - what do these things tell us about the culture.
concepts, context and execution - which of these are transferable and which ones aren't and why not.
handles - where can people step in and tangibly get involved.
serving vs. systems - like handles, getting people involved in serving is easier than systems for serving.
reciprocity - can we go to them is a simple question. can we host them in our context is much more complex.

Here's some vision-type stuff I've been reading of late.
Observing Tokyo
Edinburgh, Scotland

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 on the move

Some of Ember's tribe on the move because of mission this summer and fall. And you have to know that they were like this before they got involved with Ember. We are just privileged to serve with them.

Trevin - serving with the Ember AZ 2012 team; Queen Creek, AZ.
TayEst - starting a job with Teach for America in the fall; Baltimore, Merryland.

Lexi - currently in East Asia.
Kristen - leading a vision team to Brussels [that I am on] at the end of June, recently started a job with Grassroots; Brussels, Belgium and Columbia, Merryland.
Andrew - serving this summer again with First Love; East Africa.
John - takes on a outreach/missions coord volunteer job this fall with his college ministry; Harrisonburg, VA.
Michelle - starting a job in quantitative economics and statistics with Ernest and Young; Washington, DC.
Erinmoy - serving on a short term missions team as an occupational therapist; Domincan Republic.
Caroline - finishing a season of training as a midwife with YWAM; Australia and Uganda.
Katie - Ember Cast spawn - Ember AZ 2012 team and a week with STC; Queen Creek, AZ and Baltimore, Merryland.

Note some of the very specific tangible skills some of these fine young people have developed, that helps them be on mission.

[Related: 2011 on the move ]

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Burn

:::The biggest story in development - child mortality rates fall in African countries
16 of the 20 African countries which have had detailed surveys of living conditions since 2005 reported falls in their child-mortality rates (this rate is the number of deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births). Twelve had falls of over 4.4% a year... Three countries—Senegal, Rwanda and Kenya—have seen falls of more than 8% a year, almost twice the MDG rate and enough to halve child mortality in about a decade.

::: Buy in vs Weigh In

::: Open Seattle - a grassroots youth conference from the Youth Cartel

::: Leadership classes don’t harm leaders, they just don’t produce leaders
So here’s my plea to church leaders; let’s stop pouring time and resources into leadership training classes. Let’s pull the plug; stop the madness. The more time we waste herding people into class rooms and force feeding them leadership platitudes the less time we have to actually discover and develop and deploy leaders.
[Someone I worked with wanted to emulate the Seacoast model]

::: Instead of how is your church the question is how is my city - @BrianHook1

::: More people have become followers of Jesus Christ in Iran in the last ten years than in the previous 1000 years combined.... - @TLubinus

::: "Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have of changing others." JM Braude - @sarahsmusic

Photo: Ember guides and spawn at Grace Leadership Collective, January 2012.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fall 2012 Internships Available

I'm still convinced there are global leadership concepts that youth pastors and the like can't, won't or are unable to teach to their students - concepts that are key for helping inform leaders in the near and far future. That's why Ember offers internships for high school students.

Past students have been involved in things like: DC ServeFest; In Service homeless ministry with National Community Church; Iraqi Christmas Festival; CRM church planting roundtable; Sunday Breakfast Mission - Philadelphia; Catalyst One Day leadership conference; The Bridge, Silver Spring; The M Conference, Detroit; Humana 2008, Orlando; Urban Youth Worker Institute; Stop Hunger Now food packing event; gatherings with various vocational missionaries from around the world; global missions experiences in New York, Phoenix, Hungary, and Cameroon.

We still have room and these can be done virtually. More info, apply here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ember AZ 12 - first team meeting

Our first Arizona meeting was this past weekend. With a young married couple, one high school senior, one just graduated college young adult, one Ember board member, and all 4 Shengs, it's a small and eclectic team. [But we've got some other things in the works...]

After our time together, I'm even more confident that God has placed each person on this team for a specific reason and for His specific time in history. Our hope is that some amazing things happen in Queen Creek AZ and to us because of this investment.

Here's some of the things we talked through:
+ the paradigm of a catalyst
+ the history of working with Ben Cloud
+ person of peace [part of our preassessment]
+ some admin stuff - meetings, travel logistics, etc.
+ blood sugar sensitive dessert

If you are in charge of a short term student team this summer, I'm sincerely hope you are preparing them. One of the reasons The Ember Cast exists is to help leaders do this.

