Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Paul Graham's advice after helping over 600 startups
One of my favorites - "Start with a small, intense fire."

::: Summit Church in Raleigh sends high school juniors and seniors for 5 week missional experiences in SE Asia.

::: A Fascinating Look at Facebook and Social Relationships.
This is really well worth the read, much like a lot of the Facebook Data Science notes. It's especially relevant if you have ever felt like you needed to create your own social network exclusively for your community [I'm looking at you, people that have wanted to implement the popular church networking platform, The City...]

:::Are Selfies Spreading Teen Lice

::: Every State's Favorite Band

::: Every leader should remember that he is the least permanent element in the church. - Roland Allen @Ben_Hardman

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Welcome back JT

John Timmons joins us this coming summer on Ember 14X. Long time readers will remember him from 2009-2010, when he was an Ember intern, the very first year that Ember existed. He also helped us run 2010AZ.

John has since spent time in Mozambique [twice] as well as helping with various small Ember projects here and there. During his time in college at JMU, he discovered he was an artist and has used art as a creative revenue plan twice so far to help fund some of his global projects.

I'm thrilled to work with John again - his passion for the world and his laidback demeanor are vital components to a potent global leader. And he prays like no one I know and that is going to be fantastic.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Announcing Ember 14X

In June of 2007, this comment was left on my blog [was using an older commenting system back then so this is a pic of the exported data...]. Later that summer, we were taking a team to serve some missionary kids at a missions orgs staff conference and Megan was the mom of a family who were going to be there too. Since then, we have continued to be in touch with the Rapps, including serving again at the same conference in the summer of 2008, attaching one of their kids long distance with us for AZ 2012, and working together last summer for Ember X13.

Today, I'm proud to announce that Ember launches Ember X14, a second year experience working with the International Christian Community of Provence and Teal and Megan and their family centered around ICCP and their summer kids outreach for the kids in the city of Aix-en-Provence.

Ember X14 represents a second round of some of the best preparation for our emerging global leaders - students who come from a context that is suburban, high achieving, and affluent. Europe and Aix and ICCP specifically provides a spectacular environment for our students to learn from some passionate church planters and missionaries - some of the best innovators in a post-Christian, postmodern, secular society.

I'm excited to get this team started and thanks in advance for your support for The Ember Cast.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)
I don't want a little girl in Ghana, or Sri Lanka, or Indonesia to think of me when she wakes up each morning. I don’t want her to thank me for her education or medical care or new clothes. Even if I am providing the funds to get the ball rolling, I want her to think about her teacher, community leader, or mother. I want her to have a hero who she can relate to — who looks like her, is part of her culture, speaks her language, and who she might bump into on the way to school one morning.
Link via Hope

::: American Teens Are Even More Stressed Than Adults

::: 10 Projections for the Global Population in 2050
Link via Alex McManus

::: 30 Key Movements Happening in the Christian Community

::: How Support Raising Keeps Parachurch Ministries White

Photo: Recruiting lunch. Laurel, Merryland, January 2014.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


On July 3, 2013, my wife Deanna had the ridiculous experience of flying across the Atlantic all night long, running through the airport terminal with a team of 10 to catch our next flight, and having all of her insulin for her insulin pump run through an xray machine because nobody could try to explain to the French only speaking official that insulin shouldn't go through there. Not the best first morning in France.

I post that story today in honor of my wife - today is her birthday. And I think the story is symbolic of her life. Her history is one that routinely sacrifices for others - sometimes with great hardship. Most of you know that she has dealt with diabetes for the past 2 years. When she got an insulin pump last year, she decided that yes, she will go with Ember to France, despite not knowing exactly how all the travel will work, including switching time zones, figuring out ratios with different kinds of food and knowing how tough international travel can be for your body.

All of that mattered, but not enough. What mattered more was that there was this team of students who were called to this vision of coming alongside a church community that wanted to bless the kids in their city. To Deanna, all of that sacrifice was worth it.

You and I are better for her sacrifice. Happy birthday Deanna. LOVE.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ember Mantras

"We throw fire."

We believe that there are lots of young leaders that could be resourced, empowered and sent to do lots of good in the world. So the energy never ends with us and it didn't begin with us either. Hopefully we are a vital part of getting them out there and helping them prepare to do amazing jobs as well as start throwing fire themselves.

Monday, February 17, 2014

More 2014 Application Questions

Like in this post about our missions baseline questions, it seems like all great application questions - whether it's for a job at Taco Bell or for a spot on a missions team - are borrowed [or stolen.]

Here are a few more questions from our application:
What are you learning from Jesus recently?
Tell us about a recent leadership experience and what you learned from it.
Describe something you birthed from nothing.*
Describe how the next 500 years will be different because of you.*
Describe all cross cultural experience you have had in the past. Also describe how these experiences changed you.
Describe the riskiest - but not necessarily successful - endeavor you have ever attempted.*
Of course, no right or wrong answers on these. But these are some of my absolute favorite questions to ask because the types of people Ember engages have experience with this kind of stuff and their answers will always be so interesting.

