Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in cities

1 - NY, NY, USA
2 - Fairfield, CT, USA*
3 - Annapolis, MD, USA
4 - Durham, NC, USA
5 - Cocoa Beach, FL, USA
6 - Orlando, FL, USA
7 - Lake Anna, FL, USA
8 - Aix-en-Provence, France
9 - Marseille, France
10 - Queen Creek, AZ, USA
11 - Virginia Beach, VA, USA
12 - Rehoboth Beach, DE, USA

The map is below. Travel this year was a lot of fun.
* multiple times

View 2013 in cities in a larger map

[2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Books

Western Christians in Global Mission, Paul Borthwick
The Catalyst Leader, Brad Lomenick
Renegade, Vince Antonucci
Tradecraft : For the Church on Mission, Larry McCrary [Notes]
Overcoming Five Dysfunctions of a Team Field Guide, Patrick Leincoini [Notes]
The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church, Fritz Lang
Creating a Missional Culture, JR Woodward
Multipliers, Liz Wiseman
Strengths Based Leadership, Tom Rath
David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell
All In, Mark Batterson
Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are not for Sale, Rachel Lloyd
Shark Tales, Barbara Corcoran
The Sending Church, Pat Hood
Youth Ministry in a Post Christian World, Brock Morgan [Notes]
The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau [Notes]
Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz [Notes]
What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell

[2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 in books]

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sweet 16

Dear Katie

On this, your 16th birthday, we still marvel at your sense of wonder, adventure and possibility. The world is your stage and you know no limit to the possibilities that life has, even the ones maybe not even offered to you yet. For this large view of adventure, we admire you. Granted, you could plan ahead a little bit, but you'll agree I've been telling you that too much lately. ;-)

In any case, we are infinitely proud of the young person you are becoming. You love those around you unselfishly and give your time and attention to them. You have pursued both individual interests like volleyball and music while still devoting some of your energy to those less fortunate around you, like Allied Bowling and Special Friends. And in all of it, you have kept one of the abiding principles of our family and faith in your head and heart - that you are blessed to be a blessing to others.

Ever since you were a little toddler, we have known that you would have the perspective of abundance, optimism and expanding borders. We have seen it more even this year. As your biggest cheerleaders, it excites us. As your parents, it's daunting to think about you leaving our nest but we know that's the role of parents. But in either case, the world needs you at your best. Happy 16th birthday - we love you and are continually inspired by your life and heart.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Facebook Tracks Global Urban Migration

::: How Charity Water Won Over the Tech World

::: Bill Gates as a Secret Santa

::: Ronnie Smith, Libya.

::: Are the Millenium Development Goals Too Low a Bar?

::: Homeless Resumes on Billboards

::: I want to be famous in my home - @MarkBatterson

Photo: train station, Brussels, Belgium. June 2012.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Women in Ministry Leadership - What I've Learned

In early 2009, during my time serving as an 'elder intern' at our local church, I attended a meeting with our church's elder team and a small group of women whom requested the church leadership revisit the position of women in leadership. So when the internet blew up a few weeks ago around this topic, I certainly was interested [here is a good summary] . If this topic doesn't interest you, you should spend your time somewhere else. But if you are interested, certainly read on...

Here is what I've learned about the topic and all the credit for it goes to my pastor Mark Norman for walking myself and the elder team at that time through this. Most of this was gleaned at this specific sit down meeting although there was lots of background discussion before this. As you can imagine, it's a big topic.

1 - The New Testament office of elder or pastor relates to a very very small subset of people. This is irrespective of gender. Meaning that even among men, the ones who are elder qualified or desire to be an elder or lead at that level is very small. Now of course, lots of people lead without the official title or role or office. Like John Wimber used to say, "You know your elders because they eld."

2 - Each person must decide for themselves how important the issue of women in leadership is with regard to the church home they choose. Is it a negotiable or a non-negotiable?

3 - Each person must study the Bible for themselves. There are lots of good, God-loving people that fall on both sides of the discussion and we probably won't really know the real answer in this lifetime. I can still vividly remember one of our church leaders articulating that perhaps he didn't like the decision either, but he was firmly convicted about what the Scriptures taught.

4 - Your leadership team must be able to articulate your position and how you arrived at it. If you cannot or will not do this, you won't have much credibility with the emerging generation.

Some other resources that I've found helpful:
Book Notes - Two Views on Women in Ministry
Can Men and Women Lead Together
The Theological Journey of a Female Pastor, Heather Zempel, one of the pastors at National Community Church
Evangelicals and Gender Equality, from Bill and Lynne Hybels.

And this final paragraph, from the book Two Views on Women in Ministry, is valuable to continue to work towards, I think...
Once you have decided as best as you understand it, what Scripture does permit women to do, can any reasonably objective observer of your church and your ministry quickly recognize you are bending over backwards to encourage and nurture women in these roles? If not, then you can't possibly be obeying Scripture adequately, even on your interpretation of it. Interestingly, over the years, I have had a number of outspoken egalitarian women, some of them well known in evangelical circles, confide in me privately and tell me that if complementarians would just do this much consistently, they could live with the remaining areas of disagreement and even stop lobbying for further privilege.

Monday, December 16, 2013

If it is perfect

If it is perfect, it will be difficult to reproduce.*

In fact, you can do what I do.

1. Give yourself permission, like Seth Godin says.

2. Take responsibility for someone or some place.

3. See the world as different cultures. Note the differences and why.
This could mean a lot of time in different countries or a lot of time in different subcultures in your city or region.

4. Read a lot.
Use an RSS reader like feedly. Again, hardly any cost especially since information today is just about free.

5. Post your thoughts, reflections and what you are learning.
Blogger, tumblr, facebook, twitter. [And I don't mean all of them. Just one.] They all cost nothing except some of your time. One of the reasons I've used blogger for the past 10 years is that if I can do it, most people can as well.

* In conversation with Zak Eltzroth.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Burn

::: New Life Christian Church runs the nZone, an 83,000-square-foot athletic training facility, as a nonprofit organization.

::: Entrepreneurship is a Spectrum

:::61 Languages are Found on Twitter - Here is their popularity

::: Camden, NJ, America's Most Desperate Town

::: Derek Snook and In Every Story Labor Services.
"People spend so much time trying to start programs to help the poor, and the reality is that probably one of the best programs we could start would be a bus system that runs on time."

