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.