Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in cities

One of my favorite end of year posts, the year in cities. This year was a great year of travel, both personally and with The Ember Cast. And I'm still on track for getting out of the country once a year since 2005, except for 2009.
1 - Cambridge, MD, USA
2 - National Harbor, MD, USA
3 - Fairfield, CT, USA
4 - Knoxville, TN, USA
5 - Nashville, TN, USA
6 - Lexington, VA, USA
7 - Henderson, NC, USA
8 - San Antonio, TX, USA
9 - Richmond, VA, USA
10 - Aix-en-Provence, France
11 - Sanary sur Mer, France
12 - Marseille, France
13 - Virginia Beach, VA, USA
14 - Lake Anna, VA, USA
15 - Vernon, CT, USA
16 - Danvers, MA, USA

[2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Books

Pretty great list of books that I read this year. Hope you enjoy some of the notes.

Sacred Roots
The Hard Thing About the Hard Things
Dream Year
The Happiness of Pursuit
Creativity Inc
The Power of Habit
What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Makers of Fire*
You and Me Forever*
My Share of the Task*
Zero to One*
The Artisan Soul*
Mission Drift
Leaders Eat Last

* Either still reading or should go and take some notes.

[2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 in books]

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy 17th Birthday to Katie

Dear Katie --

You have had quite a year, I don't mind saying. It is a year that has brought lots of adventure, lots of serving others and lots of pursuing life to the fullest. All typical of who you are. Club volleyball, a fantastic two weeks serving with The Ember Cast in France, 10 days in Madrid serving away from your parents, getting your drivers license, your internship at FIRN, special friends at Grassroots, oh and going to school. Pack it in girl, because you know that life was meant to be lived and your life was meant to be poured out for others.

I don't mind saying that it hasn't been an easy year for your parents. You know how we have battled both big and little things and at the core, it has been an experience for all of us. We've tried hard to let go. You've tried hard to be free. And through it, we are all learning about living in the tension that with more freedom comes more responsibility.

You were meant for something amazing. This coming year, more than ever, believe that. And trust the One who created you - He wants to erupt your soul to be who you were meant to be. The world needs you at your best.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Invisible Children Shutting Down
Invisible Children, the nonprofit behind the Kony 2012 film—often called the most viral video of all time—is slowly shutting down its operations. First, the U.S. office will close, leaving just a handful of remote workers behind to work on advocacy. Then, within 12 to 18 months, Invisible Children will hand off its work on the ground in East Africa to partner organizations.

::: Vancouver's Attitude Towards the Homeless

::: Texas Plumbers Truck Ends Up in Syria

Photo: Tess, Emily, Katie. Les Baux, France, July 2014.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I will do today....

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Great Idea is a Spreadsheet With Skin On

That statement comes from Ben Arment and I am a firm believer. Every year, around this time, our spreadsheet for summertime gets created. Here are some quick ideas on how we do it:

+ One big workbook - nowadays, it's a google drive spreadsheet. Available anywhere all the time. Tracks revisions. Does almost everything Excel does except for subtotals.
+ A sheet for each major initiative.
+ Track who goes where, when they go and how they get there and back.
+ Estimated expenses and categories.
+ Estimated incomes including sometimes outlining different creative revenue plans.
+ It won't be completely straightforward if you have distributed teams where people work on multiple projects and where incomes, expenses and time served are shared. But that's part of the fun.

And I'm thrilled to tell you that we've at least started one for 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill
Great read about the implosion of one of the most impactful churches in the US.
"...every young pastor needs to have a mentor relationship with a pastor who has been pastoring for at least 25 years in a church that is not a megachurch. They will learn what true pastoring is really like, not celebrity pastoring."
Link via Mitchel Lee

::: 20 Politically Incorrect Thoughts About Church in America
#5 Worship music is too slow and too repetitive. Worship music is too slow and too repetitive. Worship music is too slow and too repetitive.
#8 Churches don’t effectively engage women in senior leadership roles.
#12 Shared leadership doesn’t work. When all the leaders are equal, no one is leading.

::: Facebook's Data Science for Social Good
Data science has been fruitfully applied in many circumstances: from creating product enhancements and decisions, to writing insightful or entertaining blog posts. In this post, we'd like to highlight some recent initiatives which, combined with increases in availability of data, are making data science a powerful force for social good. We're going to take a brief tour of the non-profit data science organizations that we're familiar with and the work they're doing.

::: The Pilots of Instagram

Photo: Ember spawn, ProtoGuides and Jon Tyson. DC, Nov 2014.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Notes - The Power of Habit

My wife and older daughter picked this up for me for my birthday last September and I only got to reading it last month. It's a phenomenal read for anyone involved in leadership or influence. Later on, I realized that two of my favorite leaders also learned a ton from this book. [1, 2]. Go get it please.

Cue -> Routine -> Reward

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit - unless you find new routines - the pattern will unfold automatically.

… it is possible to learn and make unconscious choices without remembering anything about the lesson or decision making.

Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.

Tony Dungy's coaching philosophy: He wanted to get players to stop making so many decisions during a game. He wanted them to react automatically, habitually. If he could instill the right habits, his team would win. Period.

Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.

Paul O'Neill and Alcoa: O'Neill focused on worker safety, which would signify excellence.
Michael Phelps - his coach focused on his habits.

This is the final way that keystone habits encourage widespread change: by creating cultures where new values become ingrained. Keystone habits make tough choices - such as firing a top executive - easier, because when that person violates the culture, it's clear they have to go.

Starbucks training - 137K current employees - 1M alumni. Starbucks is one of the nation's largest educators.

At the core of that education is an intense focus on an all-important habit: willpower. Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.

Willpower isn't just a skill. It's a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there's less power left over for other things.

This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.

There are no organizations without institutional habits. There are only places where they are deliberately designed, and places where they are created without forethought, so they often grow from rivalries or fear.
But sometimes, even destructive habits can be transformed by leaders who know how to seize the right opportunities. Sometimes, in the heat of a crisis, the right habits emerge.

Creating successful organizations isn't just a matter of balancing authority. For an organization to work, leaders must cultivate habits that both create a real and balanced peace and, paradoxically, make it absolutely clear who's in charge.

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between social acquaintances.
It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.
And it endures because a movement's leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.

[Rosa] Park's friends, in contrast, spanned Montgomery's social and economic hierarchies. She had what sociologists call 'strong ties' - first hand relationships - with dozens of groups throughout Montgomery that didn't usually come into contact with one another.

Every Saddleback member is asked to sign a maturity covenant card promising to adhere to three habits: daily quiet time for reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income and membership in a small group. Giving everyone new habits has become a focus of the church.

For an idea to grow beyond a community, it must become self-propelling. And the surest way to achieve that is to give people new habits that help them figure out where to go on their own.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Pressure of Next Year

It is December and you might be getting questions already about what is happening next summer. Parents like to plan, summer camps already have their agendas and the pressure is on. Don't worry if you don't have any firm plans yet, Ember is in the same boat [although we have a few ideas...]