::: Six Ways Millenials are Shaping the Church

::: Your lack of clarity on your great gift to the world is sabotaging you. - @BenArment

Photo: Sheng girls, good morning Paris. France, July 2013.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Notes - Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker by April Diaz.
+ 3 current overarching characteristics of national youth culture and the specific ways they played out in our local context:
1 - We live in a coffeehouse culture. More 'attractive' youth ministry doesn't work like it used to.
- Bigger isn't better. Relational closeness and depth is far more effective (even if it's fabricated intimacy from social media connections.)
- Relational boldness and challenging our students' faith are priorities.
2 - Family systems value education and college resume building more than church involvement.
- The church doesn't dictate involvement. Students select what they will achieve and what will better their future success.
- 'If you build it, they will come' doesn't work unless it adds explicit value to their lives.
- If the church can respond to the culture through service hours and leadership development, this will add value to the students' resume building. This will speak to the real and felt needs of students.
3 - Focus activities or eliminate programming because students are too busy to gather more than once per week.
- Asking students to meet as a youth group during the week is complicated.
- Retreats are mini-monastic experiences for students.
- Local and global experiences are priceless.

+ We articulated our goal as missional life together, while creating age-appropriate experiences that would prepare teenagers for the next season of their lives and engagement with the whole church community.
- Thinking about initiatives, not programs.
- Altering the 5:1 ratio, with five adults investing in every teenager, not just one adult ministering to five teenagers.
- Customizing the development of our juniors and seniors to more intentionally prepare them for life after high school.

+ In the big picture, the role we envisioned for our Student Integration Pastor was to contribute to and collaborate with the broader church for meaningful, intentional and mutual ways of integrating teenagers into the life of the church.
- third culture person
- intergenerational approach
- collaborative and big picture
- highly relational, not programmatic and segmented
- champion for teenagers

Our lead pastor, Dave Gibbons, frequently says we are a church for the "next" generation...

+ Fuller Youth Institute asked youth workers who'd participated in past Sticky Faith Cohorts to share about the mistakes they had made in leading change. The common responses were:
- Timing of the change - when change happens is just as important as what changes are proposed.
- Initiating too much change too soon - This can feel like whiplash if people aren't prepared to enter the change.
- Experimenting on the margins more - Instead of making changes that affect everyone right away, experiment by implementing changes within smaller groups before increasing the impact.
- Pushing for change too fast or not fast enough.

+ Two years later...
- a high school specific gathering on the first three Sundays of the month and then the students would attend the main service on the last Sunday of the month.
- giving our leaders permission - actually a mandate - to focus on the few. Traditional models of ministry pour the most resource investment (time, financial, energy) into the largest events or programs.
- The whole point of having a Student Integration Pastor is to debunk the notion that a paid youth ministry professional and volunteer team are the primary people who can care for and walk with teenagers in their faith journeys and only through innovative youth ministry programming.
Loved tracking with Newsong Church for a few years on and off and I think they are definitely on to something here. The characteristics about national youth culture are right on, especially the one about students being so busy and tracking activities that will help with college. It's all the more powerful if you are in an affluent, suburban, achievement focused context - hello Howard County... And one more point about those characteristics, I've noticed these changes in fairly recent years, and they are subtle but contextually important. Even in a short 10 years, the students I led back then weren't even close to being as busy as they are today. So I'm making that observation as a youth worker and as a parent. These facts must inform how you disciple students.

Great short read that will get you thinking about the way your church interacts with your students.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Coursera Class - The Age of Sustainable Development

Just kidding. I'm not really going back to school. But in January, I am taking a course called The Age of Sustainable Development, offered through Columbia University and Coursera. It looks like a great course in some of the stuff we love to learn about, like economic development, the MDGS, poverty and disease and urbanization.

Two other things which are going to make this great. First, it's taught by Jeffrey Sachs. He's had a lot of influence on me and Ember so to take this from him is a fantastic opportunity. And secondly, taking a class via Coursera should be a cool experience, and this will be my first MOOC. Higher education is in the midst of disruption so I'm excited to experience what college might look like in the near future.

This class is free. Let me know if you end up taking it too.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Meet the Families of 2030

::: What Leaders Won't Do
But the one thing that amazes me more than what leaders will do for their enterprises, is what they so often won’t do – endure emotional discomfort at work.
Lencioni is almost always on the mark.

::: Your Help is Hurting
Solid interview with Pete Greer from Hope International

::: How the Internet is Killing the World's Languages

Photo: Hope, ProtoGuide but not gang member, and moi. Baltimore, November 2013.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Book Notes - The $100 Startup

This blueprint to freedom is fully customizable and highly actionable.

Follow your passion model
Low startup cost
At least $50,000 in income
No special skills
Full financial disclosure
Fewer than five employees

passion and what others care about collide

Skill Transformation
To succeed in a business project, it helps to think carefully about all the skills you have that could be helpful to others and particularly about the combination of those skills.

The Magic Formula
(Passion or skill) + (problem + marketplace) = opportunity

Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

No one values a $15-an-hour consultant, so do not underprice your service. Since you probably won't have forty hours of billable work every week, charge at least $100 an hour or a comparable fixed rate for the benefit you provide.

When I asked our group of unexpected entrepreneurs about the follow-your-passion model, I frequently heard a nuanced answer. Almost no one said, "Yes! You should always follow your passion wherever it leads." Similarly, almost no one dismissed the idea out of hand. The nuance comes from the idea that passion plus good business sense creates an actual business.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. - John Le Carre

The decision making matrix
Impact, Effort, Profitability, Vision

Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work. - Peter F. Drucker

Understand that what we want and what we say we want are not always the same thing.
Most of us like to buy, but we don't usually like to be sold.
Provide a nudge.

A good launch blends strategy with tactics. Strategy refers to why questions such as story, offer and long-term plan. Tactics refer to how questions such as timing, price and specific path.

When you're presented with an opportunity, don't just think about its merits or how busy you are. Instead, think about how it makes you feel. If you feel only so-so about it, turn it down and move on. But if the opportunity would be exciting and meaningful - so much so that you can say "hell yeah" when you think about it- find a way to say yes. [Derek Sivers]

The One Page Promotion Plan
Daily - maintain a regular social media presence, monitor 1 or 2 key metrics.
Weekly - ask for help or joint promotions from colleagues, maintain regular communications with prospects and customers
Monthly - connect with existing customers to make sure they are happy [is there anything else i can do for you?], prepare for an upcoming event, contest or product launch.

There is nothing wrong with having a hobby, but if you're operating a business, the primary goal is to make money.

The average business can improve its odds of success greatly by getting paid in more than one way and at more than one time.

Remind people that profit is the difference between revenue and expense. This makes you look smart. - Scott Adams

Easy growth option including adding a service to a product-based business (or vice versa), deploying a creative series of upsells and cross-sells, and making a few key tweaks.

