Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Burn

::: How Today's Youth Redefines the World
Great post by Bob, including some details on how his church's student summer camp was in the city this year for the first time. For many years, I wanted to run Mission Advance in a city. Maybe one day.

::: National Community Church's Short Term Mission Leader Application
They have twenty-something short term teams this summer. See what they want on an application and think about why.

::: Christianity in its Global Context
Must read. The Center for Global Christianity always has great resources.

::: Perspectives, Fall 2013.
I'm teaching one class of Perspectives this coming Fall in Reston, VA. If you are interested in some of this kind of stuff but never taken it....

Photo: Ben Cloud and I, Gilbert, AZ, July 2005.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

AZ - 2005 to 2013

From the archives.... February 23, 2005 - a comment from our infamous friend Ben Cloud back when he authored a blog called Praying Mantis [hence the initials PM]. This comment sparked our first shared project together, an experience in missional imagination. In July of 2005, I flew out, sight unseen, and spent a few days serving with him and his students, sleeping in his living room and having meals with his beautiful family. That was part 1. [The image is a screen shot of exported comments from a previous commenting system...]

Part 2 was in 2010. Part 3 was in 2012. Part 4 started yesterday when Wendy Usher landed for the beginning of a 5 week experience with Amadeo Church and Ben and a Grace student team serving there in the middle. We haven't decided how many parts this is going to have.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Warren's Plan

He swaggered in wearing both a scowl and bad intentions. By profession, Warren was an evil fire-breathing clown in a horror show in Las Vegas. He also moonlighted as a freak-show wrestler.
By philosophy, Warren was an atheist—a hard-core atheist. A "There is no God, and if there was one I would hate him, and I despise anyone who believes there is a God or who tries to lead others to believe there is one" kind of atheist.
Warren heard about this new church starting in his city. He thought his city, a city that prides itself on sin, was no place for someone to start a new church. He decided to do something about it.
He realized a new church wouldn't have many people and that the people who did show up would not be very committed, which helped him form his plan: he would go to one of the church's first services, sit in the middle of the room, and wait. When the pastor walked onstage to give the sermon, Warren would stand up and let loose a barrage of profanity, throw some chairs, and hopefully hit the pastor and maybe a few others as well. He figured that all the people who were still making up their minds about the church would decide, "If I have to subject myself to this, forget it!" and never come back. The church wouldn't be able to survive without people, and Warren could brag for the rest of his life that he had killed a church.
It was a great plan. There was just one problem: I was the pastor.
- Vince Antonucci, Renegade: Your Faith Isn't Meant to be Safe

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ember X team mtg #9

Team meeting where we reviewed:
:: travel logistics: flight times, what to pack including one pair of clean clothes in your carry on, and how we don't allow boring Christian music.
:: definition of redemptive analogies [part of the core curriculum] and why those are important, some current examples of them, and how they help when we are trying to communicate and live the Gospel
:: special guest Wendy Usher, who departs tomorrow for 5 weeks working with Amadeo Church. Wendy is the first person that Ember has ever 'sent' somewhere.

And yes, that is Katy Perry. The video for Wide Awake is one my favorites.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Burn

::: The Ends of the Road
Road ends around the world, via google maps.
Link via kottke

::: Why Small Churches are the Next Big Thing
There's no better place to express or sense that kind of love-leadership than in a small church. For this reason, I believe small churches are uniquely poised to meet the needs of Millennials and perhaps turn the tide on the trend of the unchurched.
No, megachurches won’t disappear, despite all the predictions to the contrary. And I hope they don’t. I hope any church preaching
Christ and His gospel of grace continues to continue its good work.

::: Lifts and Skyscrapers
This week Kone, a Finnish liftmaker, announced that after a decade of development at its laboratory in Lohja, which sits above a 333-metre-deep mineshaft which the firm uses as a test bed, it has devised a system that should be able to raise an elevator a kilometre (3,300 feet) or more. This is twice as far as the things can go at present. Since the effectiveness of lifts is one of the main constraints on the height of buildings, Kone’s technology—which replaces the steel cables from which lift cars are currently suspended with ones made of carbon fibres—could result in buildings truly worthy of the name “skyscraper”.