I'm looking forward to sharing more soon about some of the people we will work with this summer and their answers.

*Borrowed these questions from the IMN.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Not Just Seating Capacity but Sending Capacity
Great stuff here about a sending culture:
Without sending people out, you won’t continue to draw people in.
The more leaders we send out, the more leaders step up to take their places, because pushing out leaders creates more leaders.

::: What Are the Hardest Languages to Learn

::: 5 Things that Turn off a Potential Child Predator

::: The Self Aware Leader
Author and psychiatrist Scott Peck wrote that one of the ways you can divide the world up is to put everyone in one of two categories: either a "neurotic" or a "personality disorder."
This is the mental health version of the doctrine of total depravity.

Photo: We met these four young people in the picture on July 4 when we tried to get into town and no one else on the public bus spoke English. July 2013, Aix-en-Provence, France.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Baseline

Below is a sample of some of the questions on Ember's 2014 application, from a section called 'Missions Baseline.' This app is used for all of our 2014 stuff - ProtoGuides, summer experiences, etc. And this section is intended to see how well our applicants understand these concepts.

Describe what a person of peace is.
Describe what an indigenous leader is.
Why are these leaders so important?
Describe the tension between social justice and evangelism.
What is cultural distance and provide an example.
Describe an example of contextualization.
Name a modern day example of a movement.
Who are you discipling right now?
Who is discipling you right now?
The fabulous original idea for a 'baseline' was from Trevin Hoekzema and really, the idea is fantastic. Much of what we intend to do is to help prepare our students for global leadership, potentially navigating lots of different cultural contexts and jumping in to missional leadership. We think the questions above cover some pretty core concepts. If we don't know what they know before they begin with us, then we don't know what kind of job we have done.

We have a pretty detailed application but I like it that way. Answering these kinds of questions helps you - it aligns what you are trying to do with what we are trying to do. It also helps us - if someone doesn't finish it, they didn't fit us in the first place. And of course, we ask these questions at the end of our summer to really see if it worked.

* I heard of someone screaming when they were in the middle of our app and their little brother closed their browser.
** I save off almost every great missions application I find in a google drive folder. Weird I know.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ember's Board of Directors - Everything You Wanted to Know

I've had a few people in the past few months ask me lots of questions about my board of directors: who did you invite to the board, how do you interact with them, what is their role...and questions along those lines. This post is to try and answer most of these kinds of questions all about the Board of Directors for The Ember Cast.

As soon as Ember was approved by the IRS for its 501C3 status, I knew that I needed to put together a board - it's actually required if you are a nonprofit. I took about 6 months in thinking through it and going through a list of people that I knew well and was interested in. At the core, I chose individuals for the board who had a proven history of being advocates and patrons for student missions. They all have experience in this niche area and almost all of these people worked with me during my time with SPACE, a missions component of a student ministry for a local suburban megachurch.

As a side note, you might think that Ember 'started' in 2009. The reality is that what is now Ember was seeded in 2003 when SPACE started and even somewhat before. Lots of pivotal experiences helped me launch Ember and sometimes things start long before you think they did.

The Characters
Leslie was a student when I worked with SPACE and eventually was one of our first students turned into leaders. She gravitated towards our vision and goals and eventually helped me lead four different teams. She works full time in the social sphere.
Greg is a serial technology entrepreneur whose 3 kids we know well and 2 of whom traveled with me around the world. Greg brings an invaluable startup mindset as a small business founder and owner.
Matt is a technology professional and was involved with student small groups for 12 years - in a row. He has multiplied dozens of leaders whose full impact is still yet to be felt.
Dale is a certified StrengthsCoach - combine that with being a maximizer and a soccer coach and he pushes us to be better than we were and to unearth potential that we might not see. He works full time in the construction management field.
Joyce was at a breakfast at the beginning of when our church decided to get serious about involving students in local and global service. That meal together was the beginning of a long arc of impact. Joyce works full time in finance so she brings a financial perspective to us.

How they were chosen
Most conventional thinking about boards is that they bring influence and cash. They are supposed to have lots of connections and in turn can create lots of financial backing. I didn't care for much this advice. Instead I chose two principles that I wanted our Board to be chosen around. First I wanted people that I trusted and people that were passionate about student missions and the impact that could have in the world. Second, I wanted a personal board of advisers. Putting the board together takes intention and thought - I thought of it like a dinner party where you want the best talents and passions of your friends to mingle together through a grand evening. Each guest and what they bring to the table matters.

For more insight into these ideas, read the following articles. I don't agree with everything written in these posts, but there is a lot of wisdom in all of them.
Wanted: A Great Board Chair
The Three Stages of Board Development
A Personal Advisory Board

Board Responsibilities
Responsibilities of this Board are minimal. We have board meetings twice a year [although last year we only had one] and that's the forum where I communicate what we have done and where we are going on a broad scale.