I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man. - Jay-Z

A business that is scalable is both teachable and valuable. If you ever want to sell your business, you'll need to build teams and reduce owner dependency.
Absolutely loved this book. It really contributes to some of the ideas that we've been pondering about missions the past few years, ideas such as:
1 - You need a portfolio of income.
2 - The global recession is making nonprofit support harder and harder to come by. It is not impossible but it has become much more difficult.
3 - Calling, vocation, skills and your network all inform each other when it comes to income.
4 - A tangible skill may get you to the mission field with more legitimacy than a degree in religion.

Lots more good stuff in the book about actually starting a business.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Missions Foci

Focus has been the en vogue trend in global missions for the past few years. Nothing inherently bad about teaming up with someone you trust and concentrating on momentum together for the long haul. Various implementations around this idea includes focusing on specific demographics [peoplegroups], physical areas of the world or causes [PEACE plan] All the big churches are doing it. Leadership Network cites this as one of the important strategies for the future.

In some cases, the move to focus has been a response to the shotgun approach to missions - having too many superficial relationships scattered all over the globe. The issues coming out of that have included how do we care for so many and how do we decide about allocating resources to these that are scattered. You can spend lots of attention and energy on being focused - that might be the right thing to fix the symptom of being too scattered if that really is your problem.

Or, starting with the end in mind, perhaps the real issue isn't focusing on one of those things above. Maybe what we need is focusing on creating more missionaries - we clearly do not have enough. Unpacking this includes talking about lots of stuff, like leadership development, ensuring character and competence, vocation and calling, and the role of sending churches and agencies. But before all of that, focusing on one might cost you the other.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Thanksgiving Through the Eyes of Missionaries
Link via The Upstream Collective

::: Language Facts Around the World

::: Millennials and the Mega Church Bubble
Link [youtube] via Skye
Skye nails it. If you have 7 minutes, it's well worth the watch.

::: Lets Kill the Aid Industry

::: "No matter what happens, it will have been worth the trying." –Amelia Earhart, in a telegram to her mother, 1928. - @BenArment

Photo: Oreo [and Emily] graduating from beginner dog class.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Notes - Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

The first time I heard about post-Christianity was when a fellow youth worker told me something he'd overheard. He said a friend of his asked a young pregnant woman if she and her husband had thought of any names for their baby. She answered with this little bomb: "We really haven't thought of a name yet, but one thing we do know is that it won't be a biblical name." This took him aback, so he asked her why. She responded matter-of-factly, "Oh, because we live in a post-Christian world."

This is the world in which our students are growing up today, and they and their friends are no dummies. For Christian students with a faith that really matters to them, growing up in a post-Christian world will cause them to feel like the minority... because they are.

In our post-Christian world, no value is placed on the Sabbath, so our children have some scheduled anxiety seven days a week. This has created the most anxious and stressed-out generation in history.

...this is the world our kids are growing up in, and they need to feel safe as they study, research and try on different faiths. But this Starbucks spirituality is a growing trait, and it's something we need to really think through. In a post-Christian world, you're going to hear this kind of stuff. You're going to hear that students consider themselves "Buddhist Christians" and a plethora of other mashups. How will you respond?

In the past, sometimes I've felt less like a pastor or a shepherd and more like a used car salesman. (I sincerely apologize to any used car salesmen who are reading this right now.) Have we made youth ministry just another product for teens to consume?

In his book Working the Angels, Eugene Peterson says, "The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns - how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customer will lay out more money."

A sage has a heart for the next generation - Psalm 71:18

Christian relativism
The Miraculous
[These sound sketch but trust me, they are not.]
This is a solid read and the first three chapters outline the state of things in western culture - evangelical student ministry in crisis. If you don't think that is true, then you'll need to get out of your cave and look around. Then go buy this book.

It is also a great read because it helps those who lead students navigate the culture that our kids are growing up in. The post-Christian world is nuanced and complex, confusing and different. But you know how it goes, once a sold out, passionate leader or two gets it, the students that they care about get it too. And that will make all the difference in the world.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Looking for Just One

If you've been around a little while, you've heard us talk about the journey of self -> service -> systems. Some of it comes from various service experiences we have been involved with and some of it has come from reading current practitioners in the charity/nonprofit/missions space. The real clincher is the third step - getting to a point where you have a system that will help people help themselves.

I will be the first to tell you that it is all talk. It's a mantra that we use that has no real experience behind it. It is experimental thinking. And no one associated with Ember has made that third step. I'm optimistic and I'm desperate for just one.

Here are two great examples of what something like this might look like:
My Congregations Experiment in Using Market Values

Why I Finally Wear Toms Shoes

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Four World Changing Products
Link from the current issue of Wired magazine, edited by Bill Gates.

::: The 15 Most Popular Cities for Millennials

::: The Date - 8 countries in 21 days without changing clothes

::: Google's Nine Principles of Innovation

::: Names for Change
From the same people that brought you playspent.org, all to benefit Urban Ministries of Durham

::: "If God be your partner, make large plans." D.L. Moody - @jdgreear

Photo: NYC, March 2009.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The IMN - Strategic and Ideational Leadership Immersion

I have learned a ton from Alex McManus in the past number of years and I know that these immersions that he runs are some of the best if the words in that tweet resonate with you. The IMN has opened registrations for both the online and onsite sessions. Be forewarned though, Alex's gatherings always feel like you are meeting with a different species of human.

Get an idea from some of these notes... Orlando 2005, Humana 2007, Humana 2008, M2011

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ember Baltimore

Ember facilitated a short leadership service experience last weekend based in Baltimore with some of our friends from Salisbury. If you've followed along here for a little while you know about Wendy and us sending her to AZ last summer. She's the current ring leader for a group of college kids at Salisbury who are deeply invested in a bunch of different community impact projects. Wendy approached us a few months ago about setting something up around the theme of churches with unique impact to their communities.

There seems to be a groundswell of stuff happening in Baltimore - lots of recent new churches starting and some interesting under the covers service stuff. If you follow any of this, you probably know the name Colleen Smith. She is a Baltimore legend. We first met many moons ago when she was Kt's Sunday school teacher. Fast forward through her journey with the inner city, serving at Charm City Church, hosting block parties for Mission Advance and her most recent move to work with Captivate Church. [Read the story about their inner city property.] When we thought of the theme, Colleen certainly came to mind.

We spent the morning with Colleen and some of her kids club kids, walking with her around her community and listening to her stories, like: the police raiding her house multiple times, her now babysitting the kids of the first homeless man she ever met, and executing a bedroom makeover for one of the teenagers in her neighborhood. If you ever get a chance to walk her community with her, you'll see that she literally knows everyone and everyone knows her. Just so you know, this is her life pattern and it's amazing to see.