::: Twitter Metadata Visualizations

Photo: scheming: Ben Cloud and I, Queen Creek, AZ, July 2012.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


If your church is full of members, you get an occasional missionary. If your church is full of missionaries, the rest is geography.
- Erwin McManus

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Balance Versus Seasons

This school year has been a big year of transition in our family, with our girls finishing 9th and 6th grade. Here is a hint I wish someone would have told me: when your kids start high school, their level of activity explodes. Between schoolwork, sports, band, church activities, time with friends.... you get the picture. Most of these need more than just time - they need an emotional investment. When your kid has a band concert or a volleyball game, you are present there. Being an engaged parent is a good thing.

A few weeks ago I was putting together slides for Ember's board of directors meeting. Taking a big picture perspective gives you different realizations sometimes and I realized that Ember has had a great year. We've been involved in some amazing projects, connected some incredibly talented and passionate young people and Ember X, being our first official overseas adventure, has all the potential for a ton of great impact. It's an exciting time and we're getting better and better at our core competencies.

I think balance is a misnomer but I do think we live in seasons. A year ago, I would have told you that my season of juggling trying to be a great husband and father, holding down a day job, running a nonprofit as a 'hobby', taking care of an aging parent, mowing my lawn once a month.... that this season was good, a little difficult but so fulfilling.. After this year, I will tell you that it has still very fulfilling but it also has been very challenging, mostly because it would be wrong to sacrifice your kids to the alter of your hobby.

All this to say, my kids had a great great school year. And I'm proud of what Ember did this year and what we are doing this summer. Ember X is going to be a great experience. And I've scheduled a 6 week sabbatical at the end of the summer.

Photo: swim meet on the first day of summer vaca, June 2013.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Burn

::: How Churches Can Help Students and their Careers
Only 38% of youth pastors and 36% of senior pastors say they frequently discuss college plans with their students... Only 1% of youth workers say they had addressed issues related to science in the last year and a similarly small percentage had taught about creativity or the arts.
This is quite unfortunate. If you are a youth worker reading this post, I implore you to talk to your students about vocation and calling.

::: Listening to Young Atheists
When a Christian foundation interviewed college nonbelievers about how and why they left religion, surprising themes emerged.

::: Rachel's Gift
My absolute favorite Charity:Water story.

::: It Starts with 100 Million.... Bible downloads that is.
And while 100 million sounds like a lot, we know it’s nowhere close to what’s possible. In fact, we like to say it starts with 100 million. Our faith has expanded to believe that Bible engagement could be transformed not only for this generation, but generations to come.

Photo: Deanna, my wife. She always wanted to be Chinese. ;-) Washington DC, June 2013.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2013 on the move

Some of our Ember tribe on the move this summer, besides X, the Grace AZ team and Wendy.

+ JTimmons - in Mozambique with Iris Ministries. End of May until mid August.
+ CStolte - Nairobi Kenya working in a medical context with Nairobi Chapel. Most of the month of June.
+ KParlette - leading a team for Grace studenets to Brussels Belgium working with Serve the City. End of June to beg of July.
+ ARotolo - Nairobi Kenya working with Carolina for Kibera. Mid July to Mid August.

So proud of these fine young men and women. Our privilege to work with them for a little bit of time.

[Related: 2012, 2011 on the move.]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ember Board of Director Notes - May 2013

I'm very very fortunate to have the support of a great group of people known as The Ember Cast board of directors. They have enough faith and hope in the overall vision of this little tribe that they give me a lot of latitude and freedom to experiment with 'running' a nonprofit. Notice the term running in quotes.

Our last board meeting was a few weeks ago and here are some bullet points that might be interesting to you if you find yourself in a role with some kind of organizational leadership.

+ Although we decided to hire a marketing person in late 2012, I put a hold on that in the Spring when considering what the summer might look like and the finances with that, which I'm glad I did. The money we saved help fund purchasing airfare early enough for a good deal.
+ We reviewed some of our large projects this year so far. 2013 has been an amazing, amazing year.
+ We also reviewed the current status on Ember X including making sure the financial model was clear. Since we are so small, we don't have a lot of financial margin.
+ Talked in brief about the other summer projects.
+ Listing what guides are on the move this summer.
+ Our core competencies are getting to be more competent. Creative revenue is a concept that resonates with a lot of people.
+ Personally, it's been an interesting year with our oldest going into high school. The time and energy demands are greater and with that, the challenges of being bi-vocational are bigger.
+ We still believe in the connection economy.