The most mature short term missions efforts solidify their plans around this time every year. The maturity in their systems allows them to do that - their existing deep relationships, the clarity of their vision and values, and their proven systems to identify and recruit team leaders. Sometimes, you don't need all three of those but most of the time you do. Here are two great examples to dig around when it comes to seeing how someone else has done it - Northpoint and NCC.

For The Ember Cast, this time every year is when we ask God to direct and start dreaming and praying. After that, we'll start throwing things up and seeing what gets some momentum.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Global Geography of Internet Addiction

::: Can You Name These Countries Using Only Satellite Photos?

::: Plumblines for Local Outreach - The Summit Church
Love when they talk about their plumblines. Rich stuff in this 4 part series.

::: "When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection." ― A.W. Tozer via @dansadlier

Photo: KatieS Ember Spawn, KatieV Ember ProtoGuide, Mark Batterson. DC, Nov 2014.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Ember Mantra - 5

The Gospel comes to you on its way to someone else. - Alex McManus

PS - Alex has been a mentor to me and I can't recommend his new book, Makers of Fire, enough. Go get this.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Real Track Record

In the fall of 2010, two high school seniors that we had made commitments for interning with Ember both backed out. School was a lot of work and college applications had to be completed. In the fall of 2011, we had planned a great face to face learning experience from one of my mentors and one of our interns couldn't commit. Her parents didn't want her to miss one of her classes. In April of 2012, we had to cancel plans for an Ember experience in South Africa. The desire was there, just not the people committing. Through the first 3 months of 2012, I had fifteen people tell me no for various projects and ideas I had. There was even a student that made a commitment to us in May of this year and then come September, decided to bail. They in fact lined up another internship before letting me know that they were not doing ours.

But lord I love the stuff that has not failed. It has been worth it.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Worst Day to Fly in the US
Hint - it's not what day you think it is.

::: 23 Maps and Charts on Language

::: What I Learned from Building an App for Low Income Americans
Many of the housecleaners I met were already entrepreneurs. Our office cleaner at Significance Labs, Jason, employed five or six people in his cleaning business while also holding down another full-time job. The best thing about my time at Significance Labs was meeting incredible people like Jason and Angel. The most fun I had last summer was sitting in a room chatting to housecleaners.

::: "A good traveler is not intent on arriving." -Lao Tzu via @DavidLivermore

Photo: Lunch, Teds Bulletin, Washington DC. Ember guides, spawn, ProtoGuides and guests.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tricia and Global Impact 2014

On the left is Tricia who was an intern of mine in 2007-2008. She sent me a text last weekend telling me that she was helping out on a student retreat called Global Impact. It was an event that her church put on for high school and middle school kids, focused on helping kids learn to live 'on mission' both locally and globally. Sounded like my kind of thing.

Tricia was a fantastic intern but has since gone on to do some amazing things for the Kingdom - we are proud of her and her weekend serving students dressed up like a Nepalese bank teller. And of course, thrilled to hear about student ministries putting on weekends like this.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Notes - #CatalystNext

We took a team of people to learn at the Catalyst Next conference last week at the Lincoln Theater in DC and it was a great time. I love the Catalyst organization and they always put on fantastic events. The audience was probably mostly people in full time vocational ministry and there were maybe about 1000 people there.

Our team was made up of adults involved in ministry bi-vocationally [board of director Matt, guide Carver and myself] and high school students - 3 seniors and one junior, two of those being current ProtoGuides and the junior being my older daughter. I'm pretty sure Ember had the only high school kids there. We also met up with some old and new friends - a leader of the young adult ministry at LifePoint Church in Reisterstown, and Ember guide Trevin and his co-workers from Bay Area Community Church. We all had lunch together which was a great time of connecting. Two of the seniors have some serious plans to join a church plant next year when they enter college as freshmen so the church planting roundtable was especially relevant to them.

The event wasn't quite as futuristic as I personally would have liked, but I realize that is sometimes too far out there. One solid principle about the future is that you imagine the future by seeing the present clearly and I think Catalyst Next did that extremely well. There was a little undercurrent of 'we have to explain what our current culture looks like to the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.' Certainly understandable.

Every one of the talks was excellent, exactly what you would come to expect from a Catalyst event. They were all geared towards what is next and I loved that. The day was organized into segments and then after each segment, Jon Tyson would come back with Mark Batterson, Jo Saxton and Gabe Lyons to do a little discussion on the talks.

Here is the rough outline of the day:
Mark Batterson - leadership [see below]
Jo Saxton - leadership [character, community, commission]
Gabe Lyons - culture [see below]
Trip Lee - culture [to give up hope on a specific culture/peoplegroup/subculture is to discount the power of the Gospel]
Jenna Lee Nardella - justice [the long arc of justice and sometimes you cannot make it rain]
Raj Shah - justice [lots of great content on global poverty]
Missional church planting roundtable - Jarrett and Jeanne Stevens, Gideon Tsan, DA Horton - what is your context, something you have learned from, what is next
Jon Tyson - closing [see below]

Here are notes from the 3 talks that resonated most with me:
+ What is Next in church leadership
Mark Batterson
“The greatest opposition to what God is doing today comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday.” - RT Kendall The Anointing
Heb 11:7 - Noah, the ark and building something that was never built before
II Cor 10:5 - Take every thought captive and obedient to Christ
Noah - inventor, maker. Made the rake, hoe, oh and the ark.
1.5 football fields long
a ship that big would not be built again in human history until the late 19th century
35:3 design ratio is still the standard
569 box cars
125,000 animals - 60 National Zoos
120 years to build - long obedience
1st thing Noah did was to plant trees
It all came from an idea in his mind
Everything starts as an idea - so often II Cor 10:5 is used to instruct us to take bad thoughts captive, but it's also a command about good ideas.

Church is a 2 way street - dreams and passions go both ways
We have a dream for our church that people help us fulfil and we hopefully help them fulfill their dreams.

*TTS - Like always, Batterson gives a phenomenal talk about the future, leadership and the most audacious dreams and ideas. And every time I've seen Mark Batterson not speaking, he is taking notes. Including today, while on the panel. The best leaders I know do this.

Be a first class noticier
Scripture is meant to be meditated on - for it to quicken you, you must let it burn in you
Every piece of Scripture has 70 faces and 600,000 meanings - rabbinical saying

+ What is Next in engaging culture
Gabe Lyons
Context - always start with this
*TTS - ^^^ yes. Ember mantra - "Context and culture matter."

Today - the combination of postmodern, pluralism and postChristian
the nones

New Attitudes
No authority
Happiness is the ultimate goal
Good of the individual trumps good of community
God exists for the benefit of all, if He even exists
Meaning can only be found in this world

New Rules of Social Engagement - "Sex and the I World"
One may not criticize someone's life choices or behaviors
One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others
One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without consent - as long as it is consensual, it is okay.