Around lunch time, we took some pre-made lunches to a spot where lots of homeless people gather. The original plan was that each of our team would give out 3 lunches and actually eat with homeless people. Instead, we ran out of food and spent a little time having conversations with some of the people there. Interestingly, most of our team felt a little awkward about the whole exchange. That's healthy to see because it certainly was an inequity of power [a la Toxic Charity.] It's also healthy because a number of years ago, young people I served with would have been fully satisfied by this - now, they want to serve the less fortunate while caring about their dignity. Of course, trusting your local host is one great step towards the right balance in this tension.

After lunch, we distributed some flyers around the neighborhood for Freedom Church, whose staff is in the midst of starting up a Sunday night church service. Instead of actually starting a gathering, they have hosted a number of community open forum nights to hear from people about what is good and bad about where they live and how could a church help with some of those issues. The flyers we distributed were to publicize another one of these coming up that Sunday. Absolutely love that approach.

Be encouraged about the emerging generation. They desire to connect and learn from legendary practitioners like Colleen. When they execute on their passions and principles from those that have come before them, the world will be a better place.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Letter From...

When Ember ProtoGuide Measu wanted to get in touch with the author of a significant book she read but couldn't find an email address, she wrote him a letter. Like with a paper and pencil. An envelope and a stamp.

Finding a resource, raising some funding, shaping a team, starting a movement. Emerging global student leaders find a way. The rest of us have no excuses.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Perspectives - Lesson 12 - Ekklesia Church

Fantastic time teaching the Perspectives class at Ekklesia Church last week. The lesson I taught was #12, Christian Community Development and I loved being able to bring some emerging global student leaders to listen in on the class.

Here's a few items to note:
+ There was about 20 people in the class, maybe half spoke Spanish and the other half English. The original intent of the class was that it was to have used real time translation via a translator and Spanish speakers wearing headsets to hear the translation. They ended up not doing that anymore because the people that really needed that stopped coming to the class. In either case, fun to see a class like this move to something like that.
+ Perspectives typically has an older demographic, much like anything else you term 'missions.' There were however, a few young adults in there. I'm a firm believer that if more young people heard about this class, they would take it.
+ Worship was in English and Spanish.
+ Met a girl who had lived in Brussels all through her high school years and we knew some of the same people [small world].
+ She was also family friends of someone who sits on our Ember board of directors [smaller world].
+ We also dropped in, before class, on a good friend of mine and his family who lived in Bangkok and Okinawa. Loved hearing them talk to young people about crossing cultures.
+ My slide deck. It's going to go through some major rewriting though. As always, steal or borrow what you wanna.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Superzips - Washington DC
This week's must read if you live in or near Howard County. Stunningly accurate article about life in Howard County. Pick the cultural idols apart of out this article and let it inform how you make disciples.

::: The 10 Smartest Cities in North America

::: NorthPoint and their bazillion short term trips in 2014

::: Tension, not balance.
So so true

::: Plan to Reach 50 US Cities

Photo: elevator, Vienna City Hostel, 2008.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Plan to Prepare

Some of you might be planning your summer 2014 adventures. Let me encourage you - it's not too early to think about how to prepare your students and leaders in the right manner for those adventures. Think leadership, team building, acclimating to navigating a different culture. Ember is booking student missions prep sessions and would love to help.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet Tess

That's Tess on the left [and ProtoGuide Measu on the right... but you knew that...] Ember is at the very beginning embryonic stage of a little project with Tess - it's one of those throw-and-see-what-sticks kinds of things.

Tess spent a little while in Brussels last summer and fell in love with the city, the culture and the people there. Even better, she came home with a new realization of how western culture is post evangelical, post modern and post Christian. Along with all of those posts comes a sense of urgency - humanity is desperate for something.

Tess is a great example of what Ember likes to call an emerging global student leader. She's traveled a little, interested in global cultures and already has lots of influence and responsibility. If this little experiment works, we will all be thrilled.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday Burn

::: How Fast Food Eaters Split Along Ethnic Lines
Wait - Asians visit Panda Express?

::: Top 10 Countries for ExPats

::: "I'll pass on waiting for the torch. I've got a fire to start"

::: On the day of their IPO, Twitter chose a nine year old girl to ring the bell on the NYSE
But instead, when time came to pronounce Twitter public Thursday morning, a 9-year-old girl dressed in a “little bluebird” tutu dress appeared behind the bell. She is Vivienne Harr, who recently raised more than $100,000 to fight childhood slavery by spending 365 days behind a lemonade stand....
"Can I say one thing?" Harr asks me before our interview ends. "I just want to say that today I ring the bell to open freedom. And you don’t have to be big and powerful to change the world. You can be just like me."

Photo: WWII memorial.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

To Benefit All

Again, we felt God calling us to a deeper commitment to His glory among the nations. We had developed partnerships after our first Sacred Gathering but, this time, we began to feel God leading us to send teams to live in an unreached or unengaged people group to share the gospel and train local leaders to start indigenous churches. On the last day of the Sacred Gathering, Kyle came to my office and said he couldn't get Belgium off his mind. I think we both knew what was happening. After weeks of discussion and prayer, I told him that if God was directing him to Belgium, then He was directing us to Belgium. I believe when God gives direction to pastors and church leaders, it's not just for their benefit; it's for the church. - The Sending Church: The Church Must Leave the Building by Pat Hood.
The Kyle mentioned here is Kyle Goen, Brussels campus pastor for LifePoint Church.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

My Nonprofit Gives

I sent myself two gifts a few weeks ago from my little nonprofit. Sounds kind of self-serving doesn't it? I sort of agree too, I felt a little strange doing it.

On the other hand, I'm a firm believer in people investing in themselves. Whether it is taking a class or buying some books or learning a new skill, at some point, someone might choose to provide something like that for you. But in the end, the only one that is looking out for your own development is you. There is quite simply no one else as interested in your growth.

So gift yourself something that will make you grow. And be happy about it.