I never envisioned myself working with a board of directors, talking about things like finances and marketing, trying to move a small but passionate group of people forward along a shared vision. Great for an ENTJ. And this is something that happens when you give yourself permission.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The 2013 Ember X Bake Sale

The Ember X bake sale, a pretty significant creative revenue activity.

+ Raised $221. As of earlier this week, we actually reached the 100% funded milestone. Had we known we would be at this point, we wouldn't have executed on this bake sale idea but it was already in flight. And it was a lot of fun to hang with our team anyway. We now have some margin with our finances for the X team.
+ Lots of donated baked goods. All kinds of cookies, brownies, a 4 layer chocolate cake, biscotti, etc.
+ Of course, the bake sale was not just about raising money. It was about teamwork, selling and connecting.
+ Teamwork - executing a project together as a team, including set up, clean up, manning the table.
+ Selling - what works and doesn't work when trying to 'sell' a product or service. In this case, a big takeaway had to deal with presentation. Some of this was contextual too - we weren't selling baked goods in front of a supermarket, it was at a local outdoor food market type of event, with lots of professional food vendors.
+ Connecting - our team had to verbalize for themselves what we are actually doing when people asked.

Now this is a way to package a cupcake, my wife's idea, of course.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Join Wall Street. Save the World
Jason Trigg went into finance to make as much money as he could so he could give it away.

::: The Way to Produce a Person
David Brooks pushes back on the idea outlined in the above article and he's got some good points.
Third, and most important, I would worry about turning yourself into a means rather than an end. If you go to Wall Street mostly to make money for charity, you may turn yourself into a machine for the redistribution of wealth. You may turn yourself into a fiscal policy.

Both are worth reading and contemplating what we do with a generation that is very very ready to change the world. I think you will agree, at a minimum, it requires some solid teaching on vocation and calling.

::: How to Give a Killer Presentation
By the guy that runs TED. Yeah. Read it and put it into practice.

::: Please, keep your day job.
It's this idea that if you’re a "true" creative, freelancer, entrepreneur then anything less than working for yourself is heresy, a compromise, a lack of integrity as an artist, etc. Who told you that? Those guys are idiots.

::: In the New Testament Church, conversion is your commission, or baptism is your ordination. Take your pick. - @alanhirsch

Photo: Chinatown, Washington DC. June 2013.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

2013 Creative Revenue Plan Wrap Up

Many people have asked for more details about our creative revenue plans for the Ember X team and how they are going. I thought I would summarize most of it in one single post here.

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.

Below are the following 2013 X plans that were executed:
Scarves with hand painted Bible verses on them
Car Detailing
Donation Box
Personality Assessments for Teams
Lots and lots of Babysitting

Not only were team members successful in executing a plan [which is pretty significant in and of itself you know...], we also hit our financial targets with regards to these plans. As of today, we are at 99% of our total financial goal, which is a testament to how hard these students have worked. About 17%, approximately $4200, of that came out of Creative Revenue, which was right in line with what we were targeting.

Combine the global recession with the need for disruption to the paradigm of missions support letters, and donor, cause and nonprofit fatigue and you have a need for looking at funding missions creatively. The experience of starting a micro business is also hugely valuable. The best way to learn about income, revenue, pricing, demand and customer service is by doing something related - like starting a micro business. For 2013, the execution of creative revenue plans has been a vital success.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Future Global Credibility

The future church will have global credibility only to the extent that it has local diversity.
- Tim Dearborn as quoted in Western Christians in Global Mission by Paul Borthwick

Monday, June 03, 2013

Ember X team mtg #7

An afternoon in DC with the Ember X team and special guest, ARotolo, guide and former intern.

:: Visiting National Community Church at their Barracks Row site
+ NCC is easily one of the most innovative and creative churches on the East Coast.
+ Ember highly values exposing high school students to different expressions of Church and that is going to look a lot different when they are our age. Missions experiences naturally lend themselves to experience Church in a different medium.

:: Dinner in Chinatown at Fuddruckers [yeah yeah I know. We went to Chinatown to have burgers.]
+ Logistically challenging to find a place to eat for 10 people on a Saturday night. So we wanted counter service somewhere.

:: A walk around Chinatown while the team focused on cultural icons.
+ Identifying icons helps inform us what is both different from our own culture as well as what is important in this new culture we are in.
+ Learning to think like a missionary at home requires us to observe what is really important in our own culture.
+ Sometimes these icons are not physically present but subtle and under the surface.