Countercultural - the church is called to swim upstream in this

*TTS - The intro to this talk was such a great description of the context that we find ourselves in right now.

4 questions - filter for culture
What is Wrong - stop and confront
who am I, what is my identity

What is Confused - clarify and compel
identity is found in Jesus, not by looking inside
is life about pleasure or purpose
love - affirmation of anything anyone wants to do or do we want the best for them?

What is Good - celebrate and cultivate
God's design for humanity is to flourish

What is Missing - create and catalyze
we have made an idol of marraige
first family - church family - extended family - oikos
clear and confident in theology
loving to friends and neighbors
you can be both but this requires lots of courage

The slavery and women in ministry issues both get more expansive from the OT to the NT
sexuality gets less expansive

*TTS - This was a fantastic talk and really engaged the issue of homosexuality and the evangelical Church. The 4 questions were great perspectives. Extremely well done.

Batterson - some topics are good for teaching about from up front - one way dialogue. Others need a two way conversation. This is one of those. NCC hosted a small group on this topic called Grace+Truth because we need both when it comes to this issue. Over 200 people showed up to it.

+ Jon Tysons closing talk
The need of the hour is to make disciples. If we get discipleship wrong, everything else goes awry.
Willard - what is your plan for making disciples and is it working?

We did a good job of forming people into Trinity Grace culture but not Jesus.
Our culture is incredibly effective at making disciples into its image.

"Ultimately, each church will be evaluated by only one thing - its disciples. Your church is only as good as her disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs, or property are; if your disciples are passive, needy, consumeristic, and not radically obedient, your church is not good." (Neil Cole) [*TTS - So good, I think I've posted this before somewhere here]

Faith to Doubt
Love to Insecurity
Community to Individualism
Contributing to Consuming
Rest to Exhaustion

5 Shifts - The From > To Imperative
*TTS - there was a ton of info in here - no way to get it all down.
Death -> Life
Eph 2
- gospel, story, walk

Shame -> Acceptance
Rom 8
difference between shame [who I am] and guilt [what I've done]
image management
Brene Brown
disciple people into their identity
- community, freedom, authority

Self -> Others
Phil 2
the small self - Rohr
- gifts, reconciliation, presence

Consumer -> Mission
I Cor 5
- sharing, vocation, stewardship

Performing -> Abiding
John 15
- source, power, fruit

In all of this, Jesus says, I will be with you always.
Gal 4:19 - My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you...
an urgent heartbreaking pastoral concern - spiritual fathers.

*TTS Right before Jon started, I whispered to our team that this was the money talk. I was right. Jon's talk was a powerful exhortation to leaders to take the issue of discipleship seriously and to evaluate how we are growing people and whether it is working or not. He has obviously done some deep thinking about our culture and what it means to grow people in the image of Jesus and his talk was a gift. I knew it was going to be good because I've learned a lot from him from a distance. [See : City Collective, the city parish model and Sacred Roots.]

+ My Reflections
- I'm pretty sure Ember had the only high school kids there. If you are a student pastor in the DMV and knew about this event, you should have brought some kids you were personally investing in. And if you aren't personally investing in any students, well, you should find a new line of work. This was a great learning experience that was easy to execute.
- Jon Tyson's closing talk. Ember needs to evaluate all of our experiences and reflect on whether we are creating disciples of Jesus or just creating kids that know a lot about global missions. Some of this is also a reflection on my leadership and whether I have the capacity to even think deeply on this subject and how it relates to the students we are entrusted with, in a similar manner to the deep thinking that Jon Tyson has done about discipleship in New York City.
- Batterson: "Church is a 2 way street - dreams and passions go both ways." I love this and Ember is really trying to engage our students with where we are headed as an organization as well as catalyze the passions, talents and dreams of them. We aren't doing the latter a ton but there were definitely a few students this past summer that fit this description. That's why we almost always visit the topic of missional imagination when we decompress an event or experience. I'm a bit sensitized to this too from some recent ministry experience as well so there's probably more in this.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Problem With International Development
Must read.
And this is where I landed after a year of absorbing dozens of books and articles and speeches about international development: The arguments against it are myriad, and mostly logistical and technical. The argument for it is singular, moral, and, to me anyway, utterly convincing: We have so much, they have so little.

::: Whole Foods is Moving into One of the Poorest Neighborhoods in Chicago
Fascinating article about business versus philanthropy, gentrification, and food deserts. I heard Bob Lupton tell a story about a grocery store executive that told him that his company wouldn't put a store in a neighborhood because they wouldn't make any money - the demographics didn't show enough disposable income.

::: 1 in 30 kids in the US is homeless.

::: The pastor's question: "How's my church doing?" The missionaries' question: "How's my city doing?" @bobrobertsjr

Photo: Ember spawn and friends. Baltimore, October 2014.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Notes - Creativity Inc.

Unhindered communication was key, no matter what your position.

The definition of superb animation is that each character on the screen makes you believe it is a thinking being.

By ignoring my fear, I learned that the fear was groundless… Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.

For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn't matter if you are getting the story right.

Sending out a sharp impulse - like a dolphin uses echolocation to determine the location of a school of fish - can teach you crucial things about your environment. Steve [Jobs] used aggressive interplay as a kind of biological sonar. It was how he sized up the world.

While Toyota was a hierarchical organization, to be sure, it was guided by a democratic central tenet: You don't have to ask permission to take responsibility.

Whatever these forces are that make people do dumb things, they are powerful, they are often invisible, and they lurk even in the best of environments.

Because making a movie involves hundreds of people, a chain of command is essential. But in this case, we had made the mistake of confusing the communication structure with the organizational structure.

The first principle was "Story is King," by which we meant that we would let nothing - not the technology, not the merchandising possibilities - get in the way of our story… The other principle we depended on was "Trust the Process."

Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right…. That means it is better to focus on how a team is performing, not on the talents of the individuals within it…. Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.

Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas.

But always, its most essential element is candor. This isn't just some pie-in-the-sky idea - without the critical ingredient that is candor, there can be no trust. And without trust, creative collaboration is not possible.

This principle eludes most people, but it is critical: You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged. To set up a healthy feedback system, you must remove power dynamics from the equation - you must enable yourself, in other words, to focus on the problem, not the person.

It is natural for people to fear that such an inherently critical environments will feel threatening and unpleasant, like a trip to the dentist. The key is to look at the viewpoints being offered, in any successful feedback group, as additive, not competitive.

Believe me, you don't want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas of policy are being hashed out. The best inoculation against this fate? Seek out people who are willing to level wit you, and when you find them, hold them close.

By insisting on the importance of getting our ducks in a row early, we had come perilously close to embracing a fallacy. Making the process better, easier and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on - but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.

In an unhealthy culture, each group believes that if their objective trump the goals of the other groups, the company will be better off. In a healthy culture, all constituencies recognize the importance of balancing competing desires - they want to be heard but they don't have to win.