Monday, November 04, 2013


+ Working with a team of college kids led by the infamous Wendy Usher to work on a weekend project with a church with a unique impact to the community. Love this kind of thing. You might remember Wendy as the college kid went sent to AZ for 6 weeks this past summer. More so than usual, this one has been a struggle to get together. That might be the dip that is worth working through.
+ Our host for this project is Colleen Samantha, who I have known for years. She was Katie's Sunday school teacher long ago and we've worked together on multiple projects, the most significant being two block parties that were integral to Mission Advance. Her and Captivate Church have such a unique impact to the city - exactly the theme this team is looking for.
+ Getting final wraps done for my Perspectives session next week. I read that Steve Jobs practiced 1 hour for every 1 minute of his presentation. I need to get 20 hours in this week...
+ You know that phrase that someone 'is unemployable...' In the same way, there are people that are 'unchurchable.' I apologize to you in advance for visiting your church.
+ Thrilled to have ProtoGuides finish reading Church in the Making and start The Forgotten Ways. They've gotten a ton out of the first book and I'm sure will get a ton out of the second. Tell me what other high school students are reading stuff like this.
+ Spent Friday evening with Sarah A, the student transplanted from Aix-en-Provence where the Ember X team worked this summer. Sarah is doing a gap year here in DC and we gave her the night time monument tour.
+ Katie got her learners permit and is in a week of club volleyball clinics and taking drivers ed.
+ 6 weeks after getting our dog, Oreo absolutely loves Emily the best.
+ To parents of younger children - don't believe the lie - it doesn't get any easier.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Latest ProtoGuide Posts

Part of the ProtoGuide experience is reading.... and most of the reading is about current issues in global missions and writing reflection blog posts about those readings. We make them read because.... well... you know reading is good for you. And we make them write because you have to be able to clearly articulate your ideas, no matter what you do for a living. This year, we took a little different path and are working through a few of my favorite books.

Here's some of the latest and greatest posts from the ProtoGuides, in no particular order:

That being said, Lupton's book is about exactly what the title suggests. It argues that a good percentage of the charity work being done by Americans is actually toxic to those being "assisted," rather than being legitimately helpful. When I first read this opening argument, I was shocked. "How?" I demanded. "How can you say that charity work is bad?" Lupton explains, saying that charity is "almost universally accepted as a virtuous and constructive enterprise" but its “outcomes are almost entirely unexamined." - Toxic Charity

The Word of God grows best in fertile communities, just like how it does in fertile hearts. Arment refers to some situations he's watched happen where churches with the same outreach ideas completely fail in one area and flourish in others. This concept of spiritual fertility is one I've been exposed to for so long, but never actually realized till reading about this concept. - Fertile Soil

This church is, in some ways, very similar to the church that I attend regularly, but in other ways, it is very different. This makes sense though, because these two churches are surrounded by completely different demographics of people. As I've done more and more with Ember, I've begun to fully embrace the idea that not every church will work for every person. - DC Metro Church

I remember talking to one my friends and asking her where she was from. It was such a casual and straightforward question in my head, but I had failed to grasp what a third culture kid was because this friend of mine froze. She explained that she didn't really know where she's "from" because she had been born in one place, raised in another, and ready to move to a totally new location. - What is a Third Culture Kid

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Well Silver Spring

That is Matt Klingler with the beard, talking for a few short minutes with some of the Ember tribe about church planting and leadership. I've known Matt for a good number of years - he was the first person I met when I came to a high school student outreach many many moons ago. Ember visited The Well last weekend, which is Matt's new church plant, based in downtown Silver Spring. They've been up and running for just over 2 years, originally starting in his basement.

If you know Silver Spring, you know gone through an enormous redevelopment and is a new urban hub for young professionals. That's one strategic reason Matt and his team started The Well there. I loved the service we attended and really appreciated how articulate Matt was about this community being 'on mission.'

After the service, Matt talked to our students for a few short minutes. He touched on stuff like:
: What he would have told himself 15 years ago about church planting: have an intimate relationship with God, church planting brings out all your leadership insecurities, be friends with normal people.
: Entrepreneurial leadership is important: Matt started a lot of stuff when he was younger - Bible studies, ministries like a young adult gathering at his old church, he likes the chaos of starting things.
: Did you have a lot of people leave because the church has moved it's gatherings? [Matt's basement, an auditorium in a retirement comm that was a little hard to find, this church annex building right now] - the people that come to church in your basement will probably stick around for a while.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Post What...

The first time I heard about post-Christianity was when a fellow youth worker told me something he'd overheard. He said a friend of his asked a young pregnant woman if she and her husband had thought of any names for their baby. She answered with this little bomb: "We really haven't thought of a name yet, but one thing we do know is that it won't be a biblical name." This took him aback, so he asked her why. She responded matter-of-factly, "Oh, because we live in a post-Christian world."
The first paragraph from Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World by Brock Morgan. More notes on this soon, but this is a must read. So so good.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Burn

::: 11 Untranslatable Words from Other Cultures
Link via David Livermore

::: The 10 Best Places to Teach English Abroad

::: The Most Popular Baby Names for Girls Since 1960

::: 14 Thought Leaders Share Their Bookshelves

Photo: Elly, Emily, pizza. Vienna, Austria, July 2007.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

From Shark Tales - Just Get Going

The Corcoran Group became the innovator in my industry because I was always willing to fail. Most of my innovations were built on a leap and a prayer, using money I should never have spent in the first place. I think of a new idea as a small white bird flying by, and if I don't grab it right then, it's gone a moment later. I learned there is no better time to bring the idea to life than at the very moment of inception. I also learned that the surefire way to kill an idea is to send it to a committee or an attorney for review.
Being afraid to fail stops you from trying things in the first place. I learned after many failures that nobody's watching and nobody gives a damn. If you want to build a successful business, you don't have to get it right, you just have to get it going.
- Shark Tales, How I Turned $1000 into a Billion Dollar Business, by Barbara Corcoran.
I've only watched Shark Tales a handful of times although I'd love to watch more episodes of it. This is a great read - fun, witty and smart.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Teaching at Perspectives - Trying to Be Awesome

I'm teaching Lesson 12 at two different Perspectives classes this semester and next semester so I've spent the past few days getting my notes ready. If you have been around for a long while, you know that Perspectives changed everything for me.

At its core, it is a class about global missions. But for me, in 2003, after over a decade of working with students, it brought to light a fundamental question - how can we help students lead better in the future no matter what culture they find themselves in? Asking that question started the past ten years of what you read about here.

I've realized that I've been privileged to have some phenomenal experiences with some precious people - those experiences have all been amazing gifts. Maybe you should think about taking Perspectives too - it just might send you on an amazing trajectory as well. Here's hoping my two lessons will be awesome, like one of my mentors suggests.

For those of you that are local, Perspectives starts on January 14, 2014 at Grace Comm Church in Fulton, MD.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Missions Context - Kids Camps in India

When I think of kids ministry in India, I don't think of summer camps, but Madhav Rao does. Madhav and I were part of the same young adult fellowship about twenty years ago and recently reconnected via some mutual friends. Since we first met, he's gotten married, had 5 children, worked as a mechanical engineer and recently accepted to start a transition into full time missions as the director of camps for Life Change Ministries. You know that we've had great success with kids camps and our students. Almost any student can contribute in a significant way to kids camps and it's fun to hear about LCMI's vision for these camps, which include day camps, overnight camps and camps for disabled kids.