[Related: 2010AZ mtg #3,
2008Hungary mtg #3,
2007Hungary mtg #3,
2006Cameroon mtg #3
2005Brasil mtg #1]

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Burn

::: 5 tips to mobilize teenagers
Link via @pauldz

::: Is a company that gives away profits really a social enterprise?

::: The High Cost of Bad Hiring
Link via tony morgan

::: Why the Leadership Movement is Leaving Your Church Leaderless

Photo: Ember guides celebrating summer projects, August 2011.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Poverty, Stewardship, Potential

"The idealization of poverty is one of the most dangerous illusions of Christians in the contemporary world. Stewardship - which requires possessions and includes giving - is the true spiritual discipline in relation to wealth." - Dallas Willard

JM sent this quote to me in an email [used with permission] conversation related to this: I meet a lot of suburban students that want to be poor. In most cases, this is an incorrect posture for future ministry. Willard nails it spot on with stewardship and I would throw in the concept of potential in there as well.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creative Revenue - Myers Briggs sessions

Ember believes that missionaries of the future will rely on a 'portfolio of revenue.' [credit for this term goes to Ben Arment.] In other words, they will need to actually make some money outside of personal donations. As part of this summer, our team is required to dream and execute a Creative Revenue Plan - a way to make some income based on their talents and gifts. This unique income will go directly towards the funding of their missions experience. Prayer and financial support letters are also required.

My Creative Revenue Plan is as follows:
+ I will offer a single, informal Myers Briggs Type Indicator session to individuals or teams. The MBTI is a well known personality test that organizes people into 16 different personality types, based on the temperaments of 4 domains. In this highly interactive session, we will cover individuals and their types as well as how the types interact in your specific context, including your organizations goals, structure and culture.
+ The session will last no more than 2 and a half hours.
+ 100% of this goes to supporting Ember's Arizona 2012 team.
+ Rates are as follows: $50 per person for 1-5 people, $25 per person for 6-10 people. Payments are to be paid to The Ember Cast, Inc. More than 10? Let's talk. tonytsheng @
+ I will provide all handouts for you and your team.
+ Participants will take the test in advance - the session will only interact with people who have completed the test.
+ Locations for these sessions must be in either Maryland or Washington, DC. Outside of these areas and still interested? Let's talk. tonytsheng @
+ Although I'm not officially certified as an MBTI practitioner, I've walked hundreds of people through this personality assessment in over 20 years of working with the test. It's one of my favorite things to do with teams. The test you will take is not official, but will still score with a high degree of accuracy.

If this doesn't work, my Creative Revenue Plan B has to do with a power washer, sandals and a bathing suit. Plan C may have to do with some creative, strategic technology work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Burn

::: Population densities around the world

::: Mark Zuckerberg and his transformation to a CEO
My take aways: Vision, communication, staffing

::: Next generation workplace technology
Link via Rex Miller

::: It's a core value when you are willing to be punished for it. - @patricklencioni

::: I'd rather have a couple ideas that fail than a faith that won't try - @bobgoff

Photo: Ember Orlando, July 2011. Me, Trevin Hoekzema, and Chris Marsden.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

My 2012 Missions Support Letter

"To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." – William Carey

A few months ago, I worked with some student mission leaders and gave them the paradigm of being a mapmaker. One step further than Mr. Carey, this idea conveyed that in times of constant, disruptive change, you could learn to read a map or you could learn to make your own maps. This summer, I have the opportunity to be involved in two interesting projects that fall under the mapmaker paradigm.

Most of you know about my little student missions nonprofit called The Ember Cast. I'll be helping lead a team with Ember to Queen Creek, AZ, working with my friend Ben Cloud and Amadeo Church. The team will see up close how a relatively new church works, learn about starting a new ministry in some detailed sessions with Ben and contribute to some community impact projects that form a structure that allow our team to be catalysts for what God may do in the Amadeo community. Ministry activities include serving with ReStore, their food and clothing pantry; Friends Feeding Friends, their homeless ministry; and various other community projects. Most or all of the Sheng's will probably participate on this team as well and this trip is July 7-16. My grand hope for this team of leaders and students is that this experience propels them on a trajectory where instead of reading maps, they start making their own.