It is management's job to figure out how to help others see conflict as healthy - as a route to balance, which benefits us all in the long run. I'm here to say that it can be done - but it is an unending job.

Fear makes people reach for certainty and stability, neither of which guarantee the safety they imply. I take a different approach. Rather than fear randomness, I believe we can make choices to see if for what it is and to let it work for us. The unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs.

...One of my core management beliefs: If you don't try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

At Pixar, we joke that only one mention of Star Wars is allowed per meeting.

There is a fantastic chapter in the book about Steve Jobs since he was a huge piece of the company. It is very much worth the read. I've never personally been a huge fan of Jobs - for all the innovation that Apple is, he seemed to me to be a massive jerk. But after reading that narrative about him from someone that knew him well, I've kind of changed my mind.

Highly recommended - the book is a great read.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ember at #CatalystNext in DC this Thursday

I will be with a team at the Catalyst Next one day conference this coming Thursday at the Lincoln Theater - would love to meet you if you are there. Long time readers know that I'm a fan of Catalyst, especially when they push the edges and concentrate on the future. In 2009, I attended their first Catalyst West conference and the absolute best part of that was the lab day called Origins that was put together with MosaicLA. That day was very much about looking at today and envisioning the future. I'm hoping Catalyst Next is so futuristic that most of us get inspired about the present. And in classic Ember form, I'm sure that we will be just about the only ones with high school kids in attendance. This is a conference about the future.... right?
It's often said that the future is now but is the church listening?

Our culture is constantly advancing, constantly shifting, constantly adapting, and if you want to stay ahead you have to know what’s coming before it gets here. Catalyst Next is a gathering created just for you. We know you’re a change maker. A forward thinking, innovative leader who wants to be ahead of the curve in addressing the issues and questions our culture is grappling with. This gathering will help us answer those very questions. Whether you are leading a church, non-profit, or business, we invite you to join us live in D.C. or by stream, for a day of intentional conversations around what’s next for the Church as we embrace progress and spearhead change for the sake of advancing Kingdom initiatives.

Catalyst Next is a gather geared towards young innovative leaders who want to be ahead of the curve in addressing the issues and questions our culture is asking. If you’re a change maker who is serious about bringing Kingdom change to your world than this event is for you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Bilinguals Have Stronger and Faster Brains Than the Rest of Us

::: 12 Maps that Sum Up London
Data for the people - so good.

::: Why Cliques Form at Some High Schools and Not Others

::: Professional Women's Basketball in Sopron Hungary
I was there in 2007 and 2008.

::: The church's responsibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself. - Bonhoeffer via @AshleyPDickens

Photo: city center, Sopron Hungary. Summer 2008.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#qznextbillion - A Dream Forum for the Futuristic

Quartz was kind enough to give me a discount ticket to their Next Billion forum last week. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend but tracked the talks via twitter as best I could. It seemed to be a fabulous event - here is the summary and here are all the talks.

I'm hoping to catch up on some of the talks soon - this one on Housing the Last Billion looked fantastic. And this one from dana boyd, who has done a ton of research on technology and youth culture, also looks great.

You might think some of this sounds far fetched and too futuristic. I would argue that most of it is incredibly relevant to emerging global student leaders. Issues like the global poor, sustainable design, the role of technology including how fast it gets adopted, and innovation and creativity are central to how the next generation of Kingdom centered leaders lead. And I'm grateful to be able to learn from some of the experts in this kind of stuff. Ah the Internet.

The Next Billion is in London next year....hint hint. Some of my favorite tweets from this year.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Visiting with Gilles

In 2006, I spent ten days with a team of high school students in Cameroon, a country in Central Africa, working with Gilles and Wendy Naine. Gilles and Wendy had moved there with their family because of their experience and passion for high school students, their background and fluency in the French language and a desire to impact a country in Africa. Our student team went there through a partnership at our church and the project at hand was to help be a catalyst for the Naines' relationships with students in their circles. It was a fantastic ten days. Two years later, they would host another team that I helped facilitate but not lead.

Gilles was in town last week and we had a chance to catch up with him and introduce him to some of the ProtoGuides. Loved our conversations which included stuff like:
+ how preparation of short term teams is so important.
+ worldviews
+ third culture kids [Gilles was the first one to introduce me to this term.]
+ indigenous leaders and how things change when they take ownership
+ it is possible to gather a church without disciples
+ the pygmy indians

Some of the students we worked with in 2006 still remember our time together. Gilles is one of the best global leaders that we know and it's always great to catch up with him and introduce him to more emerging global student leaders.

Photo: Trevin, Gilles, moi, Deanna, KatieV, Shannon.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Friday Burn

::: We Can Eradicate Malaria in a Generation
Based on the progress I’m seeing in the lab and on the ground, I believe we’re now in a position to eradicate malaria—that is, wipe it out completely in every country—within a generation. This is one of the greatest opportunities the global health world has ever had. Melinda and I are so optimistic about it that we recently decided to increase our foundation’s malaria budget by 30 percent.

::: The Rapid Spread of Christianity in China
Predicting Christianity’s growth is even harder. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.

::: The Future of Innovation Belongs to the MegaCity

::: "What makes a leader is character. What makes a non-leader is ego" @rayortlund #A29NC via @johnwbryson

Photo: with guides Wendy and DK. October 2014. Baltimore, MD.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Art of the Introduction

One of the very best leadership skills you can cultivate is the art of writing an introduction. Most leaders miss this because they don't realize the value of their network. Instead, you should understand that there are people in your circle of friends that would love to know one another and could do some amazing things together. You are the one that understands the potential of them working together and that is best unleashed by writing a stunning introduction.

There are some people in your network that you would die for. They have mentored you. You have mentored them. You have the highest regard for their character and competency. You have worked on projects with them and you look up to their caliber of work. You would love to see them succeed at the highest levels. These introductions are reserved for them exclusively, not for the person you just met at Panera the other night. And introductions like these are not done on social media. A tweet tagging both them and saying, "You two should know each other…." Please no.

My introductions are organized as follows: a greeting, three paragraphs and then a 'thanks for connecting' sentence or two. It's done over email and I always try to follow up with a quick thank you after I know people have connected. Over the past few years, I've probably averaged writing an introduction once every one or two months. The intro to the email is a quick 'Hi there, you both should know each other, hope you are doing well', normal greeting stuff.

The second and third paragraphs is the substance and it's where I outline how I know both people. I write about where and when and how we met. I tell each other what kind of projects we have worked on together. I talk a little bit about each person's family. I describe their passions, talents and skills. Simply, I try to gush about this person. If you can't highlight them, this intro is not appropriate.

The final paragraph outlines why they should be connected and it's usually due to some recent circumstance in one of the people's lives - they started working on this project, they recently moved to this location, I was reminded about each of them and how they should know each other. Finally, I close the email, thanking them for connecting in the future.