If you know about global cultures, you will know that India is home to more than 400M children (more than the entire population of the US), one third of the world's poorest children live in India and India has the largest population of street children in the world - 18M. Of course, these stats don't even take into consideration economic systems, population density or the caste system, all important elements of Indian culture, and elements that should inform how the Gospel gets contextualized there.

Maybe you have only ever imagined camps in the context of Western culture - me too. This is a fascinating case study in contextualization and is a great opportunity to learn about tweaking a very American Christian product into another vastly different culture.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Family > Vision
From my friend David Huey, bivocational founder of nonprofit Hungry for a Day and software sales executive.

::: 5 Tips on Keeping Bi-Vocational Ministry from Imploding

::: The Question We Don't Ask Missionary Candidates

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Atypical Typical Third Culture Kids

Sarah just landed in DC a few days ago. Although her family is from Pennsylvania, she grew up in Aix-en-Provence [the same place that Ember X traveled to this summer] and is doing a gap year this year, spending part of the time here in DC. In a very Ember-ish series of circumstances, she is living with Ember ProtoGuide Hope and her family.

Sarah is your typical third culture kid, meaning she is atypical. [See this interesting article about TCKs in the Obama administration.] She also has all the traits of an emerging global student leader - she's traveled a ton, is highly adaptable, her parents have a large view of the world and her faith always informs her interest in world cultures. These emerging global student leaders also, by the way, want to lead something. All these traits combined - that's who Ember is for.

Welcome, Sarah. It's great having you in DC.

Photo: Sarah, all the way on the right left, being greeted in the airport by some of our X team, Oct 2013. Photo by K Koumentakos.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Asking for Discipleship

If there was one fantastic thing that came out of the Grace AZ 2013 experience, and I'm limiting myself by only listing one, it is that a fantastic leader agreed to disciple one of my kids. I don't mean one of Ember's students, I mean one of my biological kids.

Amadeo, like many newer church plants led by Gen X or younger leaders, counts discipleship as a core value. I know it's part of their culture because I've heard Ben lead high school students in this concept. Remember, this is the lead pastor describing to students that they can dialog with others along the questions like "What is God telling you?" and "What are you going to do about it?"

The gift we were received, the Shengs I mean, is that Katie meets with Rachel [in the middle in the picture above] every Sunday morning for about an hour and a half, which includes breakfast and currently, a slow moving study on the book of Acts. Every Sunday, I tell Katie not to take this gift for granted.

Lots of people these days think we are missing the boat on discipleship. Two things could help this issue easy: Young people, get up the nerve to make the [sometimes big] ask. Old people, identify those you think you could maybe help.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Burn

::: What Jim Collins Learned at West Point
Great article about one of the best. Front line leadership, adaptability of leaders and "The ability to toggle between leading and following is critical..."

::: The American Refrigerator and What It Says About Our Culture

::: Famous MBTI personalities

::: Malcolm Gladwell and his return to faith while writing David and Goliath
I'm a huge Gladwell fan and David and Goliath is a great read.

Photo: parking a 9 passenger van in parking garage in a city two centuries old. PS - I never got charged for the dent...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Almost Never Too Young

I'm pretty proud of the fact that at some conferences or gatherings, I've brought the youngest people in the room. By decades, I might also proudly add.

Of course, the point isn't to bring the average age of the room down. The point is to expose them to the most catalytic people we know. Although it's sometimes awkward for them, they always always rise to the occasion. They meet and greet, they converse, they initiate and when it gets good, they get out their pens and paper and write notes. Every student I've taken to these things brings pages and pages of notes home. Now that makes me proud.

Sometimes, we don't give these kids enough credit. We sell them short because we think they cannot grapple with the concepts of movements or indigenous contexts or a post human future. None of these are out of the realm of the understanding of the students in our care. And the longer we keep telling ourselves that they won't be able to get it.. Well.. They won't.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Agreeableness and Innovation

Psychologists measure personality through what is called the Five Factor Model, or "Big Five" inventory, which assess who we are across the following dimensions:
Neuroticism - sensitive/nervous versus secure/confident
Extraversion - energetic/gregarious versus solitary/reserved
Openness - inventive/curious versus consistent/cautious
Conscientiousness - orderly/industrious versus easygoing/careless
Agreeableness - cooperative/empathic versus self-interested/antagonistic

The psychologist Jordan Peterson argues that innovators and revolutionaries tend to have a very particular mix of these traits - particularly the last three: openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

Innovators have to be open. They have to be able to imagine things that others cannot and to be willing to challenge their own preconceptions. They also need to be conscientious. An innovator who has brillant ideas but lacks the discipline and persistence to carry them out is merely a dreamer. That, too, is obvious.

But crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable. By disagreeable, I don't mean obnoxious or unpleasant. I mean that on the fifth dimension of the Big Five personality inventory, "agreeableness," they tend to be on the far end of the continuum. They are people willing to take social risks - to do things that others might disapprove of.
- Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath.
As you would expect, this is a fascinating read. And I'd like to think that we are helping at least some emerging leaders be at least a little bit disagreeable.

Monday, October 07, 2013

522 weeks later...

10 years and 2 weeks ago, I ran my first ever student missions event, which was a service experience centered around homelessness, poverty and urban contexts. We sought to have the students contribute in a meaningful way while learning more about these kinds of issues. I still remember it fondly.

Believe it or not, this was before Ember. Before Protoguides. Before any other kind of leadership pipeline. Before iPhones. Before Facebook and Twitter. Before Gmail. But it was not before Matt, who brought some of his students that day and continues to support and encourage this thing on the board of directors. Nor was it before Joyce who helped with this first event and those first years when we called this thing a 'pilot.' Joyce, like Matt, serves on the board too.

And it wasn't before all the other emerging global leaders, like Emilie [in the yellow hat], who grew up traveling and hearing from missionaries and eating different kids of foods. These leaders love being a part of something that transcended global cultures and physical space and it's our honor to help find them, resource them and serve with them. 10 years later, we are still on to something.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Adam Feldman, of Metanoia Church in old town Ellicott City, reflects on church planting, 8 years in.

::: Montgomery County School Chief Pushes for Later High School Start Times

::: The Success of GoPro

Photo: Katie Sheng, trying her French to get us to where we need to go.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

DC Metro Church

Lots of fun this past weekend visiting DC Metro Church in Alexandria with some Ember people. Our contact was Lynn, who was one of our core students when I ran student missions for our church and she's been really involved with their DC GO initiative, which is a collection of community impact projects. This was a great Ember learning experience where we interacted with their DC GO leaders about their vision, ways they execute and current challenges as well as attending a service at the Alexandria campus. You might remember that one of the learning outcomes of being a ProtoGuide is to experience different expressions of Church.