The second project is with Grace Community Church, our home church. I have been invited to be on a 'vision' team, which will scout out the possibilities of some potential ministry partnerships in Brussels, Belgium as part of Grace's long term global strategy. Our team will have meetings with a variety of ministry leaders and will be observing, listening and discerning from June 28 to July 4. Our hope is that this experience helps set up a clear map with regards to potential partnerships for Grace in Europe.

We welcome and thank you for your prayers for both of these experiences. If you feel led, I'm raising 50% of support for both trips. The support target for Ember 2012 AZ is $1500 [for all the Shengs] and the support target for Brussels is also $1500. Unfortunately, support for both organizations must be kept independent, so that requires two separate donations if you give to both.

Ember believes that missionaries of the future will rely on a 'portfolio of revenue.' In other words, they will need to actually make some money outside of personal donations. As part of this summer, each person, including me, is asked to dream and execute a 'Creative Revenue Plan.' My Creative Revenue Plan involves providing one teaching session on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment for interested individuals and teams. We will walk through each person's results, talk about how it fits with a team and discuss the assessment in the context of their organizations goals, structure and culture. All proceeds will go to supporting the Ember 2012 AZ team. If this is something you or someone you know might be interested in, please let me know.

Get in touch if you want to send financial support. If you are local and want to donate, let me know and I will come buy you lunch. Please make sure your checks are payable to either The Ember Cast, Inc., or Grace Community Church, depending on which project you feel led to support.

You may also contribute online to The Ember Cast. Online donations are done via - be aware that Amazon takes 2.9% + .30 for each donation. The Ember Cast is a registered 501c3 nonprofit and you will receive a receipt for your donation approximately 6 weeks after your donation is received. The Ember Cast reserves the right to re-direct your support in the case that the person you are supporting is 100% funded. However, 100% of donations go to catalyzing global student leaders. Your donation is very, very much appreciated.

As always, thank you for your long standing passion for student missions. I'm convinced, like you are, that we need more global leaders than ever and that those leaders come out of students who are poised right now to make a difference in our world. I will be sure to tell you not only how we make maps this summer but how we make mapmakers that go on to mark human history. Thanks again for your support and prayers!

[Related: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 Mission Support Letters]

Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday Burn

::: Student Debt is Killing the Church
5. Student Debt Squelches Ecclesial Entrepreneurship.
Link via Rudy

::: Religious Census in Orlando
Surprising. And you know how much the Shengs love Orlando...
Link via Jon Tyson

::: Why It's Hard to Invest in Exponential Growth

Photo: Ember guides Emily Swinburne and TayEst, Philly, November 2011.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Book Notes - I Will Teach You to be Rich

If you are under the age of 30 and have never read anything about managing finances, you should read this book. Although this may seem like a slightly off-topic post for this blog, I think it's relevant because:
1 - In my context [suburban, affluent, missions mobilizing] finances are very relevant.
2 - I meet a lot of suburban students that want to be poor. In most cases, this is an incorrect posture for future ministry. [I should probably unpack this idea huh.] Finances is an integral part of this decision.

Instead of notes from the book, a few things I learned and are doing.

1 - Credit Score
Instead of the standard get a budget, track your expenses, emergency fund, 401k, etc. [If you don't know what any of those terms mean and you are over 20 years old, you should be embarrassed. Please get some financial education.] The book opens with the topic of credit score. Simply put, getting the best credit score will save you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. Part of this is paying off your credit card balances in full every month, which means having self discipline when it comes to spending. No one talks about credit score when they teach you about finances.

What I did: increased overall credit limit on our primary credit card, because credit score is related to credit utilization.

2 - Automatic Payments
Pay yourself first - take money out of your paycheck first, putting it into a savings account. Systematize paying your bills.

What I did: Start paying fixed costs [cable, internet, phone, utilities] on a credit card. First, I put these onto a card that gets airline miles. [Our primary credit card gets points for a 529 college fund for our children.] Secondly, this helps build credit history, related to credit score.

3 - Bargain Shop
What I did: Researched lowering fixed costs [cable, internet, phone].

4 - Reallocate 401K funds
Yeah yeah - this is a middle aged man point. But whatever. If you have a job that offers a 401K, sign up for it - this is called paying yourself first.
Lots more on the I Will Teach You to be Rich blog.