Like a good letter from an old friend, introductions can be an art form. And in today's hyper connected world, where everyone knows everyone else because of the interwebs, an intentional, beautifully written introduction stands apart. There are some people in your circles that would impact humanity exponentially, if only they were connected. One of the best tools you have at your disposal as a leader is introducing them to each other.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Catching Up with Caroline

In July of 2004, I took a small group of middle schoolers to serve with a missions support organization for a few days. This organization specialized in logistical and automotive support, helping teams all over the world. My hope was that this would catalyze a global view of the world for some of these kids. Caroline, 2nd from the right, was one of those students. Fast forward ten years [ten years!] and Caroline has been fully engaged in the global missions space, having served with YWAM Perth for a number of years working in maternal health. It's been fascinating to watch her journey and we were fortunate to be able to catch up with her for an evening now that she is home for a season.

Our conversation, with the ProtoGuides, included concepts like:
- Midwifery blasts open doors to be able to build relationships with families from the developing world.
- Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world.
- Support raising is a faith venture and one that has never let her down.

Caroline is one our first students turned into full time missionaries and we continue to marvel and be amazed at her crazy life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Burn

::: 10 Sustainable Innovations
I personally loved:
#1 - gravity-powered irrigation
#3 - Advantix’s air conditioning system uses saltwater which means it needs 40% less energy than normal systems.
#6 - The Solar Suitcase provides solar electricity for medical lighting, mobile communication and essential medical devices for rural areas and humanitarian settings.
#9 - solar-powered school boats

::: Buying Business as a strategy for Christian community development
We are part intentional community, part church plant, part transitional housing, and part community development based in the inner-city of Hollywood, California. My community members are all bi-vocational ministry workers and do not raise outside support and may never do so. We are not against outside funding; we are just afraid to create a dependency on it.

::: 2014 Global Cities Index and Emerging Cities Outlook
Link via Justin

::: 3 Church Planting Myths Debunked
Myth: Church planting is only for young people.

::: “The better the villain, the better the movie.” -Alfred Hitchcock via StoryChicago

Photo: Ember spawn 1, sorting blinds. Second Chance, Baltimore, October 2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ember Balt4

One of the things Ember is privileged to do is to help facilitate community impact projects with emerging global leaders that we know and trust. This past weekend was one such project and like each one in the past, it was a fabulous day of serving and learning about an intriguing local nonprofit, connecting with some great college students and interacting with some good old friends.

Our day was spent at Second Chance, which is a nonprofit located in Baltimore near the football stadium. Situated in a 200,000 square foot warehouse, they deconstruct buildings and homes, salvage usable materials and make those available to the public, and provide job training through that revenue. We got a tour of the facility as well as a big picture idea of how they work as well as spending a few hours assisting them in some organizing and cleanup. The Millennials I run into are always hard workers.

This was part of Serve the City Baltimore's fall service day. Ember has tapped STCB for a few opportunities in the past few years, including a few of these service days as well as helping with one of their summer hosted teams. Erin Preshoot, who you might remember from 2008Hungary, has been on staff with STCB for a few years, also splitting her time with Christian Associates.

I'm thrilled to tell you that DK, who was an Ember intern in 2013 is thriving at Towson. She is well connected with a campus ministry, involved with a local church and she brought about 30 students from Towson to join us on Saturday. You should take notice when an emerging leader has the ability to influence a crowd of more than a few people.

We met Wendy Usher four years ago this Fall when we helped with an idea at Salisbury. Since then, she's been one of the bravest people we know, as she pursued sight unseen opportunities we had suggested to her. And she did this two summers in a row. Wendy brought a team from Salisbury and of course, we did some more missional imagination while at Second Chance. Love to tell you about that later.

All the teams had dinner at my house and then we did a short decompression discussion around the topics of:
Blessed to be a blessing
Self -> Serve -> Systems
Asset based development

As always, steal what you want but let me know if you do. But let me implore you as well - if you are involved in this kind of thing, please please do some kind of debriefing or decompression. It is so vitally important that you help students process this. They can certainly talk about these kinds of things on their own, but in most situations, they need someone to initiate it and to see it be modeled. That is part of our role as guides and catalysts - once they see it, they might own it next time.

More photos here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Burn

::: More Cities are Making It Illegal to Hand Out Food to the Homeless

::: A 10-Year-Old Entrepreneur Is Behind This Philanthropic Crowdfunding Platform

::: Rear Adm. R. Timothy Ziemer, The Malaria Fighter
Since he took the job in 2006, worldwide malaria deaths have dropped 40 percent, to about 600,000 a year from one million.

::: The Summit Church has a goal to plant 1000 churches in this generation

::: In China, they say every believer is a church planter & every church is a churchplanting church. @AlanHirsch

Photo: DK, Ember intern 2013, joins us this coming weekend for Ember Balt4 with a group from her university. NYC, Jan 2013.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ember, STC Baltimore and Second Chance

Ember is excited to work with Serve the City Baltimore and Second Chance this coming Saturday to facilitate a service day for some college kids that have been connected to our tribe. I'm excited to see Second Chance up close and to understand their context and story. It seems like they have a great system for helping the less fortunate build skills for employment and providing a service to the community.

I'm also excited for the great group of students we have coming. 2013 intern DK and guide Wendy return to us with some of the college compatriots. Erin Preshoot, who long time readers would remember from Hungary2008, serves as one of our hosts this weekend and one of the best parts will be getting the same kind of missional, passionate, changing-the-world students in the same room.

Thanks for your prayers for a fantastic day that catalyzes many.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Breakfast with Glenn

In 2005, as the result of exploring what existing international connections our church already had, I ended up leading a student team to serve and work with Glenn McMahan who lived in Londrina Brasil with his family, there to serve and connect with university students. It was a fantastic experience based on the idea of a culture exchange - two cultures sharing around common cultural elements like film, games, food and such. Many elements of that experience are still paramount to us today including the culture exchange [which we just used this summer], persons of peace and hearing about the result of a decades long friendship [who later gave her life to Jesus], and how people can care about their communities despite differences in cultural context.

Glenn and I have kept in touch over the years and I would jump at the chance to work with him again. He's recently engaged in a new leadership role, helping to engage in both medical initiatives as well as business as mission for a global missions organization. I was thrilled to be able to interact with him this past weekend as well as have him meet two of our three current ProtoGuides. Our conversation included ideas such as:

- shipping containers used as medical clinics, like what we saw in Coney Island
- As an American, Glenn won't be the point person for anything but will be helping resource and support local leaders who are. The indigenous who know best are in charge.
- microbusinesses have a good amount of need for people that can come in and help with business plans, strategy and execution.
- Ebola and how that may change things. Liberia has a ratio of 1 doctor for 77000 people right now.
- We grow your kids to love the world and then we are surprised when they want to leave home...