Lynn has been one of our bright spots - a high capacity leader with a great personality and a proven history of catalyzing those around her to make the world better. We are always thrilled to both visit with former students like Lynn as well as connect our current team with people of her caliber. We've got some ongoing discussions about how Ember might collaborate with DC GO in the future.

DC Metro was a great experience. I loved their gathering space - not too small and not too big. Lead pastor Dr. David Stine's message was tremendous, both in terms of Biblical insight and content as well as delivery. Definitely a church to track with if you have a passion for the DMV.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Summer Experience Improvements

Here's a few ideas that have been cooking in my head about how we improve our summer experiences. Some of them may come to fruition and some may not.

+ Teams do a bit of language study as part of their prep. Seems obvious but we totally missed this one.
+ Require reference letters for leadership roles. Another duh. Related: press our network for info on leaders that our weak ties might know.
+ Adjust applications to visit the area of humility.
+ Get a filled out application and reference letters for people we send to partners. Send these documents to the partners.
+ Each team has someone that prays. That really really prays - and that helps the team pray.
+ Each team also has someone that is in charge of logistics - where do we need to get to and when and how. If you have traveled with me, you know the gap I'm talking about is mine. I'm easily lost and this summer, I got lost trying to find a park that was 50 feet in front of me [to my credit, those were small European streets] My wife is a huge help in this area but sometimes, combined with everything else, it's a lot.
+ And from a process improvement evaluation in the Fall of 2007 - a Post trip debriefing packet - every student gets something to ponder at 2, 4, 6 week intervals after they come home.

The low water mark for emerging global student leaders gets higher every year. This type of kid gets smarter, more experienced, more passionate and has a greater bias for action every year. What doesn't change is their desire to be engaged in areas such as cross cultural leadership, calling, vocation, and the personal journeys of world class global leaders. They push us to be better and that is a good thing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Burn

Lots I've collected over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, I didn't jot down where I got these links from...

::: African driven future in demographics

::: Student discipleship meets Funding for Missions
One of the most creative revenue plans I've seen.

::: Fantastic interview with Lorne Micheals, the creator of Saturday Night Live, on working with creatives.

::: The Worst Destinations in the World, for your package

::: The Lewis Model Explains Every World Culture

::: 5 Reasons Why Millenails Stay Connected to Church

Photo: Ember X team, on the move. CDG

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mere Exposure and Loss Aversion

These studies suggest that organizational decisions will be subject to a powerful emotional distortion. When an organization's leader proposes a change in direction, people will be feeling two things: Ack, that feels unfamiliar. (And thus more uncomfortable.) Also: Ack, we're going to lose what we have today. When you put these two forces together - the mere-exposure principle and loss aversion - what you get is a powerful bias for the way things work today.
- Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip and Dan Heath.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ProtoGuides 2013

This fall, we've given our Ember intern experience a new name. I've never quite liked the term 'intern' before - it doesn't quite convey everything that we do with these students. Instead, we are calling them ProtoGuides. Proto coming from the concept of protege and Guide because they serve at an Ember staff level, having some of the same kind of responsibilities that our Guides have. The ProtoGuide experience is a lot more than busy work.

We've started their experience this Fall already. Two of their readings already include Church in the Making by Ben Arment and The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, both favorites of mine and fantastic reads for anyone interested in global leadership. Check out their blogs for some good postings already [here and here] Those aren't ordinary reading for high school students. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't.

If you know a high schooler that might be interested in something like this in the future, here is a quick infosheet on the ProtoGuide experience.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Shots from Sabbatical

+ Started the time in VA Beach. Ended the time in Rehoboth Beach.
+ During my time off, I've given a lot of thought energy to Ember, which is a good barometer that I'm still pretty passionate about it. If I could easily walk away from it, then it might be time to do something else. But it's not - not even close.
+ Caught up on some reading. I read Multipliers because of the WCAGLAS - I felt like a lot of it was a no-brainer if you lead people. I read The Box - because of Bill Gates - it kind of put me to sleep. I'm in the middle of Decisive, which is so so so good.
+ We got a dog named Oreo from a local rescue. He has the most amazing personality, so friendly, well behaved and obedient. Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is the name of the place.
+ 7th and 10th grade have gotten off to a good start.
+ Very excited for our next season of Ember.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

See You in 6 Weeks

I'm taking a little break from running Ember for the next month and a half or so. This is a self-imposed sabbatical, something that I planned earlier this summer before any of our summer projects were in the execution phase. It's been a fantastical summer - everything I dreamed of for this summer came to pass and even more. But I knew that a break would be good for me. Rest is good and sometimes, even when you have some momentum like I think we do right now, it's healthy to let it rest.

Usually the idea of a sabbatical allows people to concentrate on something else instead of what they normally do. Instead of doing something else, I'm actually just going to be not thinking or doing anything about this hobby called Ember and everything it represents. Instead, I'll be taking care of the normal things - the day job, family, getting my kids off to a good start of the school year and that kind of stuff.

I'm super excited for the break and trying not to think about past that - that's a futuristic for you. We've got some great projects planned for the Fall with some great people. But in the meantime, 6 weeks of having just one vocation. See you in September.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Gift of Learning English

The world has a love-hate relationship with the United States. It hates our politics and our swagger, but how it loves our media, consumer culture, conveniences, celebrities... and the language we share with a few other countries. In a world where speaking English is often a ticket to opportunity, the global church will see great opportunities in coming years.

In China, the government has gone on record as promising that, in the future, every child will be fluent in English before finishing high school. This plan will require an estimated one million English teachers, so English-speaking Christians can expect unprecedented entrées to formerly closed areas.

In every country where we conducted the Listening Tour, respondents were quick to note the demand for English language skills. One respondent noted, "English is the dominant language of everything from the Internet to many wealthy Western churches, so it is important in many parts of life, including ministry."

By 2010, two billion people will speak English. Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic are among the four most-used languages in the world, their popularity due to large numbers of people for whom it is a first language. English, however, is most popular because of the huge numbers of people who learn it as a second language. More people are learning English in China today than all of the North Americans who speak English.
- Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church, writing about the global current he calls "Monoculture."

If you are interested in a future in another culture and are reading this blog post in English, maybe it's time for you to recognize what a gift you have in learning your native tongue in this time in history. And then go do something that capitalizes on this gift.