The Board has an open invite to anything that we do. Some of the members have jumped in to various events. There is a wide spectrum on what each of them personally wants to be involved in - some want to stay at the advisory level and some want to jump in here and there. And of course, this is only one small sliver of their lives and leadership. Getting them engaged outside of Board meetings is a topic that I think about a lot.

On certain occasions I have engaged specific members of the Board for specific time bound projects, seeking to leverage their experience and expertise. Dale has done some Strengths coaching for our ProtoGuides. Leslie has connected and given advice to people interested in human trafficking due to working at IJM for a season. Joyce helps me set up archaic accounts in Quickbooks. Greg has listened to me over lunch when I gripe about people saying they are interested but never committing - a common complaint when you are starting something new. Matt has joined teams on community service experiences and joined us in 2012 in AZ for a week with a team.

Although I report to the Board, they give me wide latitude about running The Ember Cast. We have not, until now at least, ran into any issues where the Board has to reign me in. We might get there one day. They are Ember's best advocates and although we don't interact day to day, I know they take the responsibility very seriously.

During the first two years of Ember's existence, my communications during our board meetings were, shall I say, mediocre at best. They were simple bullet points on a piece of paper. In the midst of that, I started to realize that the Board, even as my biggest fans, deserved my very best. And during one board meeting, I found myself clammy and sweaty as I was going through our notes. I was legitimately nervous speaking to friends that I had known for, in some cases, a decade. Later on, I understood this simple truth: Your board deserves your absolute best and I was sweaty because I was not delivering.

To that end, I now put together a PowerPoint deck with images that serve to tell our story. This deck gets professionally printed and bound and each Board member gets their own copy. If they spend their attention on Ember, they deserve more than a printed Word document. Pay attention to the details and go out of your way to make their time matter. I also print a few extras and have given those to other people who are interested in what they do. Financial details are given out on a separate handout.

During the school year, I also write a staff email almost religiously every Sunday. This email goes to our Board as well as ProtoGuides and Guides and serves to over-communicate to everyone. It is broken up until Past, Upcoming and Future sections and I try to list everything and more. Just this week, I added a Prayer section too, something that I have been personally lacking in on our orgs behalf - hopefully this changes that. Sometimes I throw in something good to read or a provocative quote too. The decision to write a consistent email every week was one of the best decisions I have made in the past few years.

It seems like most people that ask these types of questions about the Board of Directors are in the midst of starting some kind of nonprofit project themselves. What I hear from them is that the task of filling out 501C3 paperwork is daunting and assembling a board is insurmountable. Let me tell you instead, first, that filling out IRS paperwork is easier than doing your taxes. If you know your mission and vision, if you have some clarity on your offerings, and if you have some things you have actually executed, the paperwork will be easy for you. Give lots of thought to those things and that will lead to you finding the right Board.

What is harder than IRS paperwork and the assembling of a board is your great task of changing the world. Articulating your passion, leading your tribe and igniting those around you is the real challenge. But the world needs you doing this. So worry about those things. And one fine evening, your Board will be delighted sitting at the table with you, marveling in the different courses and offerings and tastes of how you have changed the world.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday Burn

::: State of the World's Kids in Numbers

::: 6 Ways to be a Kick A** Mentor

::: Speaking IO
Great resource on speaking, because "imagine everyone's naked" is terrible advice. I've been digging into some of this and it is really great.

::: Young Bankers Seek Good Yield with Their Own Nonprofits
Link via Steven Dilla

::: National Community Church's 2013 report
Last year, they had 22 short term mission teams and they gave away 25% of their budget to missions.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

In 500 Years...

God has called me to preach the gospel to unreached people groups. I am going to go wherever he calls me. I am part of His greater story so that ALL people will be able to bring him glory. By going to people who have never heard the gospel, I will be demonstrating Jesus to them. Individual lives will be changed, which will change the community, which will change a people group, a nation, a continent! The kingdom of God, overflowing with peace, love, and kindness will be manifest on the earth because God has called me.
I will tell you who wrote this soon...

Monday, February 03, 2014

Why We Go Where

Ember's filter for where we go is unique. We don't go to certain places primarily because the need is great or our skills could be put to good use or the demographic is strategic. Granted, these certainly do fall into play, but they are not the primary filter for our decision making.

That primary filter is finding global leaders that can invest in our people. These leaders are catalytic - they are known to cause reactions. These leaders are entrepreneurial - sure they can start things, but they also have a mindset that expands with talent, opportunities and people. These leaders are available to invest - they spring to life when given an chance to speak into someone's life, especially a person a few years younger than them.

This is a bit contrary to popular global missions thinking and that's okay. Lots of good, God honoring people help others go to certain places because of a strategy, a need or a skill and if you are thinking about a missions experience, you are the only one that can discern why you are going where. We are still about 450 years too early to decide if our filter really works. But that's part of the fun of it.