I loved catching up with Glenn as well as having our ProtoGuides in the conversation. Ember thrives on setting up conversations and connections like these - a well experienced, Gospel centered cross cultural leader sharing some wisdom with passionate, interested emerging global student leaders. Sadly, we forgot a picture with Glenn.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Dear World, Let's Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor
Link [lots of people posting this lately]

::: What Plug Goes Where

::: Yes, Our Pastors Get Paid to Pray and Rest

::: "The West is not a secular society. It is a pagan society. Here is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time." L. Newbigin via JD Greear

Photo: Baltimore, Fall 2013. Ember partners with Wendy again later this month.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Instagram in Bathrooms

I've been having fun with Instagram for a few weeks now - it was birthed by someone who suggested an idea for Creative Revenue as well as me being intrigued with the platform after reading this presentation on the emerging global web. [And... yes you should check out the deck, right now.]

I'm always looking for someone who has gone from the transition from self->service->systems, an idea we talk a lot about with Ember people based on the book Toxic Charity. It's a helpful progression when we visit the ideas of better ways to help people in poverty, how to make our charity sustainable and giving dignity to those we serve. In essence, I'm on the lookout for someone who has created systems that have helped those less fortunate. And I have no doubt that someone is already doing this with a platform like Instagram.

It's another example of how easy it is to connect with others today [like Firn Howard County or this kid from the high school who sells shoes on it to over 25K followers.] Starting something from nothing is difficult work, but never been easier. Even better when someone builds a system to help others. Let me know if you know of something like this.

Photo: Brent Lutz, GCC middle school pastor, in one of my bathrooms.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mosaic LA - Hope in a Desperate Time

One of the best talks I've seen dealing with despair and depression and how to help yourself or your friends. As someone who grew up with mental illness in their household, lots of the stuff in this talk is extremely valuable. Your future is better than your present and it is not as bad as it seems.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Architects Propose Converting World Cup Stadiums into Affordable Housing

::: The Newest Mission Field
How would you like to lead a team on mission to Mars?
In the mid 2030s the orbits of the planet Mars and our Earth will be so close that a voyage that could last years might be made in months.
Classic McManus. Link

::: What It Costs to be a Tourist Across the US

::: McDonalds has the fastest public WiFi in the US.

::: I'd rather be an effective imitator than a stupid innovator. - @RickWarren

Photo: Ember 2014-2015 ProtoGuides [2 of the 3] and spawn. Dream Year Pitch Night, Leesburg, VA. August 2014.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Learn Another Language Or Two

Almost exactly 30 days after we returned home from Ember 14X, we gathered our team to do a little decompression. I am huge on wanting to walk students and teams through their experiences in order to help them process it but it never easy - after the experience, people get busy, you can't always get everyone and human nature tends to drift.

Our time together was great and we even skyped in our peeps from Austin and San Fran. Although we probably should have talked more about 'what are you going to do this school year?' we did talk a lot about our favorite memories and what experiences marked us and if anything about us will change. Sometimes 30 days in enough and sometimes not. And sometimes people will have great thoughts and other times, not so much.

I specifically loved what one of our team said though. She told the group that she was going to pick up a language in college because she understood the idea of being multilingual and how that could be really strategic for a cross cultural future. This is the kind of thing that we thrive on - expose a high school student to the way the world really looks and they can make significant decisions for their future. That is marking human history.

Monday, October 06, 2014

YCombinator and Missional Imagination

I absolutely love this list from YCombinator [one of the top startup incubators] called Request for Startups. It represents an amazing smattering of possible ventures all with a potential that could impact the future of humanity. Just like most global missions initiatives today, there is room for all kind of career possibilities with each one of these. And we love to tell students that you could find yourself involved in cross cultural service with almost any field of study today.

Some of my favorites include:
At some point, we are going to have problems with food and water availability.
If we can fix education, we can eventually do everything else on this list.
We want to fund companies that have the potential to create a million jobs.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world are getting their first computing experience (a smart phone) and entering the middle class.

This is some serious missional imagination.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday Burn

::: How to Say Hello in 21 Different Languages
Link via Dennis

::: Teaching Overseas - Loving Italy's Poor Little Rich Kids
For cultural reasons, this class of people tends to be separated and entirely cut off from any other gospel “movements” happening in the city amongst the other classes. They are an unreached people group that is unreachable by current trends in mission strategy.

::: Housing First
Utah, though, embraced a different strategy, called Housing First: it started by just giving the homeless homes.

::: More people are learning to speak English today in China than all the English speakers in N America. Gospel opportunity. - @JDGreear

Photo: ProtoGuides, pizza truck. Aix, July 2014.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What Pavillion Vendome Means to Me

This might look like a dead end. At least to me, in the summer of 2013, my first time in Aix-en-Provence, it did.

We were told to meet at a little park at the end of this street. I saw this from this vantage point and decided that we had gone the wrong way. Being a little directionally challenged, I take lots of U-turns and I thought this was just another one. Instead, Katie and I traversed all around the outside of this park for about an hour. She thought it was an adventure and I was annoyed. Alas, we should have gone all the way to the end of the road.

I'm reminding myself mostly, take the opportunities all the way to their end.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Benchmark of 5 Years

In my first iteration of student missions, five years seemed to be a significant milestone. After five years, leaders had emerged from students, some significant things became important in our culture and it seemed like momentum had multiplied.

Ember is at that same five year milestone around now and there seem to be a lot of the same indicators. I'm excited about the past few years of students that have gone on to university and are leading and forging new and exciting initiatives and opportunities. We have some momentum that didn't take pulling teeth to capture.

Let me implore you - if you work with the emerging generation, recognize that five years is a significant milestone. Work hard at it for five years and then take a look. What you see might surprise and delight you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The One Phrase You Should Not Use After You Return from Africa
"They are poor but everyone seemed so happy."

::: Developing a Sending Student Ministry
Give Us Two Years... We challenge all of our students to give two years of their lives to the mission of God somewhere strategic.

::: 13 Little Known Facts About Change That Too Many Leaders Miss
9. Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.
12. Transformation happens when the change in question becomes part of the culture.
13. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

::: The Time I Tried to Figure Out How Teenagers Use Twitter

::: Consider this...Many tribal cultures don't have a word for "boredom" - @DavidLivermore

Photo: Bandol, France, July 2014.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Notes - The Happiness of Pursuit

I loved this book from Chris Guillebeau and just like his two previous books [The Art of Nonconformity and The $100 Startup] it's filled with fun stories, great personalities and the sense that life is an adventure to be lived.

In this book, Chris unpacks the idea of a quest and gives us some compelling examples of people that have pursued something quests: something with a clear goal and a specific endpoint, a clear challenge, sacrifice of some kind, a sense of calling or mission and something that requires a series of steps. Along with telling us about quests, he inspires us by visiting the big ideas as adventure, personal vision, risk, courage and personal growth.

Probably my favorite part of the book talks about what happens when people are done with their quests - they gain independence and confidence, they mature, their vision seems to grow, and they are empowered for more. I've seen this first hand as the organization I work with has tried to send as many young people as we can on some kind of quest or adventure. Time and time again, those experiences have helped grow people along the lines that Chris has outlined.

Here are a few more quotes I loved from the book:
Discontent is the first necessity of progress. - Thomas Edison
He had decided to live forever, or die in attempt. - Joseph Heller
The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud. - Coco Chanel
When you've given everything you have in pursuit of something great, it's hard to toss off a few quick sentences on "what it's like."
Why pursue a quest? Because each of us in our lives is writing our own story, and we only have one chance to get it right.

The Happiness of Pursuit is a great read and even though all of us could probably stand to read about more adventure in our life, this might be the motivation to get you to actually take the first step.

Disclosure - I was provided a copy of this book for free.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2013 and 2014 Summer Improvements

Like every year, we spend some time at the end of the summer looking to improve on what we did. Here are some items from both last summer and this summer:

+ We got better about bringing on leaders. John, Tess, Hope and Measu did a phenomenal job. We would require future potential leaders that we don't know very well to engage on an Ember day experience with us before we open up slots for summer teams, although haven't had to do this recently.

+ We needed one person to really help us pray these teams up. John did this for us this summer and it was beautiful. Ultimately, this comes down to a staffing decision, like recruiting for any other skill or talent.

+ Our travel agent, Valarie, was great. We flew British Airways with their nonprofit perk. Required a group of 9 or more.

+ It was tough to balance all the work that needs to get done for Kids Week and making sure our team is well fed and getting the Ember essentials in. Our team seemed to be more relaxed when we planned for Deanna to take care of most of the food instead of rotating team members in for that.

+ Of course I love our approach to funding with the Creative Revenue Plan. Although 10-25% of support is raised via creative revenue, we may need to be clearer about what makes up the rest - ie: do you pay for it yourself or raise support or is it case by case.

+ No body modifications and no riding motorcycles or scooters if you are under 21. [Ember spawn…]

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hello SeptEmber

It is entirely possible that one of these SeptEmbers, I actually won't return from a sabbatical. But not this year - I'm thrilled to be back and super excited about what the next season for The Ember Cast holds. True to form, we've had some exciting opportunities pop up since I've been away and like every year, I'm sure these will be some very catalytic and unique encounters for our ProtoGuides.

If you are bivocational [and some of you reading this may not think you are, but you are] you should strongly consider a season every year where you take an extended break from your second vocation. It will free up your mind to do some evaluation and to think creatively again, it will give your pace of life a break by allowing you to say no easily and it will revive passion for whatever your second gig is.

Welcome to SeptEmber.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sabbatical Season

Late August and early September are a sabbatical season for me. We've had a great summer and this intentional time of rest is healthy for me and healthy for Ember as an organization. This starts for me today.

I started doing this very intentionally last year and I think picked up the original idea even before that. Ben Cloud would give his church volunteers the summer off and 3DM talks about this rhythm a lot - winter is recovery for fruit in the spring. If you are involved in multiple facets of work or ministry, I cannot recommend this enough.

See you in SeptEmber.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Ember mail

A set of coasters that I got in the mail yesterday from one of our lovely team. The beauty of the internet and a resourceful student...

Friday Burn

::: In Defense of Short Term Missions
Yes Marko yes.

::: All of the World's Biggest Cities Will be in Asia and Africa by 2030 2030, New York, Osaka, and Sao Paulo will no longer make the top 10, and Mexico City will barely hang on as the sole representative outside of Asia and Africa. This reflects the major shift driven by the urbanization in Asia and Africa, particularly in India (404 million projected new city dwellers by 2030), China (292 million), and Nigeria (212 million).

::: Which Countries Have the Youngest Population?

Photo: Welcome to Aixandria. Aix-en-Provence, France. July 2014.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book Notes - Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love

In 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend a Dream Year weekend hosted by Ben Arment. Fast forward and today, Ben's book outlining the Dream Year process hits the shelves. The content in this book has been pretty significant to what we do with Ember - it has helped me immensely as I've pursued the dream of a starting a student missions leadership organization. The material in the book has also helped us as we've coached some of the emerging generation to pursue the passions that God has placed in their hearts.

Some of you will remember that I tried to get a Dream Year Pitch Night up and running too. That didn't fly, but yes, I believe in it that much. Our ProtoGuides will be reading this book this coming semester and our Ember 14X team is all getting a copy too.

Here's some of the notes that I loved in the book:
Today, your only gatekeeper is courage.

It requires no courage to come up with an idea and wait for someone else to green-light it. You're asking the gatekeepers to have courage. You're asking investors to accept the risk. You're asking someone else to have faith in your dream.

You must choose which fear will be the strongest for you. If you don't choose one of them, one will be chosen for you. And it will be the fear of failure, each and every time.

As we grow older, dreams don't disappear. We trade them in for standards of living.

You can view the bad things in your life as either tragedy or trajectory. It all leads to something magnificent.

You don't go after your dream. It comes after you.

If you're not concerned about creating revenue, it's not a dream. It's a hobby.

A dream chaser is never clueless about money.

There are no such things as successful visionaries, only architects of successful vision-producing systems.

Have you ever met an insecure CEO?

Don't let rainmaking deter you from your dream. It's one of the barriers to entry, and you can overcome it.
Get your copy soon and give your dreams a kick in the *ss.

[Related: Dream Year Weekend 1, 2, 3]

Monday, August 04, 2014

Ember 2014 Investments

I know I go on and on around here about the emerging generation and how Ember exists to resource them and blah blah blah. But I'm proud to tell you that this summer, we put our money where our mouth is.

We helped fund a few projects this summer, which is great fun for us. This list included:

+ John and his trek around the world. He is now on the northern Peloponnese coast.
+ Our 2014 ProtoGuides. This was as a credit to their support goal for Ember 14X.
+ ORapp, who traveled with our daughter Katie to Madrid. Look for some kind of final report on that in a few weeks.
+ Ember guide Trevin Hoekzema, who with his wife, helped lead a team to Poland.

This was all to the tune of about $950 and we believe these to be really significant investments in the future. And... if you have given financial support to The Ember Cast in the past and are not comfortable with this kind of decision, please get in touch.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday Burn

::: 35 Countries One Flight Away from Ebola Affected Countries
I'm on a little family vaca but trying to track this story closely.

::: How Google Thinks About Giving is no longer "good money to good people doing good things." A new generation is looking more for social business, revenue generating nonprofits and disruptive ideas. In fact, "the nonprofit sector is a little sleepy and ripe for disruption."
Link from the always insightful Fred Smith who runs The Gathering

::: Tips from TED for Better Slides

::: Get Ready for Generation Z
Teen innovators have always been with us (Braille, hip hop and earmuffs were all products of adolescent minds), but global social media combined with crowdsourcing, open-platform education and sharing have given this generation’s inventors unprecedented influence.
Link via Dennis
Without quite realizing, Ember's core customer is actually these kids now.