And... Fritz's book is a great read.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

2013 Summer Missions Financial Model

Here is a rough picture of our financial model for this summer's experiences. Before I get to that though, here are two quotes that inspired and informed us and not just about this summer:
Don't let your budget determine your vision. Faith is having vision beyond your resources - Mark Batterson
Nonprofit is a tax strategy not a business strategy. Your idea needs to be profitable to be sustainable. - Ben Arment

2013 summer financials - all approximates:
Ember X income: 26582
Ember X expense: - 24150
Ember X overall : + 2432
* included in Ember X was $500 of 'salary' for two interns each

AZ income: 345
AZ expense: - 1752
AZ overall: - 1407
* included in AZ expenses was $500 of 'salary' for AZ Ember guide

Summer overall: + 1025

I've had some summers where the financial piece feels like it's pulling teeth. This summer was just the opposite and I've got to believe that it was a combination of our efforts in redefining missions support [via the Creative Revenue Plan] and having a team that was totally in for the vision of what they were doing. Each one of them would have easily done whatever they needed to in order to raise the funds.

We've got some good stuff planned for the Fall with our two interns and hopefully some other emerging global leaders and the excess from this summer gives us some good margin for executing these plans.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Northern Ireland Update

Ember hosted a little brunch gathering with our guest from Northern Ireland, Cathy Campbell. We are connected with Cathy via Amadeo Church and Ben Cloud - Cathy has been out to the states the last 3 years and last week, we did a 3 day crazed tour of DC with her.

Loved having some students get to know her and hear her talk about:
+ Irish culture - such as what the schooling is like, what classes they take, how long a school day is.
+ Church and youth ministry culture - what Upper Bann Vineyard is like and the kinds of community impact projects they have and what they do with their students
+ The religious and spiritual landscape of her city, Lurgan, Portadown, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
+ What it's like to go to school full time, studying to be a mid wife and work with students as a volunteer.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Toyota Donates Efficiency to a New York Charity
When we think of support, we think of money. This is a great example of expanding that definition of support.

::: A Youth Run Supper Club

::: How to Read 20 Books a Year

::: @tlubinus More Muslims in Iran have come to Christ since 1980 than in the previous 1000 years combined.

Photo: Sunrise in Marseille, July 2013.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Apostolic People Need Apostolic Structures

I continue to be amazed at the number of people whose paths I come across who have mistakenly been led to believe that if God is calling them toward some form of ministry, doing it in or connected to a local church is their only legitimate option.

It is sad to see such a truncated, warped ecclesiology hold back what could be a wave of highly committed, gifted, apostolic leaders. I am grieved at the wounds that are inflicted by such a view of the Church that is so biblically, theologically, historically and missiologically deficient....

As in every age of the Christian movement, apostolic people need apostolic structures if their contribution to God’s kingdom purposes are to be fulfilled.
- Sam Metcalf. Old post from an old blog but the whole apostolic ecclesiology category is worth the read. It's more relevant to me now than ever before.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The 30 Day Rule

I've referred to it here and there, but for Ember experiences, we seriously encourage people to take 30 days to let emotions settle before making big decisions. We call it the 30 day rule, but it's really a guideline and lots of people get mad at me when I challenge them with it. Deep down, they know it has some validity.

Anecdotally, most long term missionaries go back and serve at the first location they went on for a short term trip. This isn't necessarily bad but sometimes the short termer's first location isn't the best place for them when we consider calling and passion, the unreached and the strategic, and a theology of place. Letting these things burn in your heart for 30 days isn't a bad idea.

Our oldest daughter Katie decided to make the rule better this year - it's not just 30 days of waiting, it's 30 days of praying. I love that and we'll pivot using that for future Ember experiences. My only issue with it is, hey who is running Ember anyways?

Photo: at a gate, Paris, France. July 2013.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy 19th

We celebrate 19 years of marriage today. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday and it has certainly been, and will continue to be, an adventure of a lifetime.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Future Casting from 2013

Ember exists to help prepare for leaders of the future and in order to project into the future, you must see the present clearly. Here are some of the current concepts that we saw this summer that may cast direction and intention for the missionary of the future.

1 - Multi-dimensional Connections
Combine global urban migration, digital natives and the ease of world wide travel and student mission experiences today are full of multi-dimensional connections. Students connect with lots of other people from lots of other places in the world. They continue these connections long after they come home from various medium via technology, such as sharing pictures and videos, texting each other and maybe talking via skype or facetime. One of our team still 'talks' with people from France at least a few times a week. Future student missions experiences should anticipate this and use it as an advantage.

2 - Belonging Before Believing
Both experiences in Aix and Phoenix involved significant contributions from students that didn't necessarily have a Christian world view. Now, of course, there is a sensitive line involving leadership roles and how relevant faith is in those positions. The challenge for the future is to navigate these challenges with a 'belonging before believing' posture.

3 - Creative Access and Creative Revenue
Creative access means various ways to get you to the field of service and creative revenue means generating the revenue to get you there. Our creative inspirations this summer included the Aixtraordinary Journey that ICCP put on and the fabulous community platform that Amadeo Church hosts at their 3rd Place Cup coffeehouse. Student missions in the future continue to inspire us with new and bold initiatives with regard to access, revenue and platforms. Be sure to include the idea of business as mission under this creative heading too.

4 - Sustainable Charity
Both of our hosts were passionately and deeply embedded in their communities. They exist to see these communities changed for the better. Ember uses the concept of a catalyst as our primary paradigm and it continues to help us filter our activities to spur on teams and not do anything that they couldn't do for themselves. As we think about the dynamic of self -> serve -> systems, these two hosts definitely helped us be catalysts and not create unreasonable dependencies.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Burn

::: 7 Hours with Jim Collins

::: Important Lessons from Living Abroad

::: Experts Take Notes
and.... the starters and sponges take notes too.

::: 4 roles of the youth worker on an international missions trip

- @BenArment A prophet is without honor in his own country. But if everyone treated you like a prophet, it'd turn you into a real jerk.

Photo: the water balloon line, Ember X, July 2013.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Emily and Wendy

Loved hanging with them last week in AZ. Ember doesn't happen without these kinds of talented, passionate leaders.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Announcing Fall 2013 Interns

I'm thrilled to announce that Hope K and Measu B are our Fall 2013 interns. The high school internship is a core competency of Ember and it's always great fun to work with global emerging high school leaders. Both Hope and Measu were on the 2013 Ember X team, so we have worked together before and they know what it's like to travel with the Shengs.

I originally met Hope and Measu in the summer of 2011 when Ember helped prepare their team as well as visit them when they were on their mission trip in DC. Since then, they've been involved in some great global stuff, like a well project, as well as jumping in with Ember projects. Hope, you will remember, also interned in the Spring of 2013, so she's continuing on.

One day, we will call them something else instead of 'interns'. In the meantime, we are thrilled at this opportunity to learn, serve and work with these two. And we are always on the lookout for these types of emerging leaders.

If you or someone you know might be interested in the future, here's the internship info sheet.

Photo: Hope and Measu, Parc Jourdan, Aix-en-Provence, France. July 2013.