Photo: La Goulette City, Aix-en-Provence, France. July 2014.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years

Besides Jesus, no one else has had a larger influence on my life. Here's to the next 20. Love.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Some Organizations Do Debriefing

If you are like some organizations - churches, schools, mission agencies - you probably decompress your teams around the idea of what you already do or what you already know. Your goal is to get people more engaged with what you are already involved in, what exists now, what things you are currently resourcing. I'm not saying that is a bad thing.

What might serve us all better is what Alan Hirsch calls missional imagination - what can your students dream up that no one knows about... yet. Instead of helping your students get plugged in to what you know, maybe you should help them engage something they know that you don't.

I am not saying this is simple or easy. This requires you to unleash people. To empower them and send them out. Untether them and allow them to dream. Risky, brave, filled with potential for failure. That's the apostolic.

Photo: Debriefing in Bandol. July 2014.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Window Seat

Our oldest, Katie, is flying home right now. After spending two weeks with the Ember 14X team, her and Olivia spent 10 days in Madrid working with Mountainview International Church and a basketball camp they ran for their students.

This is her first international flight alone and, of course it's no big deal to her but mom and dad were tracking her connections pretty closely. Her first leg landed late and she had to make her way through Heathrow. She boarded with just 2 minutes before they closed the doors.

I never thought that either of my kids would be so brave. When I was growing up, the ideas of risk, bravery and pushing the envelope were not valued at all - in fact, they were distinctly frowned upon. Consequently, I'm a big chicken. But I'm glad my kids are changing the pattern.

Photo: window seat, BA 265.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Burn

::: As full-time pastors become a thing of the past, seminary grads are taking on secular jobs.
Link via Skye Jethani

::: How to Survive Air Travel

::: 5 Things Netflix is Showing Church Leaders About the Future

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The 30 Day Rule

We have what we call a 30 day rule with Ember - you aren't allowed to make any major decisions until at least 30 days after you return from a missions experience. And you spend those 30 days praying about decisions that you think you need to make.

30 days removes the emotion from your experience. It gives you enough margin to think about your experience with more logic. And it helps with growing a passion deeper in your heart. If it is a real passion God has ignited, 30 days will make it even stronger, not lessen it.

When I bring this up, most everyone scoffs at me. I can understand - they want things now. But trust me on this, when you go on something like this, you will change. 30 days gives the change enough time to make it last.

Reminder for Ember 14X - August 14 is your date.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ember 14X Wrap

Long post - feel free to read it or skip it.

: Aix
Again, like last year, being in Aix was so fun. It's a great little city and I love some of the elements that make it up. Elements like expats there for the business opportunities, lots of third culture kids, a technology hub and close proximity to Marseille, which is a key gateway to North Africa. If those things interest you too, keep Aix in the back of your mind. This year our team understood, even more than last year, some of the unique difficulties of ministry here, like when one of our missions roundtables guests said something to the effect of "It's hard to raise missions support when you live in a wedding destination." It's a beautiful city and embodies European and French culture with a distinct appreciation for food, art and beauty. The weather is beautiful, the scenery is gorgeous and the churches are scarce. Some have said France is a graveyard for missionaries.

: Kids Week and ICCP
I didn't convey this real well as things unfolded but the plans for Kids Week had to be drastically changed. Originally scheduled to run Monday to Friday, we were instead shutdown after the day ended on Wednesday by local authorities due to some minor safety concerns. However, we were able to have an end of week picnic in a local park. There was a huge outpouring of community support so ICCP has found themselves with lots of attention, which is hopefully a good thing. The theme of the week was Kingdom of Grace, so everyone, including some pretty upset parents, were encouraged to respond… well… with grace. There is, of course, a bigger story going on here and it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

You know mission trips - stay flexible because things always change. It's a theme for Ember too, our plan A never works out. As I get older, I get less and less flexible. And I am more and more annoyed at myself for being less and less flexible. This is a personal decompression topic.

ICCP continues to be one of the most innovative communities we know about. Their level of intention, sacrifice, and creativity all for the sake of the kids in their community is unparalleled. It is a beautiful thing to see. Tim Anderson [KW director] and Tim Arlen [lead pastor] led this initiative with grace and integrity and I wish our team could have spent more time with both of them.

: Culture Aixchange and Missions Evening
One of my personal highlights of our two weeks in France was the culture exchange. Since the staff was such a good mix of French, American and various other cultures, we had originally wanted to host a culture exchange. The goals for this included having the kids to share about their cultures and having the staff to get to know each other better by doing something fun. This didn't work out for the original schedule but when Kids Week closed down, we were actually able to execute on this and it was a great success. See more notes on it here.

The other highlight for me was hosting a small group of missions people at our villa one evening for dinner and a time of discussion. Among the people included the lead pastor of ICCP, who just moved to Aix a year ago from the States; a Dutch guy who is a serial ministry starter and is going to plant a French speaking church out of ICCP; an American wife of ICCP's former lead pastor who also ran a local wine and cheese touring business in Aix; and someone who is considering coming on staff at ICCP and two of the guys who came to Kids Week from a church in Virginia. Moderated gatherings like these are one of the best things we do. Most trips like these never make the time or space to have students intentionally interact with experienced cross cultural people. For Ember, this is as important as the project itself. More here.

: Financials
Big picture financials - use these to compare keeping in mind that Europe is very expensive.
Airfare: $1230
Food: $157
Insurance: $8
Partner gift: $50
Ground costs: $185
Lodging: $618
Excursion: $18 [Les Baux castle tour]
Costs per team member were about $2266 for 14 days which equals about $161 per day. We got a great deal on our flights through British Airways nonprofit program. Last year, it cost $2250 per person for 10 days.

: Team
I loved working with Teal Rapp. He's one of the most easy going, highly relational leaders that I know. He cares for his family and teams phenomenally and gets fired up when people are engaged and empowered for God's mission. Since he was on staff with ICCP and lived in Aix, he was perfect to be a part of our team. Having his kids on our team was phenomenal too. [His oldest, Olivia, and Katie are working together in Madrid right now.]

The rest of our team was phenomenal as well. Each and every person contributed significantly to both Work Week and the short Kids Week as well as being fully engaged in whatever we were doing - seeing the sights, decompression, helping out around the house.

We made some improvements compared to last year about leadership and most of our team was returning. In addition, John helped prep our team with some very targeted prayer points the week before we departed. We engaged the older students in some various leadership roles which was a great help to me.

: Why This Matters
In the short term, I'm pretty sure you'll see each person grow in at least one of the missional concepts that we were exposed to from the experience: international church planting, people of peace, cultural icons, a community that is incarnational, bivocational ministry. In the long term, you'll see at least some of these kids do something phenomenal but it might take a while so hang on. Thanks to all of you supporters, investors and blog readers - your support is incredible. I love each person on this team like they were one of my kids.
'You don’t plant churches you plant sons.[and daughters]'- Oscar Muriu

Pictures